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from the New-York Daily Tribune, April 23, 1893.




Whatever one may think of the Hebrew question in general, it is impossible for the student of current history to deny that it is a vital one in New York today. This is especially true of the East Side below Fourteenth St., and including Broadway. Several transformations have been experienced there within the last half-century, and it is now in the midst of a new revolution. Americans, chiefly of Dutch ancestry, settled there first; they gave way in part to the Irish: the Germans have driven out the Irish, and now the better class of Germans are moving away, leaving the field largely to the Hebrews.

Dr. Rainsford's figures given at Chautauqua last July remain undisputed: "In the last ten years 100,000 people have moved into the city south of Fourteenth St., and sixteen Protestant churches have moved out." He might have added that the increase was largely of Hebrews. It is true that there are still there thousands of Germans by birth, who are Hebrews in religion, but there is hardly a nationality which has not a large Hebrew representation.

The Rev. Dr. Richard Wheatley, of Irvington, in a recent article on "The Jews in New York," placed the number of them in this city at something over 200,000, much higher than any previous authority had done. An eminent Rabbi says that the figures given are substantially correct, although there may be nearer 300,000 now, for it is impossible, he says, to tell with accuracy the number of Hebrews here or elsewhere, many of the poorer class refusing to state their religious belief, looking upon the census as a Government inquisition, to be followed by tortures, known and experienced in the lands from which they came.

Whatever virtues or faults the Hebrews may have they are justly proud of their care of the poor and suffering. It is said that there is only one Hebrew pauper on Blackwell's Island, and that no Hebrew was ever buried in Potters Field. Some years ago the statement was made that the Hebrews of the United States expended annually nearly $2,000,000 in charity. A proportionate expenditure for charitable purposes for the people at large would foot up $400,000,000. The early history of the charitable work of the Hebrews in this city is told in an interesting manner by Isaac Markens, in his book, "The Hebrews in America." From this it appears that the Hebrew Benevolent Society of New York was organized in April 1822, with a fund amounting to $200, the unexpended balance of a collection which had been obtained for the benefit of a Hebrew, a former soldier in the Revolutionary War. Two men undertook to raise money for his brother two years before that time, when he was brought to the New York City Hospital. But it was not until 1832 that the society was incorporated. In 1859 it was consolidated with the German Hebrew Benevolent Society. The following year the first Hebrew Orphan Asylum in the United States was opened, the combined funds of the two benevolent societies amounting to $25,000. The present asylum building at Amsterdam Ave. and One-hundred-and-thirty-sixth St. cost some $750,000. The asylum is a constituent of the United Hebrew Charities, with a capacity of 572 children. Orphans and half orphans committed there receive support, education and industrial training.

The great charitable centre of the Hebrews is the United Hebrew Charities Building at No. 128 Second Ave. This organization is composed of the following societies: Benevolent and Orphan Asylum Society, Benevolent Fuel Society, Relief Society, Ladies' Lying-in Society, Congregation Darech Amuno Free Burial Fund Society, and these cooperating societies: Baron De Hirsch Fund and six sisterhoods from these Temples: Emanu-El, Beth-El, Ahawath-Chesed, Shanray Tefila, Israel, and Rodef Scholom.

Henry Rice   I. S. Isaacs   Morris Tuska

Among the officers are Henry Rice, president; Morris Tuska, Benjamin Russak and Henry S. Allen, vice-presidents; James H. Hoffman, treasurer; I. S. Isaacs, secretary and Charles Frank, the efficient superintendent. For the last year or two the Russian immigrants have engrossed the attention of the society, although the Jewish poor of the city have not been allowed to suffer during that time. The trustees of the Baron De Hirsch Fund have helped liberally.

The object of the charities is to relieve the worthy Hebrew poor with such aid as may be deemed most appropriate, while seeking to prevent discriminate and duplicate giving. It also encourages thrift, industry and economy, and secures the community from imposters. It maintains an employment bureau, industrial school for girls, furnishes lodgings and meals for young men, and supplies transportation to Europe and places in the United States for those who cannot earn a living in this city. The Baron De Hirsch Fund supplies $2,500 a month to the charities, the Central Russian Refugee Committee $7,500 a month, and an equal amount is received from the Russian Transportation Fund, $17,500 monthly toward making the Russians who have been here less than two years self-supporting here and elsewhere. As soon as the two-year limit is reached they are sent to the local department, if they are not already beyond the need of relief.

The Baron De Hirsch Fund was started three or four years ago for the benefit of Russian and Rumanian immigrants who have been, except for educational purposes, in this country not longer than two years. It aims to Americanize and assimilate the immigrants with the masses by teaching them to become good citizens and to prevent, by all proper means, their gathering in large cities. It furnishes mechanics with tools; teaches easily acquired trades or the knowledge of the use of tools; pays entrance fees into trade unions; loans small sums in exceptional cases to help to self-support, but gives no alms or charitable relief. Transportation is supplied to points where it is positively known that there is a market for the particular kind of laborers sent there. It establishes day and night schools for both children and adults, only when the local authorities or organizations have failed to make such provision, in which are taught the elementary branches of English, including the Constitution of the United States and improved sanitary habits.

The American Committee for Ameliorating the Condition of Russian Refugees has only been in existence two years. It was organized to take exclusive charge, in correspondence with existing organizations and local committees to be formed throughout the several sections of the Union, of the reception, aid, distribution and placing of Jewish refugees from Russia. It aims to secure employment and homes preferable in places not largely populated, and to provide for instruction in the English language and industries.

