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Saturday, October 8, 2022

Yiddishkeit: Preserving Jewish Identity in Albany, 1850-1930.

by Harvey Strum, Russell Sage College

Copyright © 2022. All rights reserved by the author.

Rabbis did not like secular Jewish communal institutions’ proliferation from the middle of the 19th century into the early 20th century. Clubs, fraternal organizations, societies, lodges, women’s organizations, Zionist associations, and athletic organizations did not monitor members’ behavior or admonish members to fulfill their specific religious responsibilities. In America, a “decoupling of previously fused ethnic and religious components of Jewish group life and self-identification developed.” Yiddishkeit---“as a folk or people with a common history---became separable from Judaism” and produced “a rapid proliferation of religion unrelated social and cultural institutions.”[1]

“The rabbis complained that lodges, clubs, societies, and other ‘community’ institutions undermined their authority and drained membership from their congregations. and encouraged American indifference to religion,” according to historian Hasia Diner. For example, Rabbi Solomon Schindler, a leading Reform rabbi in Boston, bemoaned the low attendance at synagogues because Jewish immigrants considered “their lodge meetings” equivalent to attending religious services. Historians agreed with Schindler’s analysis and considered it a product of the American separation of church and state and widespread voluntarism. American Jews, whether in Albany, New York, or Chicago, voluntarily joined together in associations that served their social, educational, philanthropic, mutual aid, political, and communal needs. Fraternal organizations served the needs of an immigrant generation and their American-born sons searching for a sense of belonging and social fellowship. Max Schlesinger and Simon Rosendale believed in 1910 that immigrants “stood alone in a strange land” and lodges supplied “ties of friendship,” a deep-felt need of new immigrants. For Jewish immigrants seeking to adjust to a strange new environment creating voluntary associations helped in adapting to America. Fraternal orders and other voluntary societies developed in every Jewish community. As the Utica Jewish community historian concluded, the associations filled “the need for social integration and cultural adjustment to the American environment.” Some Jewish immigrants viewed these groups as a way to maintain their identity as Jews outside of attendance at synagogues, while others used them as halfway stations for Americanization and assimilation. 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 occupations. [2]

Albany’s Jews organized their own institutions for social, fraternal, and philanthropic purposes. Between 1843 and 1859, each of the synagogues, Orthodox Beth El (German). Reform Anshe Emeth and Orthodox Beth El Jacob (Polish) organized burial societies and mutual aid societies for the ill. Modeled after the Chevra Kadisha (holy society) of European communities, these societies “ performed the prescribed rituals surrounding the death” from purification of the body to burial. Jewish religious tradition required that Jews must be buried in separate cemeteries for Jews. Every synagogue purchased land for a cemetery, and every Jewish organization formed in the 19th or early 20th centuries made provisions for the burial of their members. Gentiles could not be buried in a Jewish cemetery. Jewish immigrants maintained this tradition, whether Reform or Orthodox, whether in Albany, New York, or in Albany, Georgia. [3]

In 1843, the Society for Brotherly Love became the first society in Albany to provide mutual aid for the ill, assist with burials if needed, assist the poor, and help recent Jewish immigrants and Jewish travelers passing through the city. Brotherly Love emerged as the first association independent of the synagogues. By 1847, a Ladies' Benevolent Society started with a separate School Fund Society “to pay for the schooling of poor Hebrew children.” In 1855, the synagogues united their societies to aid the poor and sick, creating, on September 20, 1855, the Hebrew Benevolent Society of Albany. This occurred not without dispute. Initially, all were in agreement, and” this union was saluted by every candid mind as a step to reunite our Israelites in sentiments and in pursuit of a noble purpose.” A dispute quickly emerged, however, with another philanthropic association that had just been established, Shiloh Lodge of B’nai B’rith, over conflicting fundraising efforts in 1854. In spite of the rocky start, both organizations quickly became well-respected philanthropies winning recognition from local political leaders and the general public for their good works. As one newspaper pointed out in 1885: “The society is doing noble work among the poor, sick, and distressed, and its efforts should be encouraged in every way possible.” As an example of its activities in 1897, the Hebrew Benevolent Society spent over $2,000 for “the relief of the poor and needy.” While a secular organization, the Hebrew Benevolent Society upheld Jewish traditions and Yiddishkeit, like supporting Succoth, the feast of booths, and encouraging members to attend holiday services at Temple Beth Emeth in 1918. [4]

