The Jewish papers of Germany and the adjoining countries have proclaimed Mr. Felix M. Warburg’s birthday to-morrow as a Jewish festival. The entire Jewish Press gives up the greater part of its space to-day to the publication of the biographical material about Mr. Warburg and his achievements for Jewish causes, and the geneological tree of the Warburg family circulated by the J.T.A., indicating the important place held by the Warburgs in Jewish life for centuries.
The German general press, too, pays tribute to Mr. Warburg as a great leader in American economic life, giving, too, much biographical material about both Mr. Felix Warburg and other members of his family.
We congratulate the leader of American Jewry, Herr Georg Kareski, the President of the Berlin Jewish Community, says in a message which he is transmitting to Mr. Warburg through the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and we wish him continued successful work in the service of Jewry.
The Central Union of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith and its President, Dr. Julius Brodnitz, have cabled to Mr. Warburg: On the occasion of your 60th. birthday we join with you in heartiest congratulations to a magnanimous friend of humanity and an exemplary Jew.
The Hilfsverein der deutschen Juden and its President, Dr. James Simon, have cabled: We send you our heartiest congratulations on your 60th. birthday. We always think of your great services in promoting Jewish cultural and welfare work and your self-sacrificing participation as the leader in the immense American relief work on behalf of the suffering Jewish masses of Europe, undertaken by the Joint Distribution Committee at a most grave hour.
At our celebration to-day says a resolution adopted by the Federation of Russian Jews in Germany during the gathering arranged for the 80th. birthday of its President, Judge Jacob Teitel, and the simultaneous 10th. anniversary of its own existence, we Jewish refugees remember with deep gratitude the immense value of your activities on behalf of all Jewry and the fraternal aid which the Joint Distribution Committee has given us in our most difficult hour.
Herr Oscar Wassermann, the Chairman of the Finance Commission of the Jewish Agency, and Dr. Bernhard Kahn, the European Director of the Joint Distribution Committee and Vice-Chairman of the Finance Commission of the Jewish Agency, have also sent telegrams of congratulation to Mr. Warburg.
THE WARBURG FAMILY
Mr. Felix M. Warburg was born on January 14th., 1871 in Hamburg, in Germany, the son of Moritz and Charlotte (Esther Oppenheim) Warburg, There is a tradition that the family was originally settled at Bologna, whence it emigrated to the town of Warburg, in Germany, from which it took its name, afterwards settling in Hamburg. The earliest known bearer of the name was Levi Joseph Warburg, whose son, Jacob Samuel Warburg died in 1667 at Altona, near Hamburg. The family has wide ramifications, branches being settled not only in Germany and America, but also in England, where Sir Oscar Warburg, former Chairman of the London County Council, and a member of the Senate of London University, is a distinguished representative, in Denmark and in Sweden. Professor Otto Warburg, the famous botanist, who was at one time President of the Zionist World Organisation, is also a member of the family.
Moritz Warburg, the father of Mr. Felix M. Warburg, was an active communal worker, belonging to the Board of the German Federation of Synagogues and holding the position of Chairman of the Jewish Orphanage and the Hamburg Talmud Torah. All his five sons, the late Professor Aby M. Warburg, Herr Max M. Warburg, the head of the Warburg Bank in Hamburg, Mr. Paul M. Warburg, the famous American banker, who was one of the founders of the United States Federal Reserve Bank System, Mr. Felix M. Warburg, and Mr. Fritz M. Warburg, bear their father’s name Moritz as their second name, indicated by the initial M.
MR. WARBURG’S MANIFOLD SOCIAL WELFARE ACTIVITIES
Mr. Felix M. Warburg went to America when he was 23 years of age, becoming naturalised in 1900 as an American citizen. Shortly after his arrival in America, he married Frieda Schiff, the daughter of the great Jewish banker and philanthropist, the late Jacob H. Schiff, who was the recognised leader of American Jewry, and in 1896 he joined his banking house, Messrs. Kuhn, Loeb and Company, becoming also the head of many large companies.
From the beginning, Mr. Felix M. Warburg devoted much of his activity to social work. His main interest was in the welfare societies in the East Side of New York, which were dealing with the problem created by the big Jewish immigration movement of the time. Among these were the Educational Alliance and the Immigrant Educational Institution. He also took an active part in the work of the University Settlement, which aimed at improving the conditions of the poorer classes, and particularly in the advancement of deficient children; it is due to his initiative that special classes were opened in the schools for mentally deficient and crippled children. He was greatly interested also in the welfare work on behalf of the blind, and helped the sisters Holt in their work for the blind. He was an active worker in the American Foundation for the Glind and was one of the first administrators of the Institution. He gave much of his attention to the movement for combating disease among children, and the discovery of improved methods of infant welfare work. He took an active interest in the problem of juvenile offenders, and it is largely due to his efforts that the system of juvenile courts was created. Mr. Warburg was one of the first Commissaries of Juvenile courts appointed by Governor Hughes. As a member of the Administrative Council of the Teachers’ College of Columbia University, he also helped to advance the status of the teaching profession.
Mr. Warburg is Vice-President of the Charity Organisation Society and a Director of the White Plains Hospital, the Babies’ Hospital, the New York State Tuberculosis Preventorium for Children, the Solomon and Betty Loeb Home for Convalescents, and the Penry Street Settlement. He is Trustee for the Foundation for the Blind, the Association for the Blind, the Teachers’ College and the American Museum of Natural History.
MR. WARBURG’S JEWISH WORK
It was under the aegis of Mr. Felix M. Warburg that all the Jewish philanthropical societies in New York finally amalgamated as the Federation of Jewish Charities, and he became its first Chairman, continuing to hold the position till the present day. The Federation, which has raised large sums of money for Jewish welfare purposes, maintains numerous orphanages, advisory institutes and other welfare institutions with a budget of about 5 million dollars annually. He was also responsible for the establishment of the training school for Jewish Social Workers, and he is closely connected with the Bureau of Jewish Social Research, which controls the Jewish welfare work in a large number of American cities.