But besides the Hebrew Charities and these special agencies of relief, there is a great deal of charitable work carried on by this people, one of the most practical forms being that conducted by the Sisterhoods of Personal Service, that co-operate with the Charities. The members are pledged to do something personal every month in the way of helping a family in need. The character of the work is not unlike that of the King's Daughters, except that it is controlled by a certain congregation and is responsible to it alone. The city is divided into districts and a congregation is responsible for the poor in that field. This commendable feature of Hebrew charity was begun by Rabbi Gotthell nearly four years ago. The Purim Association, organized some thirty years ago, gives an annual charity ball for the benefit of the Hebrew institutions, receiving about $20,000 annually for this purpose.

The Mount Sinai Hospital, Incorporated in 1852, was known as the Jews' Hospital until 1871. The city authorities granted a lease for ninety-nine years of twelve lots at Lexington Ave., between Sixty-sixth and Sixty-seventh Sts. The buildings now in use were erected at a cost of $300,000, and while the hospital was started by Hebrews and is supported by them, its benefits are freely extended to patients of all creeds and classes. In addition to its 200 beds, it maintains a dispensary for the free treatment of the poor with eye, ear and throat departments, where nearly 44,000 consultations were held last year; an outdoor relief and district corps of physicians for cases outside the hospital, which furnishes nurses at the homes of the sick and poor, and a training school for nurses in the dispensary building.

The Montefiore Home for Chronic Invalids was founded in 1884 by representatives of different lodges and congregations in memory of the centennial of the birth of Moses Montefiore, the distinguished Hebrew philanthropist. The object of this home is to afford permanent shelter in sickness and to relieve invalids resident of this city, who by reason of incurable diseases are unable to procure medical treatment in any of the hospitals and homes. It receives incurables of both sexes discharged from the city hospitals without distinction of faith, and is free to the destitute. It also relieve the families of those in the home if they are deprived of the labor of the bread-winner of the family from the Julius Hallgarten Fund, the interest of which is devoted to that purpose. There is also a Discharged Patients and Climatic Cure Fund for sending improved patients to Vineland, N.J., or to Colorado for a few months' change of air. The first money raised for this home--$1,400ówas secured at a benefit performance of "Iolanthe" in the Academy of Music. The home was started at Avenue A and Eighty-fourth St., but it is now at Grand Boulevard and West One-hundred and thirty-eighth St. Six years ago a fair was held to raise money for the new building, when nearly $150,000 was secured.

The Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society was founded in 1879. Its building is on Washington Heights, at Eleventh Ave., and One-hundred and fifty-first St., occupying ten city lots. It has also an asylum at Grand Boulevard and One-hundred and fiftieth St., which was formerly at Avenue A and Eighty-seventh St. This asylum is for girls, while the other is for infants and grown-up boys. The society receives Hebrew infants, orphans, half orphans and deserted children who are not admitted in any other Hebrew institution, and are entrusted to its care by parents or relatives or are committed by a magistrate. It gives them religious, secular and industrial training and at a suitable age adopts them into families or places them in self-supporting occupations.

Other charitable and educational institutions of the Hebrews include the Benevolent Fuel Society, which furnishes coal to needy Hebrews through the United Hebrew Charities: the Sanitary Reform Society, for the general supervision of the sanitary condition of tenement-houses occupied by Hebrews, compelling landlords to obey the laws in that respect. In extreme cases of sickness or destitution it removes families at its own expense from unwholesome apartments to better ones, and furnishes medical advice and medicine.

The Ladies' Deborah Nursery and Child's Protectory, in East Broadway and Henry St., cares for the poor and destitute Hebrew children from two to fourteen years of age who are committed by legal authority to its charge. They are instructed in trades and household duties until able to support themselves, and food and shelter are also given to such other children as the society deems proper. The Ladies' Bikur Cholim Society has for its object the assistance of sick and needy Hebrews. It has also an industrial school for poor girls from eight to twelve years of age, who receive twice a year an outfit of clothing.

The Sanitarium for Hebrew Children, on East Fourteenth St., gives free weekly excursions during the summer to the poor, sick Hebrew mothers and children, and medical aid and food to sick children. It has a sanitarium building at Rockaway, where children remain from three days to a week. The Home for the Aged and Infirm, at Yonkers, is maintained by the Independent Order B'nai B'rith, or Sons of the Covenant, a Hebrew benevolent organization, which bestows a benefit in case of sickness, relief in distress and an endowment of $1,000 in case of death.

There are numerous Hebrew industrial schools where the children of the poor receive in addition to a free education food and clothing, the Hebrew Free School Association alone supplying 3,000 dinners daily to the scholars. The young men and women have their respective associations corresponding in general to the similar organizations.

The Aguilar Aid Society, formerly the Ladies' Montefiore Aid and Sewing Society of Harlem, was started in 1890 to assist the uptown Hebrew poor, on the East Side, with fuel, groceries, clothing and money when needed, and also to provide Passover supplies. The Achnosath Orchim Association was organized four years ago to give material relief and moral aid to Hebrew emigrants by furnishing temporary free lodgings and meals and helps to procure employment and transportation for relatives.

The Hebrew Mutual Benefit Society, chartered in 1846, gives to a member free burial and funeral expenses for himself and his family; weekly benefits in case of sickness and free medical attendance; an annuity to the widows of deceased members and support during the first week of mourning. The Austrian Hungarian Hebrew Free Burial Association, incorporated four years ago, buries members of poor Hebrew families unable to make provision therefore. The Darech Amuno Free Burial Fund Society provides the ground for the burial of Hebrews dying in destitution, the United Hebrew Charities paying the other burial expenses.

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