As Federation was preparing to officially incorporate in 1917, the men and women of the Committee on Federation met frequently in 1916 and 1917 to set up the structure of the new organization and determine how it would function and which agencies it would support. I have found one set of minutes particularly interesting – the minutes of January 8, 1917 (beginning on page 13), which include several appendices. Appendix C is a letter to Felix Warburg, the Chairman of Federation prior to incorporation and his election as president, from a group “constituting … a temporary committee of twenty-five to consider the financial aspect of Jewish religious education in New York City”. A faction involved with the creation of Federation was in favor of including Jewish education as agencies eligible for Federation’s support; this issue was discussed repeatedly in the meetings that year. It was clear that in addition to disagreements about Federation’s core responsibilities to the community, and whether that included any agencies in addition to medical institutions and the truly poor and needy, there were financial hurdles to adding Jewish education to Federation’s commitments.
The group proposed various solutions, and recommended that Federation form a Board of School Aid in order to solve the issue of funding.
There were several fears in NOT becoming involved in funding Jewish Education soon. High on that list was that another federation would form specifically for that purpose, and would compete for resources and influence from within the same community.
The letter is signed by the 25 members of the committee – an illustrious group of Jewish educators in New York, most of whom were not involved with Federation in any other capacity. Please follow all the links for additional information about some of these remarkable committee members:
Israel Unterberg (chairman) – Self-made manufacturer, banker, philanthropist and president of the Jewish Education Association. Unlike other members of the committee, he was on the board of Montefiore Hospital, an early Federation agency, and his wife Bella was a member of the Special Committee on Federation. Their daughter Lillian Derecktor speaks about her father in her oral history.
Henrietta Szold – In 1917, 5 years after founding Hadassah, Henrietta Szold continued as the head of the Department of Education of the ZOA in New York. She remained influential in the field of Jewish Education in America before moving to Jerusalem in 1920 to focus on the Hadassah Medical Organization.
Samson Benderly – “Benderly was a visionary and was capable of inspiring others to follow his vision. He developed around him a group of remarkable young people who shared his excitement about changing the face of American Jewish education”, known as “The Benderly Boys”. [quoted from the review of the book about the Benderly boys – click on “Samson Benderly” above to follow link]
Judah L. Magnes – First Chancellor and President of Hebrew University, and a founder of Ihud, which proposed a bi-national state in Palestine.