Consider helping today!
The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
The Lord's Share.
—Ancient and Medieval Times.
Charity is kindness shown to the needy; Hebrew, "ẓedaḳah"="righteousness" (Deuteronomy 24:13; Isaiah 32:17; Proverbs 14:34; Psalms 106:3; Daniel 4:24); "gemilut ḥesed" or "gemilut ḥasadim" = "the bestowing of kindness," is the rabbinical term for personal charity. Charity may be regarded merely as a free tribute of love, as in the New Testament, where ἀγάπη is often translated in A. V. by "charity"; or it may be equivalent to "liberality," a term borrowed from the Roman world, where, as in Greece, only on a larger scale, the freeborn ("libri") or wealthy showed generosity by great donations to the lower classes. But in Judaism charity is an act of duty incumbent upon men of means to provide for those in want. Charity is righteousness in so far as God, the Giver of all blessings, claims from His gifts a share for the poor, and, as the actual owner of the land, claims certain portions of the produce for the fatherless and the widow, the Levite and the stranger: "Thou shalt surely give him [the poor], and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. For the poor shall never cease outof the land: therefore, I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor and thy needy in thy land" (Deuteronomy 15:10,11).
A Claim of Righteousness and Love.
In the Mosaic legislation the right of proprietorship does not extend to the corners of the field, the gleanings of the harvest, the forgotten sheaf, and the growth of the seventh year; they "shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow" (Leviticus 19:9,10; 23:22; Deuteronomy 24:19-21; Exodus 23:11; compare Leviticus 25:23). The tithes of the yearly produce also were claimed every third year for the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow (Deuteronomy 14:22-29, 26:12 et seq.; compare Malachi 3:10). So should every enjoyment of God's gifts be shared by the needy (Deuteronomy 16:11,14). Charity from this point of view may be called an assessment of the rich in favor of the poor. This also is the view of the Rabbis. When asked by Tinnius Rufus: "Why does your God, being the lover of the needy, not Himself provide for their support?", R. Akiba replied: "By charity wealth is to be made a means of salvation; God, the Father of both the rich and the poor, wants the one to help the other, and thus to make the world a household of love" (B. B. 10a).
Charity Is Righteousness.
In another aspect charity is righteousness. The helpless has a right to claim the help of his more fortunate brother. The cry of the distressed is an appeal to human compassion which must be responded to, lest the "gracious" God, who "doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow" (Deuteronomy 10:18) hear it and punish those who remain deaf to the call of duty (Exodus 22:20-25). The poor are "my people," says God: "If thy brother be waxen poor . . . thou shalt relieve him that he may live with thee" (Leviticus 25:35). He is "of thine own flesh," and when thou seest him naked thou shouldst cover him, and give him bread when he is hungry, and shelter when he is cast out (Isaiah 58:7). The idea that the poor and forsaken stand under the special protection of God, who "loves the stranger" and is "father of the fatherless and judge of the widows" (Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalms 68:6,15), is the underlying motive of such charity as is expressed in Proverbs: "He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord" (19:17); "He that honoreth him hath mercy on the poor" (14:31). Compare Psalms 41:1: "Blessed is he that considereth the poor; the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble," and the whole of Psalms 112 Accordingly, the ideal type of the righteous man is he who is "eyes to the blind," "feet to the lame," and "father to the poor" (Job 29:15); and that of the virtuous woman, she who "stretcheth out her hand to the poor" and "reacheth forth her hands to the needy" (Proverbs 31:20).
Charity a Human Obligation.
Charity is a human obligation. Man owes it to his fellow-man as a brother. It is expected of all men and toward all men (Deuteronomy 23:5; 1 Kings 20:31; Amos 1:11-2:1; Philo, "De Caritate," §§ 17, 18). Abraham is a type of charity and benevolence (Genesis 18:3). In the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs it is simple-hearted Issachar (Issach. 3, 5, 7) who, by example and precept, teaches charity in "helping the poor and the feeble and sharing every gift of God with the needy." Philo (ed. Mangey, 2:629), in the fragment preserved by Eusebius ("Præparatio Evangelica," 8:7) gives, as especial ordinances of Moses the lawgiver, the Buzygian laws; that is, the old Athenian laws of humanity (see Bernays, "Gesammelte Schriften," 1:278 et seq.): "not to refuse fire to any one asking for it, nor to cut off a stream of water; to offer food to beggars and cripples, and to give decent burial to the unclaimed dead; not to add additional suffering to one who is in trouble, nor to treat animals with cruelty." Josephus ("Contra Ap." 2:29) also gives as ordinances of Moses regarding all men: "to afford fire, water, and food to such as need them, to show them the road [see Bernays, c. p. 78], and not to let any one lie unburied."
With unmistakable reference to a similar rabbinical tradition are the words spoken by Jethro, the God-fearing Gentile, to Moses (Exodus 18:20): "Thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws and shalt show them the way which they should walk therein and the work that they should do," as interpreted by Eleazar of Modin in Mek., Yitro (compare B. Ḳ. 99b; B. M. 30b; and Targ. Yer. Exodus 18:20), to mean: "Show them the house of life," e., the synagogue where the poor are to be sheltered; "the way," that is, to visit the sick; "where they should walk," that is, to bury the dead; "therein," that is, "to bestow kindness" to other persons in need; and "the work they should do," that is, to do "more than is strictly required." "To him who shows mercy to all his fellow-creatures, Heaven will also show mercy; to him who fails to show mercy to his fellow-creatures, Heaven will not show mercy" (Shab. 151b, based upon Deuteronomy 13:18 [A. V. 17]). The Israelites are distinguished for charity, modesty, and benevolence (Yeb. 79a). When Moses asked the Lord to show him "His way," He showed him the treasures of heaven in store for those who do works of charity, especially for those who rear orphan children (Tanh. to Exodus 33:13).
Principles of Charity.