When the war and the post-war distress created the problem of the Jewish war victims in Eastern Europe, and all sections of American Jewry united in organising the Joint Distribution Committee for Jewish War Victims, Mr. Felix M. Warburg was elected Chairman of the Administrative Committee, a post which after 16 years he still retains. In the war years, the Joint Distribution Committee assisted the needy, provided food for the hungry and healed the sick. It established credit co-operatives, experimental organisations and central loan banks. It helped to train the Jewish youth in productive occupations, and it established large hospitals and medical institutions.
In Russia, the Joint Distribution Committee under the direction of Dr. Joseph Rosen and with the co-operation of the Russian Government has taken a prominent part in the Jewish settlement work, which has restored the war-devastated Jewish colonies, and extended Jewish agricultural work to such an extent that the Jewish agricultural population of Russia has grown from 15,000 families in 1923 to 50,000 families in 1929. The European work of the Joint Distribution Committee is directed from Berlin by Dr. Bernhard Kahn.
The work in Palestine has found in Mr. Warburg an ardent supporter. He has visited the country several times and he was one of the organisers of the Palestine Economic Corporation formed in 1925 by the Non-Partisan Palestine Conference held in New York under the chairmanship of the late Mr. Louis Marshall. He is best known, however, for the important part he played in the formation of the extended Jewish Agency, of which he became Chairman of the Administrative Committee, resigning the position recently in protest against the policy of the White Paper at the same time that Dr. Weizmann and the late Lord Melchett resigned their positions as President of the Jewish Agency and Chairman of the Jewish Agency Council respectively.
My devotion to the Jewish cause and to Palestine is unabated, he declared in his statement announcing his resignation, and I shall continue to lend my best efforts to support our work, which challenges our deepest interest. To develop Palestine, Zionists and non-Zionists came together in a period of hope and enthusiasm. They will unite ever more closely in the face of tragic disappointment.
As far back as the early part of 1924, when Mr. Felix Warburg had just returned to New York from a visit to Palestine, he gave an interview to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, in which he said:
There is a peculiar feeling, which I imagine takes hold of everyone who visits the Holy Land. This feeling is still greater and more intensive for one who comes from the Western World, with its modern civilisation, toil and speed, into that ancient corner of the world, full of visions, dreams and religious ideals, for centuries the centre of inspiration and the smithy of those stern principles of life and morals responsible for the course of our present civilisation. Palestine is one of those countries to whose charm and beauty one cannot remain indifferent, once one becomes acquainted with it. However, seeing Palestine in its present stage does not permit you to indulge too much and too long in historical reflections which have a great sentimental value but cannot be counted as life-building factors to one eager to see most of all just those factors which make for life and new development. You do not have to look for those forces very long. They come to your attention at every step when you come in contact with modern Jewish Palestine. There is, it must be declared, as frankly and as loud as permissible, a real process of upbuilding going on in the country One is simply amazed to see the Jewish pioneers at work. Men and women are engaged in the field and on the roads in hard toil, driven by an inner force, strengthened by an inexhaustible faith and inspiration, carried by the joy which only an ideal to be reached can give. The Haluzim of Palestine certainly represent a new type in Jewish life. I would say a new generation of men, with a new conception of duty, labour and concentration on the future. This is true not only of men, but also of the women. There is a peculiar vigour in them which is so rarely seen in other branches of human endeavour. I left Palestine enchanted.
The Hebrew University in Jerusalem is a particular interest to Mr. Warburg, who has given it half-a-million dollars, and is Chairman of the American Advisory Committee of the University and a member of its Board of Governors. In order to promote the study of Jewish religion in Palestine, Mr. and Mrs. Warburg also gave a large sum for the foundation of the Institute of Jewish Studies.
Mr. Warburg takes a keen interest in numerous other Jewish institutions, outstanding among them being the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and the American Jewish Committee, on both of which he is a member of the Executive Committee. He has also been President of the Young Men’s Hebrew Association.
Mr. Warburg is a famous art collector, his collection which includes works by Raphael, Botticelli, Bellini, Lorenzetti and etchings by Rembrandt and Duerer, being always open to students and art-lovers. Mr. Warburg has been instrumental in establishing a number of art museums in America. He has assisted notably in the work of the Art Committee of Harvarl University. He is a member of the Art Commission of New York, and is closely identified with the work of the Metropolitan Museum of New York, to which he has made several important gifts. He was also instrumental in the founding of the Museum of Peaceful Arts, serving as a member of its Administrative Council.
Mr. Warburg exercises also a considerable influence in the musical life of America. He is one of the curators of the Institute of Musical Art, which was founded in 1905 by an endowment given by Mr. James Loeb. The Institute has more than 100 teachers now and over a thousand students. He is one of the promoters of the Philharmonic Symphony Society, and he has himself a quartet of Stradivarius instruments, which are not kept as museum pieces but are used by the Warburg quartet, in which Mr. Warburg’s son Gerald plays the cello.
Last May, Mr. Warburg was awarded the Gottheil Medal, which is awarded annually for the greatest service rendered during the year to American Jewry. To the banquet at which the Medal was handed to Mr. Warburg, President Hoover sent a message in which he paid tribute to Mr. Warburg’s services to American life.
A little earlier, in March 1930, Mr. Warburg was awarded one of the three 1930 medals for “distinguished social service to the City of New York”, given by “Better Times”. “Felix M. Warburg, financier, philanthropist, patron of the arts, a citizen whose humanitarianism is without frontiers”, was the text of the inscription on the award.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.