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Adjusting Our Lives

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Dr. Frank’s column appears in this space every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Jewish social work is the channel through which the American Jewish community seeks to alleviate the tragic consequences of maladjustment and misfortune, which are as inevitable as they are unfortunate in their effect upon certain groups and certain individuals. Not less than five per cent of the total American-Jewish population is directly affected by private social welfare work.

Within the last fifteen years or so, Jewish social service in the United States has achieved a high degree of form and organization. To all intents and purposes, expert training and organizing ability became of no less importance than an appeal, on the strength of traditional sentiments, to the emotions of those situated on the sunny side of life. In more recent years, the prevention, rather than the amelioration, of maladjustment has become the foremost principle in the philosophy of the Jewish, as of the general, social work.

Now it is a most encouraging recognition of the success of Jewish social work in America to see the great achievements of the philanthropic efforts of American Jewry vouchsafed by no less an authoritative document than the monumental report of the Research Committee on Social Trends, appointed by President Hoover a few years ago. The report was published recently and attracted universal attention.


According to the report, Jewish social work owes much of its individuality to standards which are notably high as compared with Protestant, Catholic and non-sectarian agencies.

Jewish agencies appear to be more adequately financed. More generous assistance to families and aid over longer periods of time, a more stable clientele, higher salaries, and a lower case load per social worker are characteristic of the Jewish social welfare agencies.

A study made in twenty cities showed that the average relief expenditure per family in the Jewish agencies was twice that of the entire group of all denominational and non-sectarian agencies in question, and seventy-two per cent higher than the average of the leading non-sectarian agencies.


Our Jewish welfare agencies now and then enter upon unexplored fields, on new highways and byways, of social-philanthropic and cultural endeavor. One signal achievement of this kind is recorded in the report.

It singles out, namely, the Transportation Agreement, which is the technical name for a coordinating device in social work, first introduced by Jewish agencies. This occurred over thirty years ago and set up a model for emulation. It brings order into the work with transient clients of the welfare agencies and leads to a nation-wide cooperation of a network of social-help agencies.

This plan, seeking to prevent the “passing on” of clients from one community to another, is, in the opinion of the authors of the report, a very interesting example of regulation. Since 1900, the Jewish agencies have had an understanding regarding free or reduced transportation of clients; at present more than 800 agencies participate in the agreement.


The report makes, further, a few pertinent remarks about the Jewish Welfare Board. This national agency was founded during the war to provide recreational and religious programs for soldiers. It was reorganized in 1921 on a peace time basis. Its purpose is to cooperate with the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Associations and with the Jewish Community Centers throughout the country, directing campaigns for buildings and membership, and suggesting programs of activities.

The principal object of the J. W. B., as the author of the report sees it, is to provide community centers in cities for all classes of Jewish people without distinction of age and sex. Religious instruction is not stressed unless the members of a community desire it, but the various religious holidays and festivals are celebrated. In 1929, there were about 160 Y. M. H. A.’s and Y. W. H. A.’s in addition to 102 Jewish Community Centers.

During the years 1924 and 1929 there has been an increase in membership of over forty per cent. The J. W. B., through the affiliated societies and their associations, has 285,000 members, and still appears to be in the growing stage, is stated in the report. The annual expenditures steadily increased, rising from $2,000,000 in 1921 to $3,800,000 in 1930. The J. W. B. accommodated 15,000 people at its summer camps in 1929.


In a chapter dealing with the activities of women outside the home we find mention of the work done by the National Council of Jewish Women.

Says the report: “Responding to the motive of racial loyalty, perhaps strengthened by the sectarian interest, this organization, as several others, has grown out of the Chicago World’s Fair (in 1893) and has remained a factor in the life of the American Jewish community.

“In 1930 it counted more than 50,000 members; it owned buildings and institutions valued at more than a million and a quarter dollars, and provided aid to immigrants and supported scholarships and schools, in addition to providing opportunities for social intercourse and for study and recreation.”

Although the name of this great organization is not correctly reproduced in the report (“Congress’ instead of Council), its far-reaching aims and aspirations are summarized in an accurate and fairly comprehensive way.

Dr. Frank’s column appears in this space every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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