Charity, however, should not be so altruistic as to overlook one's duties toward self and those nearer home. "He commits a crime who imperils his life by refusing to take charity when he is in dire need" (Yer. Peah 8:21b). Against the tendency prevailing in Essene and Christian circles to sell all one had and "give to the poor" in order to have "treasure in heaven" (Matthew 19:21), the rabbis at the synod in Usha ordained that "no one should give away more than the fifth of his fortune lest from independence he may lapse into a state of dependence" (Ket. 50a). "He that doeth righteousness at all times" (Psalms 106:3) is he who supports his wife and small children (Ket. c.). The poor among one's own relatives, and then those in the same town, have the leading claims upon charity (B. M. 71a).
On the other hand, charity is to provide each poor person with "what is sufficient for his need in accordance with what he lacks"; that is to say, his personal claims and wants with a view to his former social position should be considered; "and if he needsa horse to ride on, it should not be withheld from him now that he is in reduced circumstances" (Sifre to Deuteronomy 15:8; Ket. 67b; Yer. Peah 8:21b); the fundamental principle being expressed in Psalms 41:1; see Midr. Teh. to the passage: "Blessed is he that considereth the poor." Furthermore, all possible secrecy should be maintained in order not to offend the recipient of charity (Ket. c.; B. B. 9b; see see ALMS). Of greater merit, therefore, than giving is the helping of the poor by lending him money, or in some other way facilitating his mode of living (Shab. 63a). But greater than all charity is that bestowing of personal kindness ("gemilut ḥasadim") which is enjoined by the words, "to love mercy" (Micah 6:8). In fact, all charity is valued only by the element of personal kindness it contains (according to Hosea 10:12). "Charity is offered with one's money; kindness, with both one's person and one's money. Charity is bestowed upon the poor; kindness, upon both poor and rich. Charity is offered to the living; kindness, to both the living and the dead" (Suk. 49b). "The bestowal of kindness is one of the three things on which the world is stayed," teaches Simon the Just in the third pre-Christian century (Ab. 1:2). That is to say, the recognition of the needs of suffering humanity calls into existence a body of men who take charge of the various charitable works required for the maintenance of society. Such a body of elders of each city is held responsible for every case of neglect of human life which may lead to disastrous consequences; for why should the elders of that city "next unto the slain man" whose body has been found, "put away the guilt of innocent blood" from among them (Deuteronomy 21:1-9), unless they have failed to provide properly for either the victim or the desperate murderer (Sifre, Deut. 210; Soṭah 9:6).
Charity a Matter of Public Administration.
Here the principle is laid down for all times and places that charity, in its manifold ramifications, is a matter of public safety and public administration; and it is more than probable that the "Anshe Keneseth ha-Gedolah," of whom Simon the Just is said to have been one of the last remnants (Ab. 1:2), were also the organizers of the system of charity. It is one of the radical errors of Uhlhorn ("Die Christliche Liebesthätigkeit," 1882, p. 55) and all Christian writers to ascribe to the Cristian Church the merit of having originated systematic charitable work based on Matthew 25:35-39; the burying of the dead, as Uhlhorn says, having been added later to the six branches of charity mentioned there. The fact is that the whole description of the Messianic judgment in Matthew, c., rests on the Midrashic interpretation of Psalms 118:19 et seq. (see Midr. Teh. to the passage, where the deeds of charity are enumerated in words almost identical with those of Matthew). Indeed, these familiar Hasidic works of charity were regarded as having been practised from the beginning of the world, the Lord Himself having taught them to the Patriarchs (Soṭah 14a). Daniel, Job, and Abraham practised them (Ab. R. N. ,; ed. Schechter, pp. 21, 33), Abraham having learned them from Melchizedek (Midr. Teh. Psalms 37); and there are many indications that the ancient Ḥasidim divided themselves into groups attending to these (seven?) different branches of charitable work (see M. Ḳ. 27b; Sem.; Ab. R. N. 8:36 et seq.; Geiger, "Jüd. Zeit." 6:279, 9:7-9; Brüll, "Jahrb." 1:25; and art. ESSENES). These seven branches, mutatis mutandis, mentioned in rabbinical literature, are: (1) feeding the hungry and giving the thirsty to drink; (2) clothing the naked; (3) visiting the sick; (4) burying the dead and comforting the mourners; (5) redeeming the captive; (6) educating the fatherless and sheltering the homeless; (7) providing poor maidens with dowries. The "Apostolic Constitutions" (4:2) enumerates ten branches.
The Mosaic law, based upon the simple agricultural life of the Hebrews, offered provisions for widows, orphans, and strangers who had entered into a state of dependence; while the shiftless and otherwise unfortunate often sold themselves as slaves with the view of recovering their freedom in the seventh year and their patrimony in the jubilee year. In times of famine, emigration was resorted to (1 Kings 17:9; Ruth 1:1). It is interesting to notice the changed conditions in Palestine during the first century, when Queen Helena of Adiabene during a great famine bought shiploads of wheat and figs to aid the starving, and her son Izates sent great sums of money "to the foremost men of Jerusalem for distribution among the people" (Josephus, "Ant." 20:2, § 5). Here is the first historical evidence of the existence of a body of men at the head of the community having relief work in charge. And that the foremost men were selected for the office of charity collectors or overseers ("gabba'e ẓedaḳah"), may be learned from the ancient Mishnah (Ḳid. 6:5): "He whose fathers belonged to the gabba'e ẓedaḳah is qualified to marry into priestly families without inquiry as to his pure descent." It is also known that at the beginning of the second century R. Akiba held the office of charity overseer (Ḳid. 28a).
