March 14, 2013

“Some Aspects of Federation History”

Filed under: early history, found in the archives — susanwoodland @ 4:40 pm

“Some Aspects of Federation History” is the title of Part I of a 1954 report by H. L. Lurie, entitled, “Jewish Communal Organization”.  The ‘federation’ mentioned in the title of Part I does not specifically refer to The Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York (FJP); as explained in the preface, “The term ‘federation’ is used as a generic term for all local communal organizations which have [as] their objective the planning and/or the financing of Jewish social welfare programs or meeting other common needs or local responsibilities on a city-wide or large area basis.”

"Some Aspects of Federation History", 1954

“Some Aspects of Federation History”, 1954

Lurie was for many years the Executive Director of the Bureau of Jewish Social Research in New York, which was a forerunner of CJFWF, of which Lurie was also Executive Director.  Many of his publications from the 1930s are available online from the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University.

H. L. Lurie prepared this study for the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds (CJFWF) with a planned Part II which would “analyze and interpret the major aspects, basic problems and trends in Jewish community organization” as of 1954.  The first chapter of Part I delves into a very brief and very general history of the Jewish population in the United States in terms of how its social and economic needs had been addressed and met – mostly through very small congregational, social, fraternal and mutual aid societies serving very specific parts of the community.  By 1875 Jewish immigration to the United States had begun to expand tremendously.  “With this growth of population we reach a stage of complexity of group organization where the need for coordination … becomes obvious to the … leaders in communal service.”

The “Jewish Communal Register of New York City“, published in 1918, listed an astonishing 3,637 separate Jewish organizations, according to Lurie.  It was at this point that the welfare and relief societies began to merge, in order to better serve a larger and more diverse Jewish community.  In New York City, United Jewish Charities was established in 1874 from the “merger of two congregational relief societies, two agencies operating under secular auspices, a neighborhood relief organization and an agency providing fuel to needy families.  Other small relief societies later joined this merger …”  This and other mergers in New York and elsewhere “did not result in federations; the several agencies were consolidated, losing their separate identities … Federation [was] defined as a coming together of agencies which continued their separate existence and autonomy but cooperate for a common purpose such as central fund raising or planning was a later development which was first initiated in Cincinnati and Boston in 1895.”

This report, because it was published by CJFWF, will be transferred from the UJA-Federation of New York collection to the CJFWF collection, I-69, also at the American Jewish Historical Society.

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