Search This Blog

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Schenectady’s Jewish Immigrants: Acculturation and Preserving History

By Dr. Harvey Strum of The Sage Colleges

Jews comprised one of the largest immigrant groups to arrive in the United States from 1870-1924 until Congress closed the doors to large scale immigration for forty years with the passage of the National Origins Act. Congress wanted to limit Jews, Italians, Poles, and other immigrants from eastern and southern Europe considered racially inferior and unfit to become real Americans. Driven out of the Russian Empire by the pogroms of 1869, pogroms of 1888-82, May Laws of 1882, the expulsions of 1891, and the pogroms of 1903-1905, one third of the six million Jews in the Russian Empire left for America in search of religious tolerance, economic opportunity, political freedom, and to escape Russian captivity. Pogroms in Jassy, Romania in 1899 and fifty Moldavian towns in 1907 encouraged 150,000 Romanian Jews to leave. Draconian laws on Jewish economic activities dating from the 1880s further spurred their departure. Because of overpopulation, starvation, and limited economic opportunities, 500,00 Jews---about one quarter of the Jewish population of the Austro-Hungarian Empire left for the United States. A smaller movement of Jews from Russia, Romania, and Austria-Hungary fled eastward to Palestine, starting the Zionist movement. However, the clear majority of Jews from Eastern Europe preferred the promised land of New York City, Philadelphia, or Schenectady.

Schenectady in the 19th century and early 20th century attracted Irish, German, Jewish, Italian, Polish, Greek, Armenian, Ukrainian, and Lithuanian immigrants. Studying how Jewish immigrants adapted to Schenectady and the United States provides us with insights into the immigrant experience in upstate New York. Historians of the Jewish experience have tended to focus on New York City and paid less attention to the settlement of Jews in the smaller American cities. Jewish communities developed the Capital District of New York in Albany, Schenectady, Troy, Saratoga, Cohoes, Amsterdam, Gloversville, Nassau, and Hoosick Falls.

Looking at the institutions and organizations created by Jewish immigrants to Schenectady allows us to understand how immigrants developed strategies to adapt to their new homeland while seeking to maintain their identity, culture, and values brought from Europe. To what degree did the children and grandchildren of immigrants abandon what the immigrant generation valued in the process of becoming Americans? To what degree did Jews seek to maintain the religious identity and cultural norms of their ancestors? Jewish immigrants constantly renegotiated how they defined Judaism and Jewish identity in America. Ever since the first Jews arrived in New Amsterdam in 1654 Jews have grappled with the same questions---how to maintain a Jewish identity, whether to cling to separate religious, ethnic, and social values, and how to navigate between their Jewish identity and Americanization. For Jews living in New York City or Schenectady, they faced a constant ongoing renegotiation of identity. As a tiny minority that makes us about two percent of the American population how did Jews avoid total assimilation into American society? The organizations created by Jewish immigrants and their descendants suggest how Jews in Schenectady answered this question.

Figures on the Jewish community in the 19th Century remain unclear because Gates of Heaven failed to report its membership or an estimate of the size of the Jewish community to national Jewish groups, like the Board of Delegates of American Israelites. The community remained small and probably numbered 250-350 in the 1880s before the immigration of Hungarian and Eastern European Jews. Rabbi Pizer W. Jacobs, who became the rabbi at Gates of Heaven in 1912, estimated that over 3,000 Jews lived in the city in 1913. A report in the Tri-City Jewish Chronicle, a briefly published Jewish weekly for the Capital District, estimated 5,000 in 1918. Not everyone who settled in Schenectady stayed. During the Depression, the Jewish population declined to 3,800 in 1933 and remained at about that number during the 1940s. Since the 1980s the population figures reported fell within the range of 5,200-5,700. [1]

In 1900 the Jewish community lived in downtown Schenectady near the Mohawk River in the Stockade area and in the neighborhoods west of the Stockade. Hungarian Jews lived in Mont Pleasant. The descendants of German and Austrian Jews moved up Union Street beyond Union College. As the location of Gates of Heaven, at Parkwood and Rugby, indicated, they moved to a better residential area in the upper part of the city. East European and Hungarian immigrants concentrated in Mt. Pleasant and Bellevue neighborhoods after World War I, but many remained where they lived in 1900. The location of the synagogues on Broadway, Hamilton, Nott Terrace, and State Street suggested the importance of proximity to the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood as a key Jewish district. Establishing a Jewish Community Center on Albany Street and later Germania Avenue, both sites in Mt. Pleasant reflected the location of the Jewish community between the world wars.

Before World War I the Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe were poor and working class. Hungarian Jews were working class but slightly better off as skilled craftsmen as long as they could find employment at General Electric. Some of the immigrant shopkeepers and their children achieved a degree of economic advancement in the 1920s. Just before World War I children of these immigrants started attending college and moved into middle class and professional occupations. After World War I ties developed between members of Gates of Heaven and the other congregations. Issues created by World War I required cooperation across the Jewish community and the events in Europe in the 1930s facilitated a degree of cooperation among all Jewish groups in the city. Immigration restriction laws in 1921 and 1924 limited Jewish migration and the Jewish population did not grow any longer due to immigration. However, the community study done in 1925 found that most of the residents were immigrants. In the 1930s a few Jewish refugees escaping Nazi Germany relocated to Schenectady. [2]During the interwar years the Jewish community was primarily an immigrant community.

As occurred in Jewish communities across the country Jews left downtown neighborhoods after World War II for the suburbs. In the late 1940s about 16% of the Jewish community relocated to the suburban communities of Niskayuna, Scotia, and Rotterdam. A survey of the Jewish community in 1952 found that 40% lived in the residential areas bounded by upper Union Street and only about 19% of the Jewish community resided in the downtown area where 90% of the Jewish community lived in 1900. By 1952 Niskayuna emerged as the favored destination within the Jewish community for future residence.[3] The decline of the central business district in the 1950s and movement of the children and grandchildren of the immigrants into the middle class accelerated the relocation to the suburbs. Niskayuna became the new center of the Schenectady Jewish community. Each of the three remaining synagogues, Gates of Heaven, Agudat Achim, and Beth Israel, and the Jewish Community Center, abandoned their previous locations and moved to Niskayuna or the streets along upper Union Street near Niskayuna from 1955-1971. Most of the Schenectady Jewish community relocated to the suburbs or neighborhoods on the edge of the city near Niskayuna Some Jews migrated north to Saratoga County to Clifton Park which established its own synagogue, Jewish residents did not want to travel to Niskayuna or Schenectady for religious services or Hebrew schools. Even the Chabad Lubavitch bowed to suburbanization and established a center in Clifton Park. In the Capital District, the same pattern of mobility away from downtown neighborhoods was repeated in Albany and Troy. In fact, in each upstate Jewish community the descendants of Jewish immigrants abandoned the older Jewish neighborhoods near declining downtowns and migrated to the suburbs.[4]

Organizations and Jewish Identity

Little evidence survived of the political activity of Schenectady’s Jews in the 19th Century. Based on national trends and documented political activity in other upstate cities most German Jews identified with the anti-slavery movement and the Republican Party. In the 1920s two hundred members of the community formed the Jewish Republican Club. Twenty years earlier over a hundred Jewish residents organized the Hebrew Political Club which was non-partisan, but endorsed candidates for public office. As early as 1906, the organization supported candidates and endorsed a Republican candidate for the State Senate. Congregation Agudas Achim endorsed the same candidate. Jews in Schenectady, whether they were the American born or the more recent immigrants from the Russian Empire, got actively involved in American politics. The fact that a congregation of recent immigrants jumped into the local political contest indicated the desire of Jews to identify with their new country. Jews wished to take advantage of the political choices they had in the United States but lacked in Europe. In the 1920s Jews ran for political offices, such as the city council, as Democrats and Republicans. While German Jews and their children felt a loyalty to the Republican Party many East European Jews would support Jewish candidates for political office, regardless of party and had less fixed loyalties for state and national political offices. From the dedication of Sharei Shomajim’s new synagogue building on College Street in 1892 until today city and state legislative leaders appeared at major events in the Jewish community. The presence of local politicians was a sign of respect to the Jewish community and an acknowledgement of Jews as voters and participants in the political life of Schenectady.[5]

Jews from Eastern Europe brought a radical political tradition with them that did not remain confined to large urban areas like New York and Chicago. In Schenectady an audience would come out whenever anarchist Emma Goldman lectured in the Electric City or in Albany. She would talk to her fellow East European Jews in Yiddish and to a general audience in English. Neighboring Albany had the Jewish anarchist group, Germinal, in the early 20th Century, and Emma Goldman inspired an anarchist group in Schenectady. Jacob Coplon remembered that the anarchists would meet over tea and homemade pastries to discuss revolutionary ideas.[6] The Jewish anarchist group only lasted a few years and cooperation with the local Italian immigrant anarchist group failed to create a stronger and longer lasting organization.

Local radicals, like Jacob Coplon and Louis Golub, joined branch 117 of the Arbeiter Ring (Workmen’s Circle) founded in 1912. Combining socialism, Yiddish culture, and fraternal organizational structure, Workmen’s Circle became popular among Jews from Poland, Russia, and Lithuania. The organization expressed secular sense of Jewish solidarity, and identified with workers’ rights and the Yiddish language. While usually linked to larger Jewish populations in the urban centers of New York or Boston, Workmen’s Circle found a responsive audience in upstate Jewish communities of working class Jewish immigrants. It represented an expression of first generation Jewish identity in America for immigrants from Eastern Europe. Members of Workmen’s Circle discussed Yiddish literature, listened to Yiddish language speakers, and invited Yiddish theater groups from New York to perform. As the historian of the Utica Jewish community concluded: “The Arbeiter Ring…had a profound influence on a large section of the Jewish population in Utica during the first quarter of the twentieth century.” [7] For the immigrant generation, it also played an important role in the lives of Jews in Schenectady and Albany. Workmen’s Circle appealed to industrial workers, peddlers, tailors, and small merchants attracted to the secular Yiddish culture it promoted. Some came to discussions of contemporary political and economic issues in Yiddish, with a Socialist orientation, or discussions of non-political Yiddish writers. Wherever there was an immigrant Jewish community, Poughkeepsie, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo, there was a branch of the Arbeiter Ring during the first quarter of the 20th Century. In some communities, like Albany, Utica, Rochester, and Buffalo, it organized Folk Shules in the 1920s. These afternoon schools taught Yiddish and socialism to a younger generation in the 1920s and 1930s. Jewish residents of Schenectady went to the school in Albany or the school in Schenectady. Members of the Workmen Circle chapters purchased land for cemeteries, which they ran separately from congregation owned cemeteries. The Schenectady chapter administered its own cemetery, as did the Albany and Troy units. The Capital District supported two chapters of Workmen’s Circle in Albany and one each in Troy and Schenectady. The Schenectady chapter lasted for sixty years and as late as the mid-1960s Jacob Coplon was still an active member and officer. All the Capital District chapters merged in 1972 before the group collapsed in the 1980s with the passing of the last of the immigrant generation in the Capital District.[8] Most of the children and grandchildren of the immigrants did not identify with the socialist political tradition of East European Jews.

Radical Jews also had the option of joining the Jewish section of the Schenectady County Socialist Party. Socialism peaked in Schenectady in the second decade of the 20th Century when the city supported a Socialist newspaper and a Socialist got elected mayor. In 1913 Jews organized a separate branch and it paralleled other “ethnic” branches for Italians, Poles, Germans, etc. Many in the immigrant community were attracted to socialism. Early officers were Louis Golub, Herman Blumenfeld, Adolph Gurkin and Benjamin Letvin. Golub, for example, a recent immigrant ran a grocery store that he opened in 1908. He participated as a member and officer in several radical groups. Ironically, his sons turned his grocery into a supermarket chain, Central Markets. When Golub died in February 1930 he was much revered figure in the Jewish community for his leadership abilities and contributions to the immigrant community. Golub and other immigrants viewed socialism as an expression of their immigrant culture. The local Jewish Socialist branch appeared most active in the years immediately before and after World War I. Immigration restriction, the death of the immigrant generation, and the upward mobility of their descendants made socialism no longer relevant. However, for an immigrant generation, struggling to find their place in American society and identifying with the working class, socialism appealed to their sense of solidarity, Jewish ethics, and the Jewish quest for justice. For Jewish immigrants on the Lower East Side of New York City or Mont Pleasant in Schenectady socialism emerged as a secular equivalent to their faith in traditional Judaism. Jews from the Russian Empire identified with the Jewish branch of the Russian Social Democratic Party---Bund, a Yiddish language workers movement among Jews in Poland, Lithuania, and Russia. Immigrants felt exploited in America and brought their loyalty to socialism to the United States. Just as radical political activity expressed Italian identity in Utica for some Italian immigrant’s identification with radical politics represented a secular Yiddish based Jewish identity for East European Jewish immigrants in Schenectady.[9]

Jewish organizational life began with the Ladies Benevolent Society, organized in the early 1880s, as the first independent Jewish communal society in Schenectady. At first, men dominated the leadership, as they did with other women’s benevolent societies in the United States. Women’s benevolent societies, established by Jewish women throughout the United States served as an approved outlet for the charitable activities of women eager to contribute to the community and often aided congregations with fund raising. Initially, they served as committees to visit the sick and dying and prepare female members of the congregation for burial. Often they branched out into helping the poor in the community and fund raising for charity. A male charitable group, the Montefiore Society, established in 1883, got its name from the major British Jewish philanthropist of the time.[10] Both groups consisted of German Jews and their American children who belonged to Gates of Heaven. Women at the synagogue founded the Ladies Auxiliary of Sharei Shomajim in 1897 to do charitable work. It served as a sisterhood for women of the congregation. Some of the synagogues also organized separate groups for young women. At Sharei Shomajim, for example, there was a distinct Young Ladies’ Temple Aid Society that held socials and bazaars.[11]

Each new synagogue created a women’s auxiliary. These societies were established and led by women. Female members of Agudas Achim created the Daughters of Rebecca in 1902. In 1904 Ohab Zedek’s women started the Order of Zion. Daughters of Freedom became the women’s group at Ohab Sholom. By World War I each congregation had a women’s auxiliary. Women played a key role in raising funds for the new synagogues congregations constructed. Holy objects, like Torah covers, curtains and binders, were purchased by money raised by women or made by the female members of the congregation. Daughters of Rebecca, for example, played a key role in organizing bazaars and balls to raise funds of the new synagogue building of Agudas Achim. Women’s groups engaged in social activities, like picnics, dime parties, Purim balls, sewing parties, and theatricals enabling Jewish women to form friendships with other women while serving the needs of the synagogue and community.[12]

Jewish women, primarily associated with Sharei Shomajim, founded a Schenectady chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women in 1916. In Schenectady as nationally, the membership came from middle class German Jewish women and their American born daughters and granddaughters. Growing rapidly in Schenectady in the 1920s it became the leading women’s organization in the community for the next thirty years. The members of the Council did not actively support Zionism until 1938. In 1944 it joined with the Schenectady chapter of Hadassah, the women’s Zionist organization, to promote a Jewish homeland in Palestine for Holocaust survivors. In the 1920s and 1930s the Council focused on Americanizing the East European Jewish immigrants and on issues of social activism. The Schenectady chapter held English and Americanization classes in public schools for adults and the children of East European immigrants. During the interwar years, immigrant women and their daughters could not join the Council in Schenectady. Only after World War II did the daughters of immigrants from Eastern Europe join the organization. Members of the council helped with war relief in both world wars, and raised funds for Jewish refugees both before and after World War II. As historian Hollace Weiner concluded: “women’s activism and their money-raising acumen are part of pattern evidenced in Jewish communities, large and small, traditional and Reform, across America.”[13]

Jewish commitment of charity found an outlet in other organizations as well. Residents founded the United Hebrew Charities in 1897, the Hebrew Sick and Benevolent Society in 1909, and the Hebrew Sheltering and Aid Society in 1913. The local chapter of United Hebrew Charities, like the home headquarters in New York City, concentrated on the problems of recent immigrants and depended upon support from the German Jewish community of Sharei Shomajim. Helping the sick and providing burials for those who could not afford them, the Hebrew Sick and Benevolent society, bought its own cemetery for those who did not belong to synagogues, and provided a community response to the local poor. Members visited the sick, prepared bodies for burial, and arranged for burials in the society’s cemetery, as well as providing more general charitable help for Jewish residents. Starting in 1892, Elias Lifschitz, a founding member of Agudas Achim, single handedly helped poor Jews traveling through Schenectady. In 1913 this became the Hebrew Sheltering and Aid Society, supported by the Orthodox congregations in the city. On 13 February 1913 Orthodox women associated with the Hebrew Institute, that established a community wide Hebrew School, formed the Ladies Auxiliary. Mrs. Louis Starkman, an immigrant from Hungary and member of Ohab Zedek, chaired the group. During the 1920s it became the leading social service agency in Schenectady, a forerunner of the Jewish Family Services, and a vehicle for Orthodox Jewish women to aid members of the community. In an era of limited government social programs the Jewish community in Schenectady and throughout the United States organized to deal with the problems of members of the community. Jews felt an obligation to support charitable activities.[14]

The richness of Jewish communal life in Schenectady peaked in the first two decades of the 20th Century when a variety of Jewish institutions co-existed. B’rith Abraham, established a chapter in 1900. Like other Jewish fraternal organizations it “combined ideals of mutual benefit with social and recreational functions.”[15] Founded in 1860 as a national organization it appealed to Hungarian Jews and later East European Jewish immigrants. A separate group, Independent Order of Brith Abraham, organized nationally in the 1880s appealed to Russian Jews. It organized a chapter in Schenectady in the first decade of the 20th Century. Free Sons of Israel, founded in 1849, chartered a Schenectady chapter in 1900. Members came from lower middle class German Jews and later East Europeans. As an example of its social activities, Free Sons of Israel held a dinner and dance with their wives and friends in November 1905 to celebrate Thanksgiving and the 250th anniversary of the landing of Jews in the United States, both symbols of their identification as Jews and Americans.[16] Brith Sholom, another national fraternal organization, formed a chapter in 1894, held religious services. It turned into synagogue Ohab Sholom. Its membership came from Lithuania and Poland. Another fraternal group, the Free Sons of Judah, attracted Hungarian immigrants, lasted from 1905-1916, and purchased land for a cemetery, one of the main benefits of fraternal organizations.

Bnai Brith, the oldest Jewish fraternal organization, established among German Jews in 1843, opened a chapter in 1916. Initially, it attracted the American born sons and grandsons of Sharei Shomajim. Soon the American born children of East Europeans found it an attractive expression of their Americanization in a Jewish context. Young men like Hershel Graubart, joined the youth wing, Aleph Zadik Aleph fraternity of Bnai Brith.[17] The fraternal organizations reached their peak membership and significance within the Schenectady Jewish community from1900-1920. The fraternal groups served the needs of the immigrant generation and some of their American born sons searching for a sense of belonging. These mutual aid societies started chapters in each major upstate city offered death benefits, limited health insurance, brotherhood, and a sense of Jewish identity for immigrants attempting to adjust to an alien environment. Members promised to take care of brothers’ widows and children if a member died. For Jews who did not frequent taverns the fraternal societies allowed men to socialize in a safe, reassuring, and positive atmosphere creating an alternative to their often drab and exploitive working class occupations.

These societies appealed to males who sought companionship within a Jewish social circle that provided a combination of social, recreational, and burial benefits. These lodges fostered social responsibility, fellowship, and Jewishness. Branches of these fraternal organizations developed in each upstate community where there were enough Jewish men to support a lodge---Albany, Troy, Utica, Syracuse, Rochester, Poughkeepsie, and Buffalo each supported one and often several of these groups, especially Bnai Brith, Free Sons of Israel, and B’rith Abraham.[18] These groups filled an emotional and social need for the men of the immigrant generation and for some of their sons.

In the 1920s, some Jews belonged to the Zion lodge of Odd Fellows, a predominately Jewish branch or to the Progressive Lodge of the Knights of Pythias, non-Jewish fraternal organizations popular in the male Jewish community in the interwar years. Brothers in the Odd Fellows contributed to a number of Jewish causes in the 1920s and 1930s.They supported the United Hebrew Community and the Jewish Community Center. Many of the members of the Zion Lodge of Odd Fellows in the 1920s belonged to the YMHA indicating the relationship between younger members of the community and the American lodges. Belonging to both the Odd Fellows and YMHA allowed young adult males to bridge their American and Jewish loyalties. This pattern got repeated in other upstate communities where there were predominately Jewish chapters of the Odd Fellows and Masons in Syracuse and predominately Jewish chapters of the Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows, and Masons in Buffalo. Individuals who joined these groups wanted to be part of national non-sectarian organizations, but like the Schenectady branch of Odd Fellows did their good work within the Jewish community. Their popularity in the interwar years indicated the Americanization of the immigrants and their children. These American style lodges “accelerated the demise of the Jewish lodges of the Independent Orders of Brith Abraham and Brith Sholom.”[19]

Recent immigrants organized the Schenectady Jewish Peddlers Association in 1916 for “the promotion of intellectual, social and recreational activities for the families of its members.”[20] Family members listened to Yiddish language speakers and the talks became community events. Unlike the other male fraternal organizations the Peddlers Association was the one fraternal organization that considered its primary mission to involve all family members in its activities. These fraternal groups developed as a spontaneous expression of German, Hungarian and East European Jews and their children searching to create a sense of community in a Jewish context. Often without an explicit religious context, the fraternal societies reinforced a sense of Jewish identity in America and created a Jewish space for members of varying degrees of religious orthodoxy who wanted to bond with fellow Jews. Immigrants expressed their sense of identity in multiple, if at times contradictory, ways as they adjusted to American society and looked for a balance between Americanization and their need for community. Fraternal organizations, Workmen’s Circle, and the Jewish section of the Socialist Party all gave Jewish immigrants alternative ways of expressing their Jewish identity outside of synagogues and way to reach out to fellow Jews.

Three community institutions created between 1911 and 1938 directly addressed the conflicts over Americanization, preserving identity, and acceptance in America. In 1911 the Orthodox congregations established a Talmud Torah, a Hebrew School, chartered in 1912. Parents in the Orthodox congregations needed a community wide Hebrew School for their children that a single synagogue could not support. Orthodox immigrants wanted to organize a religious alternative to the city’s public schools. Orthodox Jewish women played an important role in creating a Women’s Auxiliary that raised funds for the Talmud Torah. Its functions got subsumed into the Jewish Community Center in 1929. The loss of students from Agudas Achim when it went Conservative in the late 1920s reopened the question of Jewish education. For several years during World War II the community agonized how to combine a Talmud Torah with synagogue Sunday schools. In 1945 about 250 parents signed a petition demanding a plan for unified Jewish education in Schenectady. This developed into the Bureau of Jewish Education. A Schenectady Plan for Jewish Education became a model of Jewish education in the United States for children and adults. Jewish education in Schenectady combined the resources of the community, a central location at the Jewish Community Center, oversight by the Jewish Community Council, inclusive planning, breadth of vision, and a commitment to educational alternatives. Parents could send their children to an all-day Hebrew School or to after school and weekend classes in Judaic education. The decline of the Orthodox community, suburbanization of Jewish residents and synagogues, lower Jewish birth rates, and secularization led to the abandonment of the Schenectady Plan in the1960s. The goals of the original Talmud Torah and the later Schenectady Plan were to provide a Jewish education to children to help maintain identity and offer Jewish related educational opportunities, like studying Yiddish or Hebrew to adults. Jews in other upstate communities established Bureaus of Jewish Education, as they did in Syracuse and Buffalo, or alternative Hebrew schools and Sunday schools to pass on an appreciation of Judaism and Jewish learning to the next generation. Today aging congregational memberships and smaller families pose a serious challenge to Jewish education in Schenectady and other upstate communities.[21]

Americanization and Jewish identity got linked in the formation of the YMHA and the Jewish Community Center. During the early 20th Century two young people’s groups, the Apollo Club and Young Maccabees, social and athletic groups formed to meet the needs of teen age members of the community. Young men looking for activities that did not fit within the domain of synagogues or fraternal organizations took the lead to organize their own groups. The same pattern developed in other Jewish communities as first the young men in the German Jewish community and later the sons of the East Europeans looked for things to do. Younger immigrants and the American born sons of East European immigrants had to go to work at an early age, but they longed for recreational opportunities, especially the American sports of football, baseball, and basketball. In 1912 the two groups merged into the YMHA or Young Men’s Hebrew Association.[22]

The formation of the Schenectady chapter coincided with the opening of Ys in Albany, Troy, Gloversville, and Amsterdam which turned into a local rivalry in baseball and basketball as each fielded teams. When these young men went off to war in 1917-1918 they fondly remembered matches between the Schenectady and Albany Y teams. An Albany member, Jacob Patlen, stationed in Georgia asked for the “box score because my heart is in the old game.” and rejoiced to hear that Albany defeated Schenectady.[23] Actually, the Schenectady chapter got formally organized after 500 people attended a meeting on 24 September 1916 endorsing the Y, ensuring financial support from adults. Jewish young men already sent a representative to a statewide convention in 1915 in Syracuse before getting the blessing of their elders.[24] Hoping to unite all young people under one organization, the young men encouraged the women to form a Ladies Auxiliary. They agreed to do so at a mass meeting on 6 March 1917.Young women formed the Ionian Social Club in 1906, but lacked adequate opportunities for athletic facilities which they hoped the Ladies Auxiliary would allow. However, women resented the lack of women’s facilities and expressed a desire “for equal privileges, the right to become a Young Women’s Hebrew Association, and equal representation on the Board of Governors.”[25] Jewish women won their argument with the creation of the YWHA in July 1917 and got equal privileges with the men. The two Ys formally incorporated in 1921.

The Ys combined sports, literary, public speakers, and recreational activities within a Jewish setting. For a generation of young people from an Orthodox Jewish family background with limited means, the Ys enabled young people to get together in an approved environment. YMHA/YWHAs reinforced Jewish identity along with the secular activities that fostered Americanization, like the sports of basketball and baseball. Originally, the Y movement developed in the mid-19th Century among German Jews to combine literary and sports activities for upcoming young men in the community. Adults believed the Y chapters in Schenectady, Albany, and Troy would combat juvenile delinquency, anti-social behavior, Americanize the immigrant, and maintain Jewishness. Each community in upstate New York from Poughkeepsie to Buffalo developed a branch of the YMHA/YWHA because it filled a void in the lives of the children of East European Jewish immigrants just as it had a generation earlier for the children of German Jews. The Y movement Americanized East Europeans and created “a valuable social and cultural forum.”[26] Ys allowed Jews of different religious backgrounds to meet in the same place and work together with the blessing of rabbinical leaders. Adults saw the Ys as a safe place for their children to go and have fun in a Jewish environment. For younger Jews it remained a bright spot in an otherwise bleak existence peddling, working in a factory, or serving customers in a store or family owned shop.

In 1929 the Ys merged with the United Hebrew Community to create the Jewish Community Center paralleling the development of community centers in other upstate cities, like Albany and Troy. Community centers broadened the sense of Jewish identity and combined secular and religious components. Historian Howard Sachar argued that Jewish community centers “translated Judaism, and Jewish identity, into the widest ambit of Jewish civilization.”[27] Rabbi Isachar Levin of Agudas Achim led the campaign to establish a meeting place for all Jewish groups, and in 1923 that became the United Hebrew Community on Albany Street in Mont Pleasant. The United Hebrew Community sponsored a variety of athletic, social, cultural, educational, and recreational programs. In 1929 it became the Jewish Community Center of Schenectady and the dedication of a new building on Germania Avenue on 23 April 1933 became a community wide celebration of Jewish identity and unity.[28]

Each upstate community established a JCC to combine meeting facilities for the Jewish groups and promote recreational, social, children’s and adult educational activities in a Jewish setting. The JCC hosted Sunday Schools, Summer camps for children, Yiddish classes for adults, Jewish musical concerts, speakers on Jewish topics, Zionist meetings, athletic facilities for children and adults, and the Jewish addiction---bingo games and bridge. JCC’s represented all congregations in the community allowing Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and unaffiliated Jews to interact in a Jewish setting. Schenectady’s JCC provided a space for community wide gatherings on issues of domestic or foreign content. The Jewish Community Center movement reinforced a sense of Jewish identity as synagogues took on social functions and the JCC took on religious activities. In the mid-1960s the Jewish Community Center migrated to Niskayuna following the movement of the Jewish community to the suburbs as Jews abandoned downtown Schenectady. In suburbs Jewish neighborhoods did not exist so the relocated Jewish community center, like the Schenectady JCC in Niskayuna, formed a central place for Jews to gather regardless of their branch of Judaism or level of religious commitment. The variety and richness of the Jewish content of cultural and educational programs permitted individuals and families to connect to their Jewishness where they could choose religious and secular alternatives.[29]