The following system of relief was established in Mishnaic times. Every community had a charity-box, called "ḳuppah," or ḲORBAN (ALMS), or "area" (Tertullian, "Apologia," ), containing the funds for the support of the indigent towns-men, who received every Friday money for the fourteen meals of the whole week, and for clothing, as well as the charity for the transient poor, who received only as much as was needed for the day, and on Sabbath eve for three meals; also a charitybowl ("tamḥoi") for the keeping of victuals needed for immediate relief. The charity-box was given in charge of three trustees, who formed a regular bet din to decide on the worthiness and claims of the applicants before giving money; personal merit as well as parentage and former social station being considered. Beggars who went from door to door received nothing, or at best a pittance. For the collection of the money two men of the utmost respectability and trustworthiness were sent, endowed with full power to tax the people and to seize property until the sum required was given them. In order to avoid all suspicion, these collectors were not allowed to separate while collecting or holding the money (see Apostle). The victuals for the tamḥuy were both collected and distributed forimmediate use by three officers. The collections for the ḳuppah were made weekly. A residence in the city for thirty days obliged persons to contribute to the ḳuppah, one of three months to the tamḥuy, one of six months to the clothing, and one of nine months to the burial fund (B. B. 8-9; Tosef. Peah 4:8-15; Mishnah Peah 8:7; Yer. Peah 21a, b). The task of the charity administrators—also called "parnasim" (), from πρόνοος = "provider"; compare "Apostolic Constitutions," 3:3, προνοιαν ποτού μενος (Tosef., Meg. 3:4; Yer. Peah. 8:21a, b; Sheḳ. 5:4,48a)—was regarded as extremely delicate, and often entailed great sacrifice; while the reputation of the officers was so high that they were never called to account for their administration (Shab. 118b; B. B. 9a-11a; 'Ab. Zarah 17b).
Modes of Alms-giving.
The leading maxim was that the poor should never be put to shame by receiving charity (Ḥag. 5a). Maimonides ("Yad," Mattenot 'Aniyyim, 10:7-13) enumerates eight different ranks of givers of charity: (1) he who aids the poor in supporting himself by advancing money or by helping him to some lucrative occupation; (2) he who gives charity without knowing who is the recipient and without having the recipient know who is the giver, e. in the manner charity was practised in the chamber of the Ḥasshhaim (Essenes) in the Temple at Jerusalem (Sheḳ. 5:7); (3) he who gives in secret, casting the money into the houses of the poor, who remain ignorant as to the name of their benefactor: this was done by great masters in Israel (Ket. 67b), and should be done whenever the public charity is not administered in a proper way; (4) he who gives without knowing the recipient, by casting it among the poor, while the recipient knows who is the giver (Ket. c.); (5) he who gives before he is asked; (6) he who gives after he is asked; (7) he who gives inadequately, but with a good grace; (8) he who gives with a bad grace.
Impostors who pretended to have bodily defects, whereby to appeal to the sympathy of the charity officers, are mentioned (Peah 8:9; Tosef. Peah 4:14; Ket. 68a). Non-Jewish poor were also supported from the charity fund (Giṭ. 61a), but such Jews as wilfully transgressed the Law had no claim to support as "brothers" (Shulḥan 'Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, 251). A woman's claim had precedence of a man's; a student of the Law, over an ignorant man, even though of the highest rank (Hor. 3:7-8; Ket. 6, 7a; Maimonides, c. 8:15; Shulḥan 'Aruk, c.).
Public Inn for Travelers.
Charity was also regarded as a form of sacrifice offered to God on behalf of the poor (see ALTAR), and was invested with the sacred character of vows and free-will offerings (Deuteronomy 23:24; R. H. 6a). Hence it came that, while only worthy persons should receive charity (B. B. 9b; Ecclus. [Sirach] 12:1-6 Didache, 1:5-6; "Apost. Const." 4:3), it was also of great importance that the givers should be of unblemished character (Tosef., B. Ḳ. 11:9 et seq.; "Apost. Const." 4:6-10—a very important Jewish chapter on charity, stating that charity has the character of a sacrifice, for which nothing that is abominable to God [Deuteronomy 23:19] may be used, and to which none who is an abomination [Deuteronomy 18:10 et seq.] may be a contributor; see DIDASCALIA). Especially idolaters, unless in cases of royal donors, were excluded from contributing to the charity fund (Sanh. 26b; B. B. 10b; Maimonides, c. 8:9). A frequent form of charity practised in the pre-Christian and early Christian centuries was the hospice or public inn ("pandok," πανδοκεĩον), built on the high road to offer shelter and food to the poor traveler and the homeless. Ascribed alike to Abraham and to Job (Ab. R. N. , ed. Schechter, p. 34; Soṭah 10a; Gen. R. ,; Test. Job 3; see Kohler, in Kohut Memorial Volume, pp. 270, 318; compare Targ. Yer. to Deuteronomy 23:17); this practise was known in Philo's time (Philo, "De Caritate," § 12, and elsewhere), and later on in Babylonia, where Ḥana bar Ḥanilai kept an inn which had its four doors open on four sides, exactly like those of Job and Abraham, to all passers-by; sixty bakers being kept busy baking bread in the daytime, and sixty at night for the bashful poor who would not be seen asking bread by day (Ber. 58b; compare Test. Job 3:11).
This πανδοχεĩον of the Essenes appears as a Christian institution in the fourth century under the name of "xenodochium" (inn for strangers), and connected with, or serving as, a "ptocheum" or "ptochotropheum" (sick-house) and was, as Hieronymus expressly states, transplanted from the East to the West "as a twig from Abraham's terebinth," a direct allusion to the rabbinical identification of Genesis 21:33 with such a hospice (see Uhlhorn, c. pp. 319-321, where Hieronymus' words are quoted, but seemingly without a comprehension of their significance). As a matter of fact, the emperor Julian, in instituting inns for strangers in every city, refers to both Jews and Christians, "the enemies of the gods," as models of philanthropy, inasmuch as with the former no beggar was to be found, and the latter also supported the heathen poor as well as their own (Julianus, "Epist." 30:49; Sozomen, "Hist. of the Church," 5:16). Abrahams (in his "Jewish Life in the Middle Ages," p. 314, note) is therefore not far from the truth when he suggests a possible connection of the ancient "pandok" with the communal inn of the Middle Ages for the lodging and feeding of poor or sick travelers, which became a special necessity after the Crusades. The halakic rule, fixed for all time, was that no city is worth living in for a devotee of the Law ("Talmid ḥakam") which has not a charity-box, "ḳuppah shel ẓedaḳah"; that is, a systematic relief of the poor (Sanh. 17b). Also the name "heḳdesh" for the Jewish hospital, found as early as the eleventh century in Cologne (see Brisch, "Gesch. der Juden in Coeln," 1879, p. 19; Berliner, "Aus dem Innern Leben der Deutschen Juden im Mittelalter," p. 120), and in the casuistic literature as "betheḳdesh [le 'aniyyim]" ("the house of the things consecrated [to the poor]," see Lampronti, s. ), points to a long-established custom of the pious to consecrate property to God for the benefit of the poor (see Ta'an. 24a; B. B. 133b). This heḳdesh served all through the Middle Ages, like the ancient Christian xenodochium (Haeser, "Gesch. der Christl Krankenpflege," 1857, 13), both as a poorhouse and as a hospital for the sick and the aged as well as for the stranger.