B’nai B’rith, the first national Jewish secular organization, was started in New York City in 1843 by German Jews. A uniquely American institution, it encouraged social interaction to help new immigrants learn how to adapt to America from more seasoned immigrants. The organization walked the tightrope of the American Jewish experience, encouraging members to become real Americans and preserving Jewish identity by sponsoring talks on Jewish subjects. It provided mutual assistance and supported education and moral uplift. aid to widows and children, philanthropy, and patriotism. B’nai B’rith and other mutual aid societies offered death benefits, limited health insurance, brotherhood, and a sense of Jewish identity for immigrants attempting to adjust to an alien environment. Historian Howard Sacher viewed B’nai B’rith as a halfway house to acculturation, but Hasia Diner noted that “B’nai B’rith articulated a conception of Jewishness that existed outside of the synagogues and rabbinic authority, proclaiming according to historian Deborah Dash Moore, a bold new vision of the nature of Jewish identity.’”[5]

Albany boasted two chapters of B’nai B’rith, Shiloh Lodge, founded in December 1853, carried out most transactions in German. The Shiloh Lodge established the day school, B’nai B’rith Academy, in 1866, combining Hebrew and secular subjects. It fulfilled “a uniquely Jewish function,” providing Jewish education, as did other lodges of B’nai B’rith. However, insufficient funding forced the academy to close in 1870. Many of its members came from the German synagogues Orthodox Beth El and Reform Anshe Emeth. It became one of the most well-respected secular Jewish organizations in the city. Members of the Shiloh Lodge joined with other Jewish lodges in 1886 to contribute to the Albany bi-centennial fund, earning the press's commendation for patriotism. As another indication of the lodge’s civic responsibility, members donated to a city-sponsored concert in December 1887. Also, Shiloh Lodge contributed to the construction of a new Albany hospital in 1910. In addition, members participated in recreational activities. In July 1897, for example, “both the old and new went down the river” in a moonlight excursion down the Hudson River to New Baltimore. Members frequently joined the Gideon Lodge on excursions in the summer. Many of Shiloh’s members belonged to other German language societies. Jacob Newburg, who immigrated from W├╝rttemberg and ran a hat store on South Pearl Street, belonged to the German Oak Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Julius Levanthal, born in Hanover, became “one of Albany’s foremost businessmen and prominent Jewish resident who served as congregation president of Anshe Emeth and Beth Emeth from 1884 to 1903 ” and belonged to the German language chapter of Free Sons of Israel. [6]

Albany’s German Jews founded or participated in a number of German language societies until World War I. German Jews from congregations Beth El and Anshe Emeth self-identified with the German language and culture. German Jewish synagogues continued to hold separate services in German and English. In Albany, German Jews often assumed leadership roles in German cultural associations. The retention of language became an essential part of the retention of identity for immigrants and their descendants in American society and a barrier to assimilation. German-speaking Jews could easily reinforce their German since there were over fifty German lodges, societies, clubs, athletic associations, and ladies’ societies in Albany in 1910. In fact, when Beth El and Anshe Emeth merged and built a new building Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, the leader of Reform Judaism and former rabbi at Beth El and Anshe Emeth, returned to Albany. On May 23, 1889, Wise delivered a speech in German, dedicating the new synagogue of the combined congregation of synagogue Beth Emeth. [7]

Members of the two German Jewish congregations belonged to numerous German language societies. The German Literacy Society, Deutsche Gesellschaft, organized in 1848, remained heavily Jewish. The Literacy Society spawned a German singing society, Albany Liederkranz, in 1849. Rabbi Wise played an important role in both associations. The purpose of the German Literary Society was “to study and spread German literature as well as to extend assistance to newly-arrived German immigrants.” German Jews belonged to half-dozen other societies that included a larger number of non-Jewish Germans, including the Albany Turin Verein, German Harmonia Lodge, and German Oak Lodge of Odd Fellows. This paralleled the larger national trend of Jews of German origin subscribing to German language newspapers and becoming “patrons of German clubs.’ For many Jews, “German culture was an important unifying force.” Prior to the 1890s, many German Jews, especially members of Reform congregations, appeared to identify more closely with non-Jewish Germans than with their brethren from Poznan, Galicia, Poland, Russia, Hungary, or Lithuania.

