A landsmanshaft (plural: landsmanshaftn) was a Jewish aid or benefit society, formed by immigrants who were from the same town or region.
These organizations were set up during the great migration of Jewish people to the United States from the 1880s through 1923. The immigrants could not speak English and often had trouble becoming accustomed to life in the U.S. The landsmanshaftn functioned as a kind of "social clearinghouse" for Jews from shtetls, providing employment as well as aid when sick, as well as burial plots. The landsmanshaftn encompassed the Jewish burial societies, known as chevra kadisha, and in some instances members split off from them to form "independent" societies.
Twenty thousand such organizations once existed in the northeast United States, operating burial plots in scores of cemeteries; however, today most are now defunct.
These aid organizations were established to deal with social, economic, and cultural problems, and provided a social framework for mutual assistance. In the early 1900's there were thousands of landsmanshaftn in the New York City area, but few are active today. While landsmanshaftn were often based around a common region they could also be based on a common political affiliation, such as the Workmen's Circle/Arbeiter Ring (Socialist), the International Workers Order (Communist), or the Farband (Labor Zionist.)
Over time, the landsmanshaftn
lost members as they passed away, and thus the organizations became
defunct. This resulted in difficulties for the relatives of members who
had died, because the officers of the landsmanshaftn were required to
permit burials to their members. Officials of the state of New York,
such as the New York State Liquidation Bureau, have stepped in to be of
assistance in such situations. --adapted from Wikipedia.
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