As has been shown by Abrahams (c. pp. 311-312), the tamḥoi or food distribution of old was gradually superseded either by private hospitality or by communal hostelries and by the benevolent activity of charitable societies formed for this purpose; while the institution of regular relief through the charity fund (ḳuppah) became universal (see Maimonides, c. 9:3). Charity being the universal duty, all were forced to contribute (Ket. 49b), even women and children, and, as far as they could afford it, the poor themselves (B. Ḳ. 119a; Giṭ. 7b). In the synagogue the charity fund was remembered by vows made publicly (Tosef., Ter. 1:10; Tosef., Shab. 17:22), especially on occasions of joy or in commemoration of the dead ("Or Zarua'," 1:26; Roḳeaḥ, § 217); and occasionally collections were made at festal banquets (Abrahams, c. pp. 31 et seq.). The average Jew was always expected to give one-tenth of his income to charity (Ket. 50a; Yer. Peah 1:15b; Maimonides, c. 7:5); and the rabbis of the Middle Ages endeavored to make this a legal tax rather than a mere voluntary contribution (Abrahams, c. pp. 319 et seq.) See also Judah Hadassi, in "Eshkol ha-Kofer."
In the thirteenth century (Abrahams, c. pp. 324 et seq.; Güidemann, "Gesch. des Erziehungswesens und der Cultur der Juden in Deutschland," 1:50, note; Berliner, "Gesch. der Juden in Rom," 2:56; Vogelstein and Rieger, "Gesch. der Juden in Rom," 2:315; "Ben Chananjah," 1861, p. 23) charitable societies were organized all over Europe for supporting and clothing the poor, for the education of the children of the poor, for endowing poor maidens, for nursing and educating orphans, for visiting the sick, for aid to sick and lying-in women among the poor, for sheltering the aged, for free burials, and for the ransom of prisoners, which, of all charitable objects, is declared in the Talmud to be the highest of merit (B. B. 8b; Maimonides, c. 8:9-15; see CAPTIVES). The activity displayed by these societies in Rome in the seventeenth century is typical of all; though, according to Berliner (c. 2:183), the Spanish and Italian Jews displayed a special talent for organization. There existed, and still exist, four central organizations in Rome: one by the name of "'Ozer Dallim" for the help of the poor; a second by the name of "Gemilut Ḥasadim" for the benefit of the dead; a third by the name of "Moshab Zekenim," a home for the aged; and a fourth by the name of "Shomer Emunim" for the maintenance of the faith and worship. These comprise wellnigh thirty different societies, seven of which provide for the needs of the poor, children, widows, and prisoners; two for visiting the sick and for offering aid in cases of sudden death; two for dowries for poor brides; and one for the ransoming of captives. The nursing of sick women as well as the award of dowries to brides was in charge of a woman appointed as directress by the Jewish community. Non-Jewish poor were also supported by these Jewish societies, whose officers brought the required aid to the houses of the more respected poor. The women had their own society (see Berliner, c.; Vogelstein and Rieger, c.).
In a remarkable document by Samuel Portaleone ("Jew. Quart. Rev." 5:505-515) seven charity-boxes are mentioned as existing in Mantua or San Martino in 1630: a box for the land of Israel; another for Talmud-Torah; a third for burying the dead ("ḳuppat gemilut ḥasadim"); a fourth for charity ("ḳuppat raḥamim," the sick and aged); a fifth for maidens' dowries; a sixth for the relief of the poor; and a seventh for the redemption of captives. (For Amsterdam compare Zedner, "Cat. Hebr. Books Brit. Mus." p. 49.) The records of every Jewish community, ancient and modern, evidence the fact beautifully expressed in Cant. R. 4:1, 5:2: "'Behold thou art fair, my love'—in all works of charity; 'I sleep, but my heart waketh'—'I sleep' in regard to all other commandments, but 'my heart waketh' whenever works of charity are to be performed." See ALMS.
- Hamburger, R. B. T. s.: Almosen, Almoseneinnehmer, Almosenvorsteher, Armenpflege, Wohlthun;
- M. Weinberg, Die Organization der Jüdischen Ortsgemeinden, in Monatsschrift, 1897, pp. 678-681;
- Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages;
- D. Cassel, Die Armenverwaltung im Alten Israel, 1887;
- Maimonides, Yad, Mattenot 'Aniyyim;
- Shulḥan 'Aruk, Yoreh De'ah. 246-259;
- Uhlhorn, Die Christliche Liebesthätigkeit hin der Alten Kirche, 1880;
- idem, Armenpflege, in Herzog-Hauck, Real-Encyc. (instructive for comparison, but, as far as Jewish matters are discussed, incorrect).
In more recent times the charities of some of the chief cities, as London, Paris, and New York, were organized and modeled on modern lines.
Early Organized Charity.
In London a number of charitable institutions connected with the Spanish and Portuguese synagogue had existed since the middle of the eighteenth century. Food charities were founded at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and the Jews' Hospital in 1808. In 1876 this was amalgamated with the Jews' Orphan Asylum, founded 1831. Many minor Jewish charities had their rise between 1840 and 1860; the Spanish and Portuguese Board of Guardians was founded in 1837 (reconstituted in 1878), and the German Board of Guardians in 1859. The earliest Portuguese charity arose in 1703, and the earliest German in 1745. Then, too, a certain part of the synagogue funds was used in relieving the poor. Almhouses had been erected, early in the century, by the Portuguese synagogue from the bequest of Joseph Barrows. In 1823 Sir Moses Montefiore supplied money for the same purpose. The Ashkenazim established some benevolent societies between 1815 and 1835. In 1862 the Solomons and Moses almshouses were opened; in 1865 the Jews' Deaf and Dumb Home. Since that time, some new shelters, soup-kitchens, and wards in general hospitals have been established.