The continued use of German did not please many of the grown children of the German-speaking immigrants. Younger members of the Shiloh lodge of B’nai B’rith revolted in 1870 and established the English language, Gideon Lodge, on March 17, 1870. Members noted: “while Shiloh Lodge retains our Mother Tongue in its proceedings, we cling to that of the Country we reside in,” reflecting the impact of Americanization. The behavior of the grown sons of German congregations would be repeated by the sons of Yiddish-speaking East European Jews who would spawn the Conservative branch of Judaism, another example of American-born Jews retaining their Jewish identity and seeking acceptance as English-speaking Americans, not as foreigners, not as the “other.” [8]

Members of the Gideon Lodge, led by Simon Rosendale, played an important role in reaching out to other chapters of B’nai B’rith in 1870 to support the mission of Benjamin Peixotto to Bucharest to help alleviate the suffering of Romanian Jews. Jewish political activist Simon Wolf of Washington requested help from Albany’s B’nai B’rith. The Gideon Lodge pressured President Ulysses S. Grant to appoint Peixotto, president of B’nai B’rith, to the post and raise funds for the mission. Simon Rosendale wrote a condemnation of Romania’s behavior and appealed to the brothers of the organization, Jews and Americans, to donate to Peixotto’s mission. Two years later, in June 1872, the lodge established a committee headed by Simon Rosendale to raise additional funds to support Peixotto’s mission. In June 1903, Gideon Lodge donated funds “for the relief of the Kishineff sufferers,” victims of Russian pogroms against Jews. According to historian Mark Raider, “Kishinev marked a turning point in American Jewish history,” as Jews of whatever religious affiliation, ethnicity, or political beliefs “reacted with horror” at the barbaric actions of the Russian government. Jews rallied to denounce the Russian government, even in Fort Worth, Texas. Over 300 pogroms initiated by the Russian government took place between 1903-1906. The continued pogroms in Russia led the Gideon Lodge to organize a special meeting in November 1905 at Beth Emeth “for the purpose of appropriating means for the relief of the stricken Jews of the Russian Empire.” money was donated to help the survivors of the pogroms. As an expression of their identity as Jews, the Gideon Lodge and other Jewish organizations sought to assist Jews abroad and identified with the plight of Jews in Europe. Although Albany’s Jews had tried to assist Jews in Europe since 1853, the pogroms in Russia created a new determination and feeling of responsibility to help alleviate the plight of Jews abroad. As Mark Raider concluded, events in Russia created a national consensus among American Jews about the role of American Jewish philanthropy. [9]

The plight of Jews in Eastern Europe once again became a subject of concern during World War I. Hundreds of thousands of Jews uprooted by the war in Eastern Europe fled for safety. Roving armies decimated scores of Jewish communities and impoverished hundreds of thousands of people. From 1914-17, the Russian government forced 600,000 Jews from their homes. American Jews created the Joint Distribution Committee to distribute aid to Jews displaced by the war and help Jews in Palestine. As historian Daniel Soyer concluded, American Jewish assistance overseas became “a defining characteristic of American Jewry.” Albany’s Jews had a personal stake in helping because, as historian S. Joshua Korn noted about the Jewish community of Utica: “there as hardly a person who was not related to a war-stricken family in war-torn Europe and Palestine, for the vast majority of Jews were immigrants of…1890-1914 and their children.” Most of the Jews living in Albany and neighboring communities of Schenectady, Cohoes, and Troy immigrated to the Capital District at the same time as the Jewish residents of Utica. Albany’s synagogues and Jewish organizations, including the Gideon Lodge, felt obligated to assist displaced and hungry Jews in Europe. B’nai B’rith lodges expressed concerns for their brethren in Eastern Europe ever since the plight of Romanian Jews emerged in the late 1860s and early 1870s. By the 1890s, German Jews felt a sense of solidarity with Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and identified with their deteriorating status in Europe. [10]

Local relief efforts by Jewish organizations started with the outbreak of the war, but a major drive coincided with President Woodrow Wilson declaring January 27, 1916, Jewish Relief Day. Members of the New York state legislature passed resolutions endorsing Jewish Relief Day. New York Governor Republican Charles Whitman issued his own proclamation asking the people of New York to donate to reduce “the sufferings with which the Jewish people are confronted.” Prominent members of Beth Emeth, who also belonged to the Gideon Lodge, like Simon Rosendale, Albert Hessberg, and Rabbi Max Schlesinger, led the campaign in Albany. All the synagogues and associations, such as Yiddish language and Socialist Local 320 of Workmen’s Circle, socialist labor Zionist Poale Zion, working-class Hebrew Tailor’s Association, middle class and predominately Jewish Washington Lodge of Masons, Ladies’ Auxiliary of Beth El Jacob (Orthodox-Polish), and Ladies’ Radical Society, donated to Jewish relief. The misfortune facing Jews in Eastern Europe created unity in the United States for Jewish groups, regardless of denominational, ethnic, political, or language differences. Helping the Jews of Europe and Palestine united secular and religious groups and reinforced a sense of Yiddishkeit within the Jewish community of Albany and the Capital District. A number of non-Jews donated and or endorsed the campaign, including Republican Mayor Joseph W. Stevens and former governor Irish Catholic Martin Glynn, a Democrat and first Irish Catholic governor of the state. Funds raised went to the Joint Distribution Committee.[11]