Jewish War Veterans of the World War I became concerned about anti-Semitic activities, and the meetings of local chapters of the German-American Bund, a pro-Nazi group. The rise of the Nazis in Germany added to the concerns of local veterans. Spurred on by the local Schenectady Jewish War Veterans, Bnai Brith, and several other Jewish groups the Jewish community formed the Schenectady Jewish Community Council in 1938, an umbrella organization for all Jewish associations and the official spokesman for the community. Incorporated in 1948, the Council resettled war refugees and collected supplies and money in the SOS campaign to aid Jews in Palestine and Holocaust survivors. It organized a community wide response to the problems of demobilized Jewish war veterans. Activities of the Council included planning for the welfare needs of the community and coordinating a community wide response to the problems of the elderly. During the 1970s the Council merged with its counterparts in Albany and Troy to form the United Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York, the voice of the Jewish community in the Capital District. The idea of the community councils originated in Utica in the early 1930s as a way to pool community resources during the Depression, but got adopted throughout the state and in many Jewish communities across the country. In Schenectady, the Jewish Community Council served to unify the community, provide a central fund raising arm, combat anti-Semitism, organize community wide events, sponsor interfaith activities with Catholic and Protestant denominations, and act as a voice for the Jewish community to the press, politicians, and other religious denominations.[30]

Kaddish for President Garfield

Throughout American history Jewish immigrants identified with their new homeland and sought acceptance as Americans. In times of national tragedies, Jews showed their loyalty as Americans. When Charles Guiteau killed President James Garfield in 1881, Schenectady’s Jews held a special service to pray for the wounded president at their congregation (Gates of Heaven) on Ferry Street .When Garfield died Jews joined with their fellow citizens in mourning his death. Owners of businesses on State Street like Isaac. I. Levy, wholesale liquor dealer, and Lewis Behr, tailor, draped their shops and stores in black and white for the fallen president. Jews in neighboring communities of Albany and Troy did the same. Twenty years later, when another assassin, Leon Czolgosz, mortally wounded President William McKinley, hundreds of synagogues on the Lower East Side of New York City, full because of the Jewish High Holidays, prayed for the President. Special services were held in the Capital District. When the President died, Jews gathered for a memorial service at Congregation Gates of Heaven, now known as the Jewish temple on College Street, on 19 September 1901. Similarly, when President Warren G. Harding died of natural causes in 1923, all the congregations in the city gathered at Agudas Achim for a joint service in honor of the late American leader.[31]

Public service and war also provided an opportunity for Jews to demonstrate their loyalty to this country. Mordecai Myers, a state Assemblyman from New York City, won election as mayor of Schenectady twice in 1851 and 1854. Fifty years later, Louis M. King, became City Clerk from 1899-1902 and later served as the Counsel to the State Excise Department from 1911-16. Another prominent Jewish resident of the time, Henry Heilbronner served on the Schenectady School Board and on the board of Ellis Hospital. Samuel Stein served on the school board. Several Jews, like Samuel Levy, got elected to the city council. Ellsworth Cohen, won appointment to chair the Civil Service Commission. In the mid-1930s to mid-1940s, Simon Etkin served as City Clerk. Dr. Morris Mandel Cohn won appointment as city manager in 1952 and continued until he resigned in 1964. Bernard Cohen was on the City Planning Commission in the 1960s, and became chair from 1965-68. These were just a few of the many local residents who contributed to public service. In 1970 Congregation Gates of Heaven started a service program to encourage its members to give back to the community. [32]

Philanthropy as public service goes back one hundred years in the Schenectady Jewish community. Jonathan Levi and other prominent businessmen in the German Jewish community contributed to Gates of Heaven. Their children and prosperous members of the Hungarian and Eastern European immigrant generation gave to community causes, like the YMHA, the Hebrew Community, and the Jewish Community Center. One prominent post World War I philanthropist, Henry Schaffer, gave to Jewish causes, such as the Jewish Community Center and Gates of Heaven, and to community functions, like the Schenectady Museum and the Schaffer Library at Union College. The Golub family, owners of the Price Chopper supermarkets became synonymous with public service and philanthropy in the local community. William Golub won the honor as “Citizen of the Century” in 1990 from the Celebrating Schenectady 300 Committee for his contributions to improving civic life, including the establishment of the Golub Foundation in 1980. Both William Golub and Henry Schaffer were the sons of East European Jewish immigrants who arrived in Schenectady in the 1890s.[33]

Local Jews served in the military from the Civil War to the present. During wartime Jews demonstrated their loyalty by supporting the troops and engaging in civilian related activities. For example, during World War I, the local Jewish newspaper printed the listings of every resident who volunteered or got drafted for service. A Jewish Welfare Board supported Jewish soldiers from the area and aided Jewish soldiers from outside of Schenectady stationed in South Schenectady during the war. The Jewish Welfare Board corresponded with local boys in army camps in and men stationed in France. Boys from Schenectady missed the competitions with their Albany co-religionists in baseball games sponsored by local YMHAs. A local Jewish newspaper, the Tri-City Jewish Chronicle, reported when boys left for service and when they returned home on leave. Jewish women in the National Council of Jewish Women and the Y.W.H.A. contributed to the war effort raising funds for bonds and sending food and clothing to local boys in service. Synagogues put up service flags to represent men from their congregations in service. The Jewish Welfare Board arranged send offs for men called up---and “bid our boys goodbye.” At the end of the war, it documented the local men who lost their lives in service of the country. At the request of President Woodrow Wilson, all of the congregations in the city joined in a national day of thanksgiving for the end of the war. They held the service at Agudas Achim with Rabbi Zorch Bielsky from the Orthodox Ohab Sholom congregation leading the memorial prayer for the men who died in battle, and Rabbi Joseph Jasin of Reform congregation Gates of Heaven giving the sermon.[34] In 1935, veterans formed a chapter of the Jewish War Veterans, as each of the tri-city communities formed chapters to honor those who served, fight local anti-Semitism, and show the patriotism of the local Jewish communities.

World War II led to a similar outpouring of activity. Residents organized a new Jewish Welfare Board in July 1943 to coordinate fund raising and community events in support of the war effort. Community members raised funds for Saving Stamps and War Bonds, and women staffed USO clubs. Congregations invited Jewish soldiers from outside the area to attend services. The Jewish Welfare Board started Army and Navy committees to schedule dances for boys home on leave. Even before the formation of the Board, Jewish groups encouraged participation in war related activities. As one example, the Jewish Juniors sponsored an event to raise funds for the purchase of war bonds asking young Jewish women to put any extra cash into stamps or bonds. Members of the community actively served on civilian groups, like the Schenectady County War Council. Morris Cohn served as the county salvage chairman in 1943. Jewish groups actively contributed to the Community and War Chest campaigns. In 1943, for example, one team consisted of the former presidents of the Jewish Community Center headed by Captain Harry Coplon. Two fundraising teams headed by local Jews, Abe Ferber and Mrs. Hyman Kaplan did well over their quotas. Participation of Jewish residents in all aspects of war related events was evident by the election of Isador Schwartz as Commander of the local council of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the service of Rabbi Aaron Wise on the discrimination sub-committee of the Citizens Unity Committee. Members of the Jewish War Veterans Post took over for Gentile friends so they could observe Easter. V-E Day brought memorial services in each of the churches and synagogues in the city. On May 8 1945 congregations met at Agudat Achim for the major Jewish commemoration of the end of the war in Europe.[35] In May 1948, the community dedicated a plaque to the men from the Jewish community who died in service during World War II. Jewish War Veterans Post 106 conducted a special memorial service for Samuel Friedman, William Green, Louis Kolakoff, Archer Kronick, Arnold Mann, Sidney Podhoretz, Morris Righthand, Jack Strisower, and Charles Shapiro at Congregation Ohab Sholom-Bnai Abraham on 23 May. These events commemorated those who died for their country but also reinforced the community’s identity as Jews and Americans.[36]

Solidarity of All Israel

Throughout its history, Schenectady’s Jewish community identified with co-religionists at home and abroad. Within five years of the formal incorporation of the first congregation, Gates of Heaven, the synagogue became one of the founding members of the first national Jewish organization, the Board of Delegates of American Israelites. The congregation sent a representative to attend the first meeting held in November 1859 in New York City. When Abraham Nissan, a representative of the Jewish community in Tiberias, Palestine arrived in the United States to solicit funds for a synagogue and school, he stopped in Schenectady in 1861. Starting a precedent for later collections for Israel, the congregation’s President Pfeifer Levy and Secretary David Marks, solicited $14.50 from the congregation to give to Nissan and promised future contributions---a premonition of the future pledge campaigns for Israel Bonds.[37] In October 1884, members of Gates of Heaven held a special service for the one hundredth birthday of Sir Moses Montefiore, the noted Jewish philanthropist. Rabbi Rudolph Farber led the service of honor for this British Jewish philanthropist. A local newspaper reported the “occasion was one which will be long remembered by the Hebrew residents of the city.”[38] In the 1890s another representative from Palestine, Joseph Cohen, came to Schenectady to raise funds on the behalf of American Jews in Palestine for the poor of Jerusalem. Once again the Jewish community contributed as it would repeatedly do to help the Jews in Palestine.

During the pogroms of 1903-05 Jews around the country held meetings of protest and raised funds for the victims of the anti-Semitic attacks. Schenectady’s Jews, in November 1905, attended a “mass meeting of the Jewish congregations of the city, in aid of their unfortunate co-religionists in Russia.”.[39] Abraham Cohen, the president of the “Russian congregation,” Agudas Achim , chaired the meeting and it included speeches by the Reform rabbi from Gates of Heaven, one of the Orthodox rabbis, and the American born Louis King, former city clerk. A reporter observed: “It was an inspiring and touching sight to see men, very poor in this world’s goods, rush forward with their hard earned dollar” to contribute to the relief effort organized by prominent German Jew Jacob Schiff.[40] Helping the victims of Russian pogroms united Reform and Orthodox Jews, American born and recent Russian and Hungarian immigrants. Women’s auxiliaries of each synagogue joined the effort, an indication of the important role women played in the Jewish community in organizing fund raising campaigns. Forty per cent of the funds donated came from members of Gates of Heaven confirming the poverty of recent immigrants and the prosperity of members of the Reform congregation. German Jews and their American children felt the same obligation to help victims of pogroms as the recent immigrants from Russia. Helping the victims of pogroms united the Jewish community of Schenectady just as the later Nazi attacks on Jews in November 1938 would.


Not all Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe defined their Jewish identity in strictly religious terms. From some, like Jacob Coplon, Jewish anarchism offered a Yiddish secular context. Others found a home in the Jewish section of the Socialist Party or the Socialist Zionists. For many the Yiddish language, labor, and socialist Workmen’s Circle created a sense of community, as it became a home for many immigrant Jewish workers in other upstate communities. Schenectady offered the Jewish Peddlers Association as neighboring Albany hosted the Hebrew Tailors Association for those who found solace in a Yiddish based occupational organization as a venue to create brotherhood and communal solidarity in a Yiddish and Jewish oriented, but not necessarily religious, context. The ferment in Jewish communities in the Russian Empire came to America. America turned Jewish immigrants into workers and for the immigrant generation some found solace in the synagogue, some in Yiddish based social and labor organizations and others in both. Historians emphasized these organizational histories in the large cities of New York, Chicago, or Boston. They failed to emphasize that in upstate New York communities, like Schenectady, Albany, Troy or Utica, Jewish immigrants recreated the same organizational forms because they filled the needs of an immigrant generation. Jews recreated secular as well as religious organizations brought from Europe. Some groups such as the Jewish Peddlers Association emerged as a product of the American environment. All these groups added to the richness of Jewish organization life between 1900 and 1925. Most vanished with the passing of the immigrant generation since they did not fit the needs or political ideologies of their children and grandchildren who went from peddlers to professionals?

For those who clung to traditional Judaism the passing of the immigrant generation, immigration restriction, and the Americanization of children and grandchildren forced the collapse and merger of the remaining congregations until by 1955 only one working Orthodox congregation remained, Beth Israel, which remains the only surviving Orthodox synagogue in Schenectady. It represented the mergers of Bnai Sholom, Ohab Zedek, and Ohab Sholom and the collapse of Adath Israel into a single congregation, a pattern repeated in other upstate Jewish communities as Orthodox shuls either disappeared or merged. The arrival of the immigrant generation of Central and Eastern European Jews created a diversity of synagogues. However, the passing of the immigrant generation and Americanization led to the emergence of Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism as alternatives to the European model. Traditional Jews had to consolidate congregations to avoid fading away. Orthodox Jews faced the same dilemma as Reform and Conservative---how to define their place in American society, and how to cling to the faith of the immigrant generation and the spiritual values of Judaism in an American context.

From the beginning of Jewish immigration, Jews wanted to identify as Americans. They saw service in wars, support for the United States in wartime, and respect for fallen leaders as evidence of their identification as Americans. Kaddish for President Garfield symbolized respect by the German Jewish generation for their American leader just as the ceremonies for President McKinley showed the respect of recent immigrants from Hungary and the Russian Empire. Jewish immigrants identified with the liberty and opportunities that the United States represented and repeatedly sought to gain acceptance as Americans. This is the reason members of Agudat Achim quickly jumped into the political fray and endorsed a Republican candidate for the State Senate. The political freedom of the United States allowed recent immigrants to participate in the political process and Jewish immigrants readily embraced this sign of citizenship. Schenectady’s Jewish immigrants became involved in the political process as soon as possible to share in the rights available in the United States that the Czarist government of Russia denied Jews.

At the same time, Jewish immigrants sought to maintain their identity as Jews. For example, the benevolent societies the immigrants established, like the chapters of the Order of Brith Abraham or Free Sons of Judah, combined Jewish oriented symbols with American ones. While fraternal societies were male dominated, Jewish fraternal orders were more open to the role of wives and daughters than the Protestant dominated general fraternal groups. Male dominated Orthodox synagogues allowed men their own space and they did not need as an exclusive refuge from women in fraternal organizations. The titles of the fraternal orders and rituals reinforced a sense of Jewish identity, but they included symbols like the American flag and Statue of Liberty as evidence of their American environment. Leaders of the fraternal societies, like Max Stern of the Independent Order of Brith Abraham, portrayed their organizations as agents of Americanization for their immigrant members. These fraternal orders lasted for a generation and added to the variety of Jewish social organizations. The fraternal orders filled a need for the generation of immigrant males. These groups did not exist in Europe, but they sprang up in the United States to fit the desires of an immigrant generation to become Americans while retaining a connection to the familiar social order of the Jewish communities of Europe.

By the 1920s, their more Americanized and acculturated sons joined the Knights of Pythias and Odd Fellows, where they combined an American lodge with predominately Jewish members who did public service activities in support of Jewish values and organizations, like the Jewish Community Center. The growth and popularity of the YMHA and YWHA movements and the Jewish Community Center for the children of immigrants suggested the role these organizations played in redefining Jewish identity and Americanization. In the late teens and 1920s many of the men in the YMHA also belonged to the Jewish chapter of Odd Fellows. Members of the two groups, children of the immigrant generation, shared the twin goals of Americanization and preserving Jewish identity. Similarly, the creation of the United Hebrew Community and the Jewish Community Center combined the desire for Americanization with the need to maintain a Jewish identity. By emphasizing Jewish content events, like Yiddish and Hebrew classes and a community Hebrew school, the JCC reinforced a sense of Jewishness at the same time it allowed secular recreational activities. As historian Howard Sachar noted the concept of the JCC, whether in Schenectady or Utica or New York City, expanded the meaning of Jewish civilization in the American environment that mixed religious with secular forms of expressions of Jewish identity.

The movement from shtetl to suburbia was neither neat nor simple. Jews abandoned the neighborhoods settled by the immigrant generation--- for example, Mont Pleasant in Schenectady or South Pearl Street in Albany. Suburban Niskayuna became the new center of the Schenectady Jewish community as the relocation of synagogues and the Jewish Community Center indicated. Synagogues built by a generation of poor Jews who pooled their resources to open Ohab Zedek in 1907 or Agudas Achim in 1908 found their children and grandchildren relocate to suburbia and the synagogue buildings they cherished either demolished or recycled into non-Jewish purposes. The variety of Jewish institutions that served the immigrant generation, kosher bakeries, restaurants and delis and butcher shops all vanished as the appeal of Orthodox Judaism and adherence to Jewish dietary laws waned. Jewish businesses that lined State, Broadway or Jay streets vanished as the immigrant generation died off, downtowns declined in competition with suburban shopping malls, and as Jews abandoned business for the professions. The closing of Graubart and Sons Jewelry in 2002, founded in 1897, symbolized the end of Jewish owned small businesses lining downtown. No longer would the media comment on the closing of Jewish owned businesses in Schenectady for the Jewish High Holy Days.

What remained constant was the commitment of Schenectady’s Jews to their co-religionists abroad. The immigrant generation of Hungarian and Russian Jews along with the American born children of Reform Gates of Heaven rallied to the cause of Russian Jews attacked in the pogroms of 1905, as Jews in New York City or Gloversville joined in the same cause. The plight of Jews during World War I and later Kristallnacht brought out Schenectady’s Jews in a sign of unity and support for their co-religionists abroad. Throughout the history of the Jewish community in Schenectady or Albany or Utica, whenever Jews were endangered abroad local Jews came out to express support for their co-religionists and raise funds for the plight of fellow Jews, whether the funds came from a poor immigrant community in 1905 or a more professionalized community in 1967 or 1973. 

About the author: Harvey Strum is a professor of history and political science at the Sage Colleges. His most recent publications include American aid to Ireland during the Civil War in New York Irish History. 2016 and impact of World War I on the Jews of the Capital District, HRVR, Spring 2016.

[1] Samuel Weingarten, “Schenectady” in Universal Jewish Encyclopedia (New York: Ktav Publishing, 1969), 9: 395-96; “Jewish Population of the United States,’
American Jewish Yearbook, 1919, 70; “Statistics of Jews,” American Jewish Yearbook, 1926, 1927-28, 245. The Yearbook consistently reported 3,500 as the estimate for Schenectady from 1919 to the mid-1930s while the Tri-City Jewish Chronicle reported 5,000 in 1918. Rabbi P. W. Jacobs, “The Jewish Congregation of Schenectady,” Schenectady Union Star, 18 October 1913; Samuel Weingarten, “A Biography of an American Jewish Community,” (Master’s thesis: Siena College, 1952).  See estimate of Jewish population of Schenectady, also 3,500, based on 1925 self-study of the community, 70, and 1952 estimate of Jewish Community Council, 42.
[2] Ibid, 64-69.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Each of the communities in upstate New York changed due to suburbanization since World War II but most community histories were written without including the movement.  A few do. For example, B. G. Rudolph, From Minyan to Community: A History of the Jews of Syracuse (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1970), 191-219 for the movement of synagogues and suburbanization in Syracuse. Selig Adler, From Araratto Suburbia, (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1960), 407, records the beginnings of suburbanization in Buffalo. Discussions with Anita Merims, former president and current treasurer, Jewish Historical Society of Northeastern New York, and Sadie Schneider, co-president, August-November 2006. As of 2009 Niskayuna has the largest concentration of Jews in the Schenectady area.
[5] “Jewish Republican Club,” Y’s Owl, May 1925, 9. Copies available at the SCHS and buried in the uncatalogued Archives, Schenectady Jewish Community Center, Niskayuna, New York (JCC); Tri-City Jewish Chronicle, 1917-1919. Apparently, the only copy of the run of the newspaper is available on microfilm at the Manuscript Division of the New York State Library, Albany, New York. “Republicans Endorsed by Hebrew Club,” Schenectady Daily Union, 5 November 1906.
[6] Jeff Coplon, ed., Spanning Two Worlds: The Rich and Memorable Lives of Jacob and BessieCoplon (Schenectady: privately printed, 1997), 3-5, 41. Courtesy of David Coplon to author. For Emma’s trips to Schenectady and Albany, see for example, Emma Goldman to Leon Malmed, 18 March 1915, Emma Goldman Papers, University of California at Berkeley. Information on Germinal is also from the Emma Goldman Papers. Leon had an off and on affair with Emma.
[7] S. Joshua Kohn, The Jewish Community of Utica, (New York: American Jewish Historical Society, 1959), 44.
[8] Schenectady Citizen, 9 January 1914. This was a Socialist newspaper. Mann, “Newer Jewish Community,” 21-23; Tillie Wasserman to the Executive Secretary, 5 May 1964, Workmen’s Circle, Branch 117, Workmen’s Circle Papers, YIVO Institute for Advanced Jewish Research, New York.
[9] Schenectady Citizen, 9 January 1914, 18 February 1916; Philip Bean, “Leftists, Ethnic Nationalism, and the Evolution of the Italian-American Identity and Politics in Utica’s Colonia.”  New York History, Fall 2006, 423-474.
[10] “A Worthy Institution, “Tri-City Jewish Chronicle” January 1918, 13; King,
“Congregation Sharei Shomajim,” Tri-City Jewish Chronicle, December 1917; Diner,
A Time for Gathering, 96-98; Hollace Weiner, “Whistling Dixie while Humming Ha Tikvah: Acculturation and Activism among Orthodox Jews in Forth Worth,” American Jewish History, 93:2, 233.
[11] “Jewish Bazaar,” Schenectady Evening Star, 8 May 1903.
[12] List of Members of the Ladies Aid Society, 1902, Agudat Achim, Found in the strong box of the cornerstone of the Nott Terrace synagogue, Archives, Agudat Achim; “Jewish Women Form Association,” Schenectady Gazette, December 22, 1902. Daughters of Freedom Sisterhood Journal, 1953-1954. Archives, JCC; First Rebecca Lodge of the Jewish Community Center, n.d., Delta Psi Sorority, 1936. This was a Jewish sorority in a local high school. Collections, Jewish World, Albany, New York.  Jewish Sororities and fraternities were a major element in teenage social life in high schools in Schenectady and other communities. Discussion with Sadie Schneider, Anita Merims, and Linda Zenner, 13 July 2009 at a meeting of the Jewish Historical Society, Albany, N.Y.
[13] “Council of Women Name Heads of new committees, “Schenectady Gazette, June 8. 1929; Weiner, “Whistling Dixie” AJH, 93:2, 233. Yetwin, “Schenectady Jewry,’ 38; “The Council of Jewish Women,” New Jewish Chronicle, March 1920, 48.
[14] Mrs. A. Lifshitz, “Brief History of the Ladies Auxiliary,” Schenectady Social Service Agencies, American Jewish Historical Society, New York. She was the wife of one of the founders of Agudas Achim.
[15] Diner, A Time for Gathering, 109.
[16] “Free Sons of Israel, “Schenectady Gazette,1 December 1905.
[17] Letter of Introduction for Hershel Graubart, Member of the Junior Order of Bnai Brith, 19 March 1942, Given by Hershel to Archives, Agudat Achim; Aleph Zadik Aleph (Youth Fraternity of Bnai Brith) Membership Certificate for Hershel Graubart, Schenectady Chapter Lodge 879, Bnai Brith, Collections in Bnai Brith House, Niskayuna, New York.
[18] Kohn, Jewish Community of Utica, 40-41; Rudolph, From A Minyan to a Community, 184-86; Stuart Rosenberg, Jewish Community of Rochester, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1954), 81-82, 139-40;
Adler, From Ararat to Suburbia, 88-89, 120-22; Rabbi Naphtali Rubinger, Albany Jewry of the Nineteenth Century(Yeshiva University: D.H.L, 1970), published by University Microfilms, 1971, 295-97; Eva Goldin, The Jewish Community of Poughkeepsie, (Poughkeepsie; Marr Printing Service, 1982), 60.
[19] Kohn, Jewish Community of Utica, 59. See the community histories cited above for references to the Jewish chapters of the American lodges. For Schenectady, for example, see: “Knights of Pythias” Schenectady Gazette, 14 June 1929; “Zion Lodge to meet Tonight,” Schenectady Gazette, 15 November 1938; “Zion Lodge of I.O.O.F.”  Y’s Owl, April 1925, 10, SCHS. As in some other communities Jews joined the Masons, see: “Mead Lodge Elects Harry M. Jacobs…Master,” Schenectady Gazette, December 9, 1919.  The Progressive Lodge was a composed of primarily Jewish members. There is a photo of lodge members taken in 1927 that I borrowed from the private collection of Leah Cook. Her father belonged to the lodge. Also, for a photo of the Zion Lodge, the Jewish lodge of Odd Fellows taken in 1939 sees the White Studio Collection, New York State Museum, Albany, New York. Both photos are available in the DVD history cited in the first footnote.
[20] Weingarten, “The Biography of An American Jewish Community,” 24.
[21] Samuel Dinsky, Schenectady Plan for Jewish Education, (New York: American Association For Jewish Education, 1948). Also, see the editorial introduction by Shlomo Azrieli summarizing the main points of the Schenectady Plan.
[22] “YMHA Movement in Schenectady,” Tri-City Jewish Chronicle, June 1918, 115
[23] A.P. Lewis to “Dear Brother,” 11 July 1918, Albany Branch of the Jewish Welfare Board. Lewis was especially happy to report that the Albany defeated the Schenectady team twice in a week by a score of 9-2. in the private collection of Rabbi Israel Rubin, Congregation Shomray Torah, Albany, New York.
[24] “YMHA Movement in Schenectady,” Tri-City Jewish Chronicle, June 1918, 115.
[25] Elsie Ginsburg, “History of the Y.W.H.A of Schenectady,” Tri-City Jewish Chronicle, June 1918, 194.
[26] Howard Sachar, A History of the Jews in America,(New York: Vintage Books, 1993), 157.
[27] Ibid, 705; Maurice Graubart, et al, Our History: Jewish Community Center---50th Anniversary Bulletin, 1921-1971; Marie Cormack, WPA, “History and Program of the Jewish Community Center of Schenectady, 1934,” William Efner Collection, Schenectady City Archives, City Hall, Schenectady, New York; Weingarten, “Biography of an American Jewish Community,” 81-111.
[28] “Formal Opening of Hebrew House,” Schenectady Union Star, 14 June 1923 was the dedication of the Albany St building. Dedication Program, Jewish Community Center, 1933, Archives, JCC; “500 Jews Attend Opening Here of Their New Center,Schenectady Union Star, 24 April 1933.
[29] For the development of other JCCs in upstate New York, see Kohn, The Jewish Community of Utica, 95, 111; Rudolph, From A Minyan to a Community, 176-184;
Adler, From Ararat to Suburbia, 287-88, 377-82.
[30] Weingarten, “Biography of an American Jewish Community, “135-153; Shalom, (Schenectady: Jewish Federation of Greater Schenectady, 1984, 2nd edition), Community files, Schenectady Public Library.
[31]Schenectady Daily Union, 23 September 1881; Schenectady Evening Star, September 9, 1881, 20 September 1901; Schenectady Daily Union, 18, 20 September 1901; Schenectady Union Star, 1 August 1923. Both Albany and Troy Jews had special ceremonies for President Abraham Lincoln but there is no record of a ceremony in Schenectady. In fact, in the case of Troy non-Jewish Germans showed up at the memorial service and many other citizens also attended. A copy of the commemoration booklet is available at the New York State Library.
[32] Schenectady Gazette, 28 March 1968, 7 April 1979; Morris Mandel Cohn, clippings file Schenectady Public Library; SchenectadyGazette, 28 July 1994.
[33] William Golub, clippings file, SPL; Schenectady’sCitizen of the Century: William Golub, 1990, booklet, clippings file, SPL.
[34] Tri-City Jewish Chronicle, 1917-1918; Schenectady Gazette, 27 November 1918;
For the Jewish War Veterans see, for example, folder 53, box 2, in WPA, Writer’s Program, Schenectady, New York State Archives, Albany, N.Y. A summary states that the Schenectady chapter had 40 members when organized in March 1935 and 54 a year later. A Women’s Auxiliary organized in December 1935 had 25 members. For a 1935 photograph of the Jewish War Veterans, White Studio Collection, New York State Museum, Albany, N.Y. Also, Draft registration of Hungarian Jewish immigrant Dezco Klein, 1916-17, Archives, Schenectady JCC.
[35] Schenectady Gazette, 6-8, 15, 17 May 1943, 8 May 1945.
[36] Schenectady Gazette, 21 May 1948.
[37] Salo and Jeanette Baron, “Palestinian Messengers in America, 1840-1879: A Record
of Four Journeys,” JewishSocial Studies, Vol. 5, Nos. 2 and 3, 151-52, 160.
[38] Schenectady Evening Star, 27 October 1884; Introduction of a representative, Joseph Cohen, to the Jews of Schenectady, attached to Letter from the American Consul for Palestine, Edwin S. Wallace,31 July 1896, written in Hebrew and English, Archives, Agudat Achim. Loaned to author by co-archivist Sadie Schneider, Agudat Achim.
[39] “Local Gift to Suffering Jews,” Schenectady Gazette, 20 November 1905
[40] Ibid. Also, “Jewish Relief Fund Nears Million Mark,” New York Times, 26 November 1905.

No comments:

Post a Comment