In 1829 Jacob S. Solis of New York planned a Jewish orphan asylum, but not until 1859 was the first German Hebrew Benevolent Society established in New York: its asylum was opened in 1860. The Mount Sinai Hospital was established in 1852, and the Montefiore Home for Chronic Invalids in the early eighties. The Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society was founded in 1879 by Philip J. Joachimsen of New York, and the Independent Order of B'nai B'rith Home for the Aged and Infirm in 1848. In 1855 the New Orleans Jewish Orphans' Home wasfounded, and the Philadelphia Hebrew Education Society in 1849. A number of hospitals, orphan asylums, and homes were founded by the Independent Order of B'nai B'rith throughout the United States, as at Cleveland in 1863 and at San Francisco in 1871.
In Paris, the several societies were amalgamated as the Comité de Bienfaisance de la Ville de Paris on May 12, 1809. The heads of the Parisian charities were the commissioners who had charge of all matters affecting relief. Several times the Comité was reorganized both in the number of commissioners and in the relief afforded. April 15, 1839, new regulations went into effect, and 15 commissioners were appointed. The number finally reached 36 in 1877. Subcommittees have charge of the receipts and expenditures, of poor-relief, coal supplies, soup-kitchens, etc.
In 1843 a lottery for the benefit of the charities of the Comité was instituted, and between 1843 and 1853 a lying-in hospital and one for consumptives were organized and assistance offered to Jewish pedlers. The Comité, moreover, endeavored to reduce the number of Jewish mendicants. In 1809, when the Comité was first organized, a complete hospital service was established. But a hospital building was not acquired until January, 1841; this contained 15 beds. It was formally opened Jan. 16, 1842, and did much to relieve the poor, besides providing medical treatment for sick Israelites. The Rothschilds endowed the institution liberally, and founded an orphanage in 1855. After the Revolution of 1848 the affairs of the Comité were entirely reorganized, and since 1849 it has had charge of all Parisian Jewish charities. Notable was the founding of the Alliance Israélite Universelle in 1863.
- L. Cahen, Hist. du Communauté de Paris, s. Comité de Bienf.;
- J. Picciotto, Sketches of Anglo-Jewish Hist., s. Charities, in Index;
- Markens, The Hebrews in America, pp. 300 et seq., New York, 1888;
- Jacobs-Wolf, Bibliotheca Anglo-Judaica, s. Communal Organizations;
- Maxime du Camp, Paris Bienfaisant.
Effect of Russian Persecution.
In 1882 the persecution of the Jews in Russia, resulting in a sudden emigration, thrust upon the Jews of various countries the problem of finding adequate relief for thousands of homeless and starving refugees. Soon it became necessary for the societies and institutions that existed in the communities to combine their efforts and enter into cooperation. In this manner Russian emigration gave impetus to the affiliation and consolidation of charitable effort, and especially affected such movements as had been started some time before. Within the past twenty-five years these organizations, originally formed to meet an imminent need, have developed into compact, systematic bodies. In the larger communities in particular, where thousands of Jews lived, many of whom were unknown to one another, the charity given indiscriminately by the individual gradually gave way to charity given by the organization after careful investigation of the applicant's needs, with the view of preventing pauperism and its attending evils.
Cooperation Due to Russian Exodus.
Along with this innovation came the introduction of the paid agent instead of the volunteer, it being the business of the former to study the complex conditions that encompassed the poor and to administer relief, not only from the standpoint of the poor, but from the standpoint of their relation to the community. The modern Jewish relief institution is based on the assumption that the administration of charity is a task for the sociologist who has studied the causes subjective and objective that produce poverty, and for the trained expert who has a knowledge of the particular agency that may be required to alleviate any form of distress.
The organizations, societies, and agencies for the giving of charity in its various phases may be grouped under the following general headings:
1. The Care of Needy Families in Their Homes:
It is almost axiomatic that the care of needy Jewish families in their homes to-day is not a matter for public relief by the state, even in communities where public outdoor relief is given. Such relief as may be needed is given by Jewish organizations which, as a rule are based on the same plan and carry on similar lines of work. The Boards of Guardians in England, the Unterstützungs-Vereine in Germany, the Sociétés de Bienfaisance in France, the United Hebrew Charities and other benevolent societies in the United States give material relief to the deserving poor in the shape of money, clothing, coal, medicine, food, etc., and practically combine under one administration the duties of smaller individual charities which they have replaced. Many of these larger societies conduct employment bureaus, loan bureaus, workrooms for unskilled women, day, nurseries, and dispensaries as adjuncts to their regular work. An important feature is the granting of transportation to other communities where the applicant may be better able to prosecute his particular vocation.
Principles of Relief.
The larger societies have a registration bureau, in which the record of the applicant is carefully preserved, and which is intended for the use of the contributors and the public. The purpose of such a bureau is to overcome the possibility of overlapping and duplication in the giving of relief, and to weed out the beggar and the vagrant. The fundamental principle of these societies is that relief shall be given in cases of emergency and only after a thorough investigation of the applicant's condition; that the relief which is given shall come from one source; that it shall be adequate for the applicant's needs, and shall consider his future welfare as well as his present distress. To carry out the last idea, many organizations have instituted cooperating societies known as sisterhoods of personal service, whose duty it is to enter the homes of the poor and to supplement the material relief of the society with the helping hand and kind word of the individual. Such personal service is a phase of the old Jewish idea of "gemilut ḥesed," and the modern development of the thought that the best aid that can be given to the poor is to help them to help themselves. The motto of one of the charityorganization societies in the United States, "Not alms, but a friend," is the fundamental motive of personal service and of the friendly visitor.
Many of these sisterhoods are adjuncts to the synagogue, and are a part of the contribution of the latter to the charitable work of the community. It is becoming more apparent daily that the friendly visitor, the man or woman who gives personal service to the poor, if intelligent and tactful, can be of inestimable benefit to the work of a relief society.
The London Board of Guardians for the relief of the Jewish poor stands as a type of the relief society that is to be found in England and its provinces. Its expenditures in 1899 were nearly £58,000 ($290,- 000). It represents practically the entire Jewish community of London, although there are a number of independent small societies which give similar relief. Its work is conducted by thirteen committees, who grant loans, conduct workrooms, assist emigrants, apprentice boys, supply tools, conduct almshouses, and give every form of material relief. Similar organizations are found in most of the cities and towns in the provinces and colonies and throughout the British possessions.