In an article appearing in the American Hebrew on October 31, 1919, entitled “The Crucifixion of Jews Must Stop,” former governor Martin Glynn condemned the “threatened holocaust of human life” [and] “bigoted lust for Jewish blood,” in Eastern Europe. Polish troops killed 40,000 Jews in eastern Galicia between 1919-21, and a mix of Ukrainian nationalists, White Army, and elements of Red forces killed 100,000 Jews in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, and Lithuania, and 150,000 died of starvation, disease, and exposure as these roving armies devastated at least 150 Jewish communities between 1917-21. Romanian troops killed another 5,000 Jews in Hungary. “Tragedy of Jews Stirs Albanian Hearts,” proclaimed the Albany Argus in October 1919 as the second round of fundraising for the Jews of Eastern Europe began. Gideon Lodge joined with all Jewish organizations, synagogues, and many non-Jews to contribute to the injured and starving. On October 5,1919, members of B’nai B’rith’s lodge donated $150 “for the Jewish War Sufferers…unanimously carried.” Governor Al Smith and Catholic and Episcopalian bishops of Albany endorsed the fundraising and condemned the atrocities. Jews of Albany, including members of the Gideon Lodge, joined with Jews from Troy, Cohoes, and Schenectady on December 7, 1919, at the Palace Theater in Schenectady in a mass meeting to denounce the atrocities in Eastern Europe.[12]

In the interwar years, B’nai B’rith reached out to the sons of East European Jews, expanding the membership at the local and national levels. It created a youth wing, and young men joined Aleph Zadik Aleph Fraternity. At local colleges, chapters of Hillel attracted younger Jews. By 1940, B’nai B’rith had 150,000 members and became the largest secular Jewish organization. In Albany, the Gideon Lodge supported aid for Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, the relocation of some survivors to Albany, and successfully built B’nai B’rith Parkview Apartments in Albany in 1973 for Jewish senior citizens. Albany’s Jewish Community Council worked with B’nai B’rith to make Parkview a reality. The Gideon Lodge and Gideon chapter of B’nai B’rith women assisted in providing support services for the seniors at Parkview. In the 1990s, the Gideon Lodge welcomed Soviet Jews who settled in Albany and Schenectady and assisted in finding housing for the latest Jewish immigrants to the Capital District. From 1974-1981 at least eighty-one Jews from the U.S.S.R. arrived in Albany. Since 1988 about 1,300 Soviet Jews have moved to Albany. [13]

While the Gideon Lodge was the longest-lasting fraternal organization in Albany, a number of other associations and branches of national organizations developed between the 1870s and the early 1900s. These organizations suggested the richness of Jewish communal life that” combined ideas of “mutual benefit with social and recreational functions.” On September 15, 1872, the B’nai Mordecai Lodge of Kesher Shel Barzel (Chain of Iron) opened a chapter. While B’nai B’rith initially attracted German Jews and their descendants, KBB, established in 1860, became a primarily Polish fraternal organization. A second chapter, the Capital City Lodge, was also formed, but both agreed to merge in 1894. Free Sons of Israel, started in New York City in 1849, chartered a local chapter on April 5, 1872, Arnon Lodge appealed to German Jews and their descendants. Most of the members of Free Sons belonged to Anshe Emeth and Beth El, and later Beth Emeth. It had a glorious celebration in April 1899 on its Silver Anniversary, with 250 in attendance for dinner, and several hundred more came for the dance. One of the speakers, Simon Rosendale, stressed the charitable purposes of the lodge. Prominent non-Jews recognized the good works of the Arnon Lodge, including Mayor Van Alstyne and Governor Theodore Roosevelt. The Governor praised the members and denounced anti-Semitism. B’rith Abraham, founded in 1844, was one of the first Jewish fraternal societies to offer death benefits to members and their wives. It started as a German and Hungarian Jewish association, although it later accepted Russian and Polish Jews. It also had a strong connection to Beth El and Anshe Emeth. Morris Coplon, its local chairman, led the association when it held its national convention in Albany on August 23, 1896, as 250 members attended the convention. Not surprisingly, Rabbi Max Schlesinger of Reform Beth Emeth delivered the opening prayer and blessing.