Local Centralized Institutions.
In Paris the Comité de Bienfaisance Israélite, assisted by the commissioners of charity, grants necessary assistance to worthy poor families, gives them tools and machines or the means to purchase the same, also grants money to purchase goods, makes loans, and provides medical relief. The Comité conducts an employment bureau and maintains two large Jewish soup-kitchens where, for ten and fifteen centimes, portions of soup, meat, and vegetables are given to all presenting orders from the Comité. Outside of Paris there exist in France but few important institutions as there are but comparatively few Jewish poor.
In the United States the United Hebrew Charities of New York is the largest organization of its kind, disbursing annually upward of $130,000, and is representative of similar institutions throughout the country. It endeavors to give every form of material relief that may be required by its beneficiaries, and to supplement this relief by educational and preventive agencies so that the grinding poverty common to congested communities, which rapidly tends to degeneracy, may not only be palliated, but suppressed. Not only in the larger cities of the United States, but in the smallest community where there is a Jewish population, similar organizations exist. In the "American Jewish Year-Book" for 1900-01, 593 philanthropic organizations are mentioned, of which the large majority assist in the care of needy families in their homes. There are, however, numbers of small relief and benefit societies which have been organized by the Russian, Rumanian, and Galician immigrants of the past twenty-five years and their descendants, which are little known outside of their immediate environment and which are not included in this list.
In Germany the Armen-Commission der Jüdischen Gemeinde in Berlin is typical of the general societies which look after the needy poor. This organization is composed of a committee from the United Congregations, in whose charge the philanthropic work of the community is placed. In this respect Germany differs from the other countries mentioned above, where the large communal organizations are as a rule separate from congregational effort. The Armen-Commission in Berlin has several subcommittees, one of which gives monetary relief, another work and maẓẓot, and a third food. There are among them also a number of smaller institutions, such as a society for the support of needy travelers, a society for the granting of pensions to students, and another for giving clothing. Characteristic of Germany are organizations known as Vereine Gegen Wander- und Hausbettelei, of which there are seventy-seven in the various German cities and towns. In the smaller communities, as in the larger, the care of the needy families is a portion of the work of the Jewish congregations.
2. Destitute, Neglected, and Delinquent Children:
The orphaned child has always been the particular care of the Jewish community. Furnishing marriage portions to orphans was the work of special societies. Wherever it was possible, the orphan child was taken in charge by relatives or friends, or foster-parents were found for it. When this became impossible, orphanages and asylums were organized to look after the child bereft of either or both of its parents. The object of these societies was not only to give shelter, but to educate the inmates to become good Jewish men and women. Such orphan asylums sprang into existence as early as the latter part of the eighteenth century, and today are the accepted method of caring for the dependent and destitute child. Societies for the boarding out of children in homes under the supervision of proper guardians are less common. Of more recent growth is the development of what is known as the placing-out system under which the child is legally adopted. This system is based on the belief that the housing of large numbers of children in institutions is detrimental to their proper development and destroys individual characteristics which would be brought out in the more natural environment of a home. Attempts that have been made in the United States to place children in homes have given but meager results.
In London there are two institutions for dependent children, the Jews' Hospital and Orphan Asylum and the Spanish and Portuguese Orphan Society, the latter for children of Sephardim only. In the provinces there are no orphan asylums, but in a number of communities there are organizations which are in the nature of aid societies to the Jews' Hospital and Orphan Asylum. In Australia there is a Jewish Orphan and Neglected Children's Aid Society in Melbourne.
In Paris the Jewish Orphan Asylum founded and maintained by the Rothschild family receives and educates about 100 children of both sexes; the Refuge de Plessis-Piquet receives abandoned boys from six to fourteen years old, gives them an elementary education, and teaches them a trade. It has accommodations for 70 pupils. The Refuge de Neuilly conducts a similar institution for girls.
In the United States there are at present 16 Jewish asylums for dependent children, situated in thecities of Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Newark, N. J., New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Rochester, and San Francisco. Of these the largest are the Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society of New York, which at present cares for over 900 children, and the Hebrew Benevolent and Orphan Asylum Society, which has nearly that number of children in its charge. The Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society of New York and the Hebrew Infant Asylum of the same city are distinctive in that they receive not only orphan and half-orphan children, but any child for whom there is no proper guardianship. The latter institution confines its work to children under five years of age. The asylums in Atlanta, Ga., and Cleveland, Ohio, are under the auspices of the I. O. B. B. and receive their inmates from the respective districts which they represent. The other societies are local in character, and are conducted by private agencies.
The modern tendency in the care of dependent children is, as has been stated, against the institution, and in favor of the home as the natural place for child-training. On this supposition many of the Jewish relief societies grant pensions to deserving widows to enable them to keep their families intact. The United Hebrew Charities of New York disburses over $30,000 annually to this end. In the case of full orphans and half orphans, societies like the Orphans' Guardian Society of Philadelphia and the Frank Fund of Chicago board out such children under proper guardianship in families. The Federation of Charities of Boston, in connection with the state authorities, has succeeded in boarding out some of its dependent children in Massachusetts homes.
In Germany, the institutional care of dependent children has developed further than in any other country, there being no less than 41 asylums of various kinds that look after the interests of children. Most of these institutions are local in character and have but few inmates; others, like the one founded by Baruch Auerbach in Berlin in 1833, are organizations of considerable importance. Besides this institution there are ten others in Berlin; in Frankfort there are three; in Hamburg, two; in Hanover, two; and the others are scattered throughout the smaller towns and cities.
There are no special institutions for delinquent Jewish children. In Paris such children are sent to the Refuge de Plessis-Piquet; in Frankfort there is a society known as the Stift für Gebrechliche oder Verwahrloste Israelitische Kinder. In neither of these institutions is there any attempt at classification. Whenever delinquent children have been found, they have been turned over to public officials and placed in state or private agencies, not Jewish, of a correctional or reformatory character. In large cities, such as New York, the growth in the number of juvenile Jewish delinquents will in all likelihood necessitate the introduction of Jewish reformatories in the future. In Chicago, the Ninth Ward Bureau of Charities, which is affiliated with the Federation of Jewish Charities, has cooperated with the secular authorities toward the establishment of a juvenile court and the paroling of delinquent Jewish children to probationary officers, in whose charge these children are placed and who are responsible to the court. In this manner many children who formerly were committed to correctional institutions for petty offenses are returned to their families under the supervision of the probation officer. The result has been salutary to a large degree.
3. Hospitals, Dispensaries, Nursing:
The inns of the Middle Ages, for the accommodation of travelers and which also served as infirmaries, have given place to-day to magnificently equipped hospitals in all parts of the world, many of which differ radically from their originals, as they are founded on the highest principles of non-sectarian charity. Many of the institutions known as Jewish hospitals, while founded and endowed exclusively by Jews, are intended for the treatment of all, irrespective of creed, color, or race. The majority of these hospitals have a dispensary service attached to them, where outdoor medical relief is given. A number have district service, sending their physicians to the homes of the poor who are bedridden. Similar work is done by the relief-giving societies, the one in Chicago, for example, having its own dispensary. In connection with their other work, the hospitals frequently have training-schools for nurses, and of more recent growth are organizations similar to the nurses' settlement in New York, which combine training with district and neighborhood work. Institutions for the treatment of special diseases and for special classes of diseases are becoming more common, in line with the differentiation in charitable work.
In London, the Board of Guardians conducts a nursing-home and sends nurses to invalid children. Another organization, known as the Sick-Room Helps Association, provides attendants for the homes of the poor during illness and confinement. Convalescents are cared for by the Baroness de Hirsch Convalescent Home and the Jewish Convalescent Home. There are also a home and a hospital for Jewish incurables, and the Bet Ḥolim Hospital for the aged.
The hospital founded by the Rothschild family in Paris is the only Jewish hospital in France. This is insufficient for the Jewish population, but the Jews do not hesitate to go to the general hospitals, where they obtain admission without difficulty. Connected with the Rothschild institution is a home for incurables, which accepts, besides those incurably ill, idiots and paralytics. At Berck-sur-Mer one member of the Rothschild family founded an institution for the special purpose of receiving and curing children up to fifteen years of age, who are of feeble constitution or scrofulous. Jewish hospitals are also to be found in Tunis, Smyrna, Constantinople, Salonica, Jaffa, and Jerusalem.
Medical Relief Societies.
In the United States, medical relief is given by a large number of relief societies. There is a Jewish hospital in each of the following cities: Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, New Orleans, and San Francisco. In New York there are four, in Philadelphia two. The hospital in Denver is a national Jewish institution for consumptives. A similar institution, local in character, is the Bedford Sanitariumof the Montefiore Home, recently established at Bedford Station, N. Y. In St. Louis and Omaha, hospital societies have recently been organized. In New York the sanitarium for Hebrew children gives medical relief and a summer's outing to Jewish children and to their mothers under certain restrictions. In Germany, there are over 30 hospitals, three being in Berlin and three in Frankfort. There is one in Nauheim, but it is for the treatment of children exclusively. Many of these, like the relief bureaus, are conducted under the auspices of the local congregations, and are partly supported by contributions from the latter.
4. The Treatment of Criminals:
Until recently there was no special institution in any part of the world for the treatment of Jewish criminals. In London a special reformatory has been established, and a visitation committee of the United Synagogues visits the prisons. The percentage of Jewish criminals in state institutions has always been a very small one. Imprisonment for major crimes has until recently been very rare. Petty offenses, such as larceny, are the most common. In large cities, such as New York, Jewish criminality is steadily on the increase, and is no longer confined to the minor crimes. In the year 1900, 433 Jewish men and women were sent to the various prisons, jails, and reformatories throughout the state of New York, 419 Jews were sent to the New York city workhouse, and 383 Jewish boys and girls were sent to correctional institutions. While the proportion is below that existing among Catholics and Protestants in the same community, it is higher than the figures of a few years ago. The Society for the Aid of Jewish Prisoners of New York has been organized to look after the condition of affairs and to ameliorate it if possible. It cares for the families of prisoners, and gives the prisoners a helping hand after being discharged.
Special Jewish institutions for the care of this class of dependents are exceedingly uncommon, and separate Jewish institutions for the care of the insane are unknown. The same is true of institutions for the care of the epileptic and the feeble-minded. In London there are a Jews' Deaf and Dumb Home (1863) and an institution for the indigent blind founded as early as 1819 under Jewish auspices. In Berlin, in Tauberbischofsheim (Germany), and in Budapest, there are Jewish institutions for the deaf and dumb, and there is a Jewish Blind Institute in Vienna. In Berlin there is also a society known as the Verein zur Förderung der Interessen der Israelitischen Taubstummen in Deutschland. There are no corresponding institutions or societies either in France or the United States.
6. Care of Destitute Adults:
Consistent with the general policy of Jewish charity, it has never been customary to allow the destitute adult to become a charge upon the state or to be supported by public funds. In the almshouses of America or the poorhouses of England or in the public institutions of other countries for the care of indigent adults a Jew is seldom found. Private benevolence has constructed homes for the aged in which the dietary laws are observed, or has arranged a system of life-pensions which permits those who have become incapacitated, through age or illness, to spend the remainder of their lives removed from the fear of becoming public charges.
In England there are but seven homes for the aged, of which six are in London and one in Manchester. One of these is under the auspices of the Jewish Board of Guardians; one conducted in connection with the United Synagogue, and one in connection with the Spanish and Portuguese Congregation. The others are conducted by private agencies. Most of these institutions are known as almshouses. In Birmingham the Hebrew Philanthropic Society grants pensions to aged persons. In Liverpool the Hebrew Provident Society provides old people with a weekly pension; a similar organization exists in Manchester. In the other cities throughout England the care of the aged poor is left to the various Boards of Guardians and relief societies. In the British colonies there are homes for aged men and women in Gibraltar and in Sydney, Australia. In France a home for the aged is connected with the Jewish Hospital in Paris. Similar institutions are to be found at Nancy, Bordeaux, and Luneville, maintained by the local Jewish charities. In the United States, homes for the aged are located in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Yonkers, N. Y., the last-mentioned being conducted under the auspices of the I. O. B. B. The home at Cleveland is supported by the order Ḳesher Shel Barzel, the other institutions by private effort in the various communities. As with orphan asylums and hospitals, Germany has a larger number of institutions for the aged than any other country. There are at present 23 "Pfründnerhäuser" or homes for the aged, Breslau having three, Berlin two.
7. Preventive Work:
The chief tendency of modern charity being in the direction of the prevention of poverty and pauperism rather than their palliation, it has been found necessary to create many new agencies that tend to this underlying idea. In the belief that the prosperity of the people is in direct proportion to their health, free baths have been established to inculcate cleanliness and order. Of such a kind are the free baths connected with the Hebrew Education Societies in Philadelphia, Cleveland, and San Francisco. To insure proper nourishment for children, the Milk and Ice Society of Philadelphia and Baltimore and the Nathan Straus milk depots in New York furnish sterilized milk at a nominal cost.
In London the soup-kitchen provides soup and bread for the Jewish poor during the winter months. Similar kitchens are conducted by the Société de Bienfaisance in Paris, where soup, meat, and vegetables are sold at a nominal price, and in Budapest. In Germany, people's kitchens exist in Berlin and Breslau. Special societies likewise look after the proper housing of the Jewish poor with the hope of either removing them from the congested centers in which they live in the large cities, or of providing themwith homes built according to the best principles of light, ventilation, and sanitation, which can be rented at a nominal price.
In London, The Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company, Limited (1885), is conducted under Jewish auspices with the intention of furnishing healthy dwellings at a rental sufficient to yield a dividend of 4 per cent per annum on the investment. The City and Suburban Homes Company of New York, while non-sectarian in character, has a number of Jewish incorporators, and has a similar object to that of the London society. In the hope of bringing the worker into closer contact with the poorer classes, neighborhood houses and settlements have been organized in a number of communities. Of such a kind is the Maxwell Street Settlement in Chicago, Ill., and the Neighborhood House in St. Paul, Minn. In the latter there is a resident worker. Similar Jewish settlements are to be found in Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Cleveland. Of a special nature is the Nurses' Settlement in New York. In all of these settlements the purpose is to raise the intellectual and moral level of the immediate neighborhood in which the settlement exists, by the organization of classes, by giving instruction to both the younger and the older element, and by developing the social characteristics of the vicinity along educational lines. Societies like the Educational Alliance in New York make this their aim. They give instruction in various trades, conduct boys' and girls' clubs, and by carefully arranged entertainments develop the social side of the neighborhood. Similar in character to the latter are the Hebrew Educational Society in Brooklyn and the Hebrew Education Society of Philadelphia. In London the Brady Street Club for working boys, the East London Jewish Communal League, the Jewish Lads' Brigade, Jewish Working Men's Club, and the Lads' Institute accomplish similar results. In France the Union Scolaire in Paris corresponds to the societies mentioned above. This organization is a club where young men meet for conferences, readings, etc. It assists young Jews to find employment, and grants loans to workmen and small tradespeople. In Germany there are societies, clubs, etc., in fifty cities for the cultivation of trades and handicrafts among Jews. Somewhat more technical in the instruction which they give are the Jewish Training School of Chicago, the Hebrew Free and Industrial School Society of St. Louis, the Hebrew Industrial School of Boston, the Clara de Hirsch Home for Working Girls, the Hebrew Technical Schools for Girls, the Hebrew Technical Institute, and the Baron de Hirsch Trade School of New York. In connection with their relief-work, the sisterhoods mentioned above conduct religious schools, industrial schools, day-nurseries, employment bureaus, cooking-classes, sewing-circles, classes for women, home circles, kindergartens, boys' and girls' clubs, mothers' meetings, and workrooms for unskilled women. Similar organizations are conducted by individual societies in most of the large cities.
8. Supervisory and Educational Movements:
Combined Activity in Germany.
Among the most marked features of the development of charitable work within the past twenty-five years is the tendency of various institutions to effect an organization that will add to their value, and that will give the members of any one society the opportunity of coming in contact with the workings of similar societies in other communities. In England, while there is no special supervisory or educational movement appertaining directly to charitable work among the Jews, organizations like the Anglo-Jewish Association and the Committee of Deputies of the British Jews interest themselves in all communal work, and indirectly in the charitable work of the various communities. These two societies have affiliated organizations throughout the cities and towns of England, as well as the provinces. In France there is likewise no special organization which devotes itself purely to federation of the philanthropic organizations. In Germany the Deutsche Israelitische Gemeindebund has been in existence for thirty years, and is practically the source and inspiration of the charitable work carried on there. This organization publishes every two weeks statistics of its work, and from time to time special communications to its members. Up to the present time fifty-five reports have been issued. They are mainly educational in character and, in connection with the statistics which are published, give a useful résumé of the philanthropic work that is carried on by the Jews in the German empire. In this Gemeindebund practically every town, and even the smallest village, in Germany is represented, so that there are complete federation and community of interest.
In the United States an attempt to bring the several relief societies into a union was attempted as early as 1885, when a conference was held in the city of St. Louis, but came to naught. In 1899 a similar movement was organized, and the first conference of this society, known as the National Conference of Jewish Charities, was held in Chicago in June, 1900. It now comprises all the important relief societies in the United States. It issues a volume of proceedings and rules for the guidance of its members on questions of transportation, desertion, etc. International organizations which interest themselves in philanthropic work and which can only be mentioned here incidentally, are the Jewish Colonization Society, the Alliance Israélite Universelle, and the numerous foundations and trusts that were established by the Baron de Hirsch.
In connection with the work of relief societies in the United States, the United Hebrew Charities of New York has a special representative at the immigration bureau, who looks after the welfare of Jewish immigrants. In Philadelphia the Jewish Immigrant Aid Association supports a similar office. In England the London Board of Guardians has a special committee to which is entrusted the entire question of immigration and emigration. In Germany, and in France, the immigration question is almost altogether in the hands of the Jewish Colonization Association or the Alliance Israélite Universelle, which has agencies at various points.
These files are public domain.
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Paupers'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/p/paupers.html. 1901.
the Second Week of Advent