The arrival of Polish and Russian Jews after 1870 fostered a new group of fraternal orders. Independent Order of B’rith Abraham, organized nationally in the 1880s, emerged as a Russian Jewish association, and a local chapter was chartered in 1893. It started as an organization of Hungarian Jews but quickly expanded to include Jews from the Russian Empire. By expanding membership, it soon rose to 200,000 members and, for “a brief period in the early 1900s, constituted the largest Jewish organization of any kind in the United States.” Chapters of Sons of Benjamin (1897-1901), Albanian and Capital City lodges of Assembly of Israel ( November 27, 1894, and December 8, 1895), and Young Men’s Montefiore Association (December 26, 1896) were established. Public officials recognized these Jewish societies and invited them to public functions, like having members of B’rith Abraham, Young Men’s Montefiore Association, and Independent Order of B'rith Abraham march in the October 1909 Hudson-Champlain Commemoration. [14]

East European immigrants voluntarily formed chapters to meet their emotional, social, burial, sickness, and recreational needs. These lodges fostered responsibility, fellowship, and Yiddishkeit. Branches of the fraternal organizations developed in each upstate New York community where enough Jewish men lived to support a lodge---Albany, Schenectady, Troy, Syracuse, Rochester, Binghamton, Utica, Gloversville, Amsterdam, and Poughkeepsie. The most popular was B’nai B’rith, Free Sons of Israel, and B’rith Abraham. Upstate Jewish communities, like Albany, did not support a secular Jewish organization popular in New York City and other large cities---landsmanshaftn, associations of Jewish men from the same city, town, or village in the old country, like the Bialystok Mutual Aid Society. Their functions were similar to fraternal orders but rooted in men, landsmen, from the same community in Eastern Europe. By the 1930s, New York City hosted over 3,000 landsmanshaftn, but this local connection to hometowns did not flourish in upstate Jewish communities, primarily due to the lack of numbers and the anti-Jewish and restrictive immigration laws of 1921 and 1924 that cutoff most Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe. [15]

One politically motivated fraternal order that originated in New York City found a home in Albany and other upstate Jewish communities---Arbeiter Ring (Workmen’s Circle), a nationwide fraternal and mutual aid society with a Yiddish and Socialist agenda. Founded in 1892, combining socialism, Yiddish culture, and the fraternal organizational structure, Workmen’s Circle became popular with Jews from Poland, Russia, and Lithuania. The organization expressed a secular sense of Jewish solidarity and identified with workers’ rights and the Yiddish language. While usually linked to Jewish communities in larger cities like Boston and New York, 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 among immigrants from Eastern Europe through the socialist revolutionary movement in the Russian Empire, the General Jewish Workers’ Union, known as the Bund. The Bund combined class struggle “with loyalty to the Jewish people---indeed, to Jewish peoplehood.” In the United States, Workmen’s Circle expressed the ideas of the Bund but widened its appeal by stressing a Yiddish-based socialist and cultural movement. By combining Yiddish culture, socialism, mutual aid society benefits, and brotherhood, it created an attractive mix “making it the longest-lived and most effective of all East European fraternal orders”[16]

Member of Workmen’s Circle discussed Yiddish literature, listened to Yiddish language speakers, and invited Yiddish theater groups from New York City to give performances at local theaters. 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.” For the immigrant generation, it played an important role in the lives of Jews in Albany, Schenectady, and Troy. Workmen’s Circle appealed to industrial workers, peddlers, tailors, and small merchants attracted to the secular Yiddish culture it promoted. Some came to discuss contemporary political and economic issues like the arrest of four Socialists in Albany on August 26, 1917, for handing out a four-page pamphlet that the courts decided violated the Espionage Act. Others came for a general discussion of socialism in Yiddish or for a non-political discussion of Yiddish writers, like Sholem Aleichem. Wherever there was an immigrant Jewish community from Eastern Europe---Poughkeepsie, Albany, Troy, Schenectady, Utica, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo, there was a branch of the Arbeiter Ring in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Jewish radicals of whatever political orientation could mingle in the fraternal order of Workmen’s Circle. [17]

Some communities, like Albany, Schenectady, Utica, Rochester, and Buffalo, organized Yiddish language Folk Shules in the 1920s and 1930s. The afternoon schools taught Yiddish, Jewish history, and socialism. Sadie Flax, for example, remembered learning Yiddish and socialism at the Workmen’s Circle school in nearby Schenectady. The schools passed on the passion for Yiddish and socialism to another generation, this time to American-born children of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Workmen’s Circle ran their school out of their building on Ash Grove Place. The Albany school ran into the 1940s. The Albany branch of Workmen’s Circle was founded in semi-secret on May 14, 1904, in the home of N. Rosenberg. Orthodox Jews distrusted the organization and discouraged renting space for the organization’s meetings. Members of the Orthodox community destroyed flyers for Workmen’s Circle's meetings forcing it to meet initially quietly and finally meet outside the Jewish neighborhoods in the South End of Albany.

However, the arrival of Jews fleeing the Russian pogroms brought Jews with experience in the Russian radical movement that quickly embraced Workmen’s Circle leading to a second branch, Number 122, in 1907. It became popular with new immigrants, and its meeting place on 67 South Pearl Street became “the modern Yiddish culture center of the city.” Residents flocked to the concerts and the speakers. Members of the Albany local worked with the Jewish-dominated unions, bakers, and tailors, founding the Bread and Meat Cooperative. Workmen’s Circle worked closely with Jewish bakers to support unionization and the purchase of union-made baked goods. Workmen's Circle assisted the garment workers by raising money for their organizing efforts in February 1920 and joining in the campaign to persuade consumers to only patronize stores that sold unionized goods. In 1914, the two locals merged into Branch 320. Workmen’s Circle started fundraising for Jewish relief to help Jews in Europe in 1914 and participated in drives in 1916, 1918, and 1919 for Jews displaced by the war. The Albany chapter contributed $100,000 for the defense of the four Socialists arrested in August 1917 for violating the Espionage Act. According to the local press, the Albany local’s reach extended to Jewish communities in Troy, Hudson, Gloversville, and Glens Falls. [18]

In 1909, the organization purchased land for a cemetery. Although Workmen’s Circle was secular, it agreed with the Orthodox that only Jews, and not Gentiles, could be buried in a Jewish cemetery. It took “a heated discussion, lasting several weeks,” before the majority of members rejected burying non-Jews. Two of the most interesting monuments in the cemetery are written in Yiddish. One, to Harriet Thuroff, “Thy memory shall be the guiding star in our struggle.” Rose Halpert’s includes a commemoration of her activism in the revolutionary workers' movement. Children and grandchildren of the original members of the Workmen’s Circle are still being buried in the Albany Cemetery.

A faction of Workmen’s Circle broke off in 1929 to form International Worker’s Order, affiliated with the Communist Party. An Albany branch, Jewish Peoples’ Fraternal Order, seceded from the local Workmen’s Circle, and in retaliation, Workmen’s Circle refused to bury the Communists in their cemetery. During the McCarthyite period, the federal government dissolved the political movement as a Communist front in the early 1950s and seized the cemetery but eventually returned it to the JPFO. Historian Maurice Isserman argued: “regardless of its political affiliation, JPFO played a significant and largely positive role in the lives of tens of thousands of American Jews.” Isserman appears correct since the JPFO and its broader organization, International Workers Order, sponsored Yiddish language schools and Yiddish cultural activities, a more radical version of Yiddishkeit. [19]

Another national fraternal organization founded a chapter in Albany, Farband. Founded in Rochester in 1910, the Farband, also known as the Jewish National Workers’ Alliance, appealed to the same East European working-class immigrant population of the Workmen’s Circle but combined socialism with active support for Zionism, while Workmen’s Circle remained non-Zionist as did JPFO. Farband supported folkshulen (Folk Shuls) but promoted both Yiddish and Hebrew, Jewish cultural activities, and the same benefits as other fraternal orders. A chapter of Farband was established in Albany in 1912. Farband established the city's first secular Yiddish school, one of the earliest in the country.

In December 1912 and January 1913, Farband held its national convention in Albany. Opening on December 28, 1912, the conference discussed improving the conditions of Jewish workers, modern Yiddish education, and improving insurance coverage. It met at another recently created Jewish cultural institution, Hebrew Educational Institute, on Franklin and South Ferry Streets, in the heart of Albany’s Jewish neighborhood. Farband advocated for Jewish workers’ rights, socialism, and Zionism and later became linked to socialist labor Zionism in Palestine. At the founding, Farband included Socialists-Territorialists Zionists who believed in a Jewish homeland, including areas outside of Palestine. Albany’s chapter also organized Farband chapters in other communities like Schenectady. As historian Moses Rischin concluded: “socialism was Judaism secularized” Combining an emphasis on Yiddish and Hebrew along with socialism provided another vision of Yiddishkeit for Jewish immigrants. [20]

Several occupational groups unique to the Capital District acted as mutual aid societies. The two most common occupations of recent immigrants from Eastern Europe were tailors and peddlers. This had been true for German immigrants earlier since the membership of Beth El, Beth El Jacob, and Anshe Emeth in the 1850s were primarily peddlers. Recent immigrants formed the Jewish Peddlers Association in Schenectady in 1916 “for the promotion of intellectual, social, and recreational activities for the families of its members.” Members listened to Yiddish language speakers, and the talks attracted larger audiences, becoming community events.

Earlier, a group of eight tailors in Albany on August 31, 1891, organized the Hebrew Tailors Association “for mutual benefit and benevolent purposes.” Apparently, an Albany Jewish tailor fell ill and had no means to take care of himself, and this motivated the creation of a society to help fellow workers. It would take care of the sick, help those in distress, and provide for the burials of members. It became a well-respected local Jewish organization and even marched in the Hudson-Champlain Commemoration in October 1909. Hebrew Tailors joined in fundraising for all the Jewish causes, like Jewish Relief Day in January 1916 and a second round of fundraising in March 1916. Tailors also held recreational activities for its members. For example, one hundred couples participated in a ball on February 24, 1902, “and it was the early hours of the morning before the dance broke up.” The association sponsored annual dinners and annual balls. At the ball on January 3, 1910, “there was a good crowd present and most enjoyable time was had.” [21]

Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe brought radical traditions, and as Moses Rischin noted, socialism became secularized Judaism. Both the Socialist parties in Albany and Schenectady had Jewish sections. There was no coincidence that the Albany Socialist Party had its headquarters on South Pearl Street, in the heart of the Jewish neighborhood. For the immigrant generation struggling to find their place in American society and primarily working class, socialism appealed to their sense of solidarity, Jewish ethics, and the Jewish quest for justice. In Albany, Jews were peddlers, bakers, tailors, garment workers, and cap workers. There were a number of cap factories in Albany, and “almost all of whose workers were Jewish.” Failed efforts to unionize further inflamed their resentment of economic inequality. 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, Belarus, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Russia. Working-class Jews felt exploited in America and brought their loyalty to socialism to the United States. A small number later split off to endorse the more radical Communist Party. [22]

However, there was another radical alternative, Jerminal, the Albany Jewish anarchist group active between 1900 and 1920s. Jewish anarchists would sometimes meet with their Italian immigrant comrades from Schenectady over tea and pastry to discuss the revolution. Leon Malmed, a local deli owner, played an active role and developed a close relationship with Emma Goldman. “Red Emma” spoke several times in Schenectady and Albany between 1906-1917, with the help of Leon Malmed, her sometime lover. Emma would deliver talks in Yiddish, English, and Russian. A handbill in Yiddish, for example, advertised, “Emma Goldman, the very popular speaker…will speak in Albany…first of April 1906.” Albany’s police interfered on April 1, 1906, breaking up the talk by Goldman. Leon Malmed introduced Goldman, but her critique of the American government angered a police sergeant who ordered the meeting stopped. The “audience was composed entirely of foreigners,” meaning Jewish immigrants from Russia. For a small number of Jews from the Russian Empire, anarchism seemed another way to express secular Jewish values in Yiddish. Jewish anarchists based their positions on Jewish ethical norms, but they rejected Judaic religious rituals. One of the problems for Jewish anarchists, whether in Albany or New York City, was working-class Jews agreed with their critique of inequality that stemmed from Jewish values but opposed the anarchist attack on Jewish religious rituals, severely limiting the growth of Jerminal and other Jewish anarchist groups. [23]

Zionism became another way for Jews in Albany to preserve their identity as Jews. In 1898, Jews in Albany, Troy, and Schenectady formed chapters that sent delegates to the 1898 Federation of American Zionists convention. Representatives from the Albany, Troy, and Glens Falls chapters attended the 1900 convention. A chapter of Choveve Zion (Lovers of Zion) began at the same time. A Zionist fraternal order, Max Nordau Lodge, opened on September 16, 1900, and associated with the Federation of American Zionists. Albany Zionists actively purchased Jewish National Fund stamps. Another Zionist group, also affiliated with FAZ, Sons, and Daughters of Zion, expanded “ intensive and widespread Zionist activities.” They became active in fundraising for displaced Jews in Europe during World War I. and sponsored lectures and concerts to raise money for Palestine and promote Zionism. Religious Zionists established a chapter of Mizrachi in 1914 after Mizrachi leader Meyer Berlin visited Albany. Socialist Zionists had several options, like supporting Zionism while enrolled in the Jewish branch of the Socialist Party or Workmen’s Circle. They could join the group of Socialist Territorialists Zionists or the chapter of Poale Zion (Workers of Zion) that started a chapter in Albany in 1906 and supported their fraternal association, the Farband Labor Zionist Order. Zionists held regular memorial services to honor the death of Theodore Herzl. In 1916, for example, Sons and Daughters of Zion sponsored an event at the Orthodox (Polish) Beth El Jacob synagogue with speakers in English and Yiddish. All the Zionist groups joined in the campaign for Jewish war relief for the Jews of Europe and Palestine in 1916, 1918, and 1919.[24]

On June 3, 1920, 4,000 Jews from Albany, Schenectady, Troy, Amsterdam, Gloversville, Hudson, Glens Falls, and Cohoes marched down South Pearl Street in Albany’s Jewish neighborhood in support of the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Carrying banners in English and Hebrew with the Zionist flag, six-pointed blue star, and stripes on a white background, the Stars and Stripe's marchers walked past “shops and residences along the route” decorated with the Zionist flag as Jews celebrated the end of Ottoman rule in Palestine, Balfour Declaration, and “the restoration of Israel.” Marchers represented all of the Jewish societies “and congregations of virtually every city near Albany.” A band played Hatikvah. This became the largest Jewish parade in the history of the city. Speakers included Governor Al Smith (Democrat), Mayor James Watt (Republican), and former governor Martin Glynn as Albany’s Catholics and Protestants endorsed the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The massive parade for Zionism and a Jewish homeland in Palestine showed that Zionism and Americanism were not in conflict. American political leaders, Democrats, and Republicans supported Jewish nationalism. Zionism became another manifestation of how Jewish immigrants and American-born Jews maintained their identity as Jews in Albany and America. [25]

Jews also joined national fraternal orders. There were Jews in the Masons, Knights of Pythias, and Odd Fellows, often in predominately Jewish chapters in Albany and Schenectady. This got repeated as middle-class Jews formed their own chapters of the Odd Fellows and Masons in Syracuse or the Jewish lodges of the Masons and Odd Fellows in Utica or Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows, and Masons in Buffalo. By joining these societies, “Jews sought equality and integration into America, and at the same time continued to behave as Jews.” These secular lodges enabled Jews to socialize with fellow Jews “without the tumult of synagogue politics and congregational bickering.” Predominately Jewish lodges contributed to Jewish causes, like Jewish war relief in World War I or support for creating Jewish community centers. This became another outlet for Jews wanting to preserve their identity as Jews but outside the context of synagogues and denominational differences within Judaism. [26]

Women’s associations performed the same functions and provided the same communal responsibilities to preserve Jewish identity. As Hasia Diner noted, women’s associations “served the same religious and communal needs, and most members came from the same families.” Furthermore, “these societies saw themselves as agencies for the preservation of Judaism in its full sense.” They took care of the sick and acted as burial societies for women. The Ladies or Women’s Benevolent Society took on charitable functions. By the late 1860s, Purim balls became a vehicle for fundraising for charity, and Albany’s women sponsored one in 1869. Women played a major role in fundraising fairs for the Jewish Home for the Aged in 1880, primarily members of the German Beth El and Anshe Emeth congregations. In the 1880s, the Ladies Sewing Society sponsored entertainments to raise funds to help the poor in the Jewish community, such as for example, the one organized in 1883. The actions of German Jewish women in Albany fit the pattern of “German Jewish volunteer women being particularly active in organizing and raising funds for social welfare programs” to help poor members of the Jewish community.[27]

Reacting to the male B’nai B’rith, a group of Jewish women created a women’s equivalent in 1845 in New York called the United Order of True Sisters (Unabhangiger Orden Trueue Schwestern) that emphasized social, educational, and philanthropic activities. A predominately German-Jewish organization, Anshe Emeth and Beth El members established an Albany chapter, Abigail Lodge, on August 4, 1857. German remained the language of meetings until 1905. Women organized the Clara de Hirsch Society in 1890 “for the purpose of giving aid to the poor and needy” within the Jewish community. In 1893, a national women’s organization, the National Council of Jewish Women, was established for educational, social, and philanthropic purposes. Local women established a chapter on December 8, 1895, and by 1903 it had 125 members. In Albany, the chapter concentrated on religious education for the children of East European immigrants, and after World War I, on settling displaced East European Jews on farms in southern Rensselaer County. Young Jewish women in Albany founded a chapter of the YWHA in December 1915, sponsoring athletic and educational activities and dances at the Albany Yacht Club, where young people socialized. Merging with the YMHA in 1925, they formed the Jewish Community Center. According to historian Howard Sachar the Jewish community center movement “translated Judaism and Jewish identity into the widest ambit of Jewish civilization.” [28]

A national women’s Zionist organization founded in the 1920s as an arm of the Zionist Organization of America, known as Hadassah, established an Albany chapter in 1923 to support medical, vocational, and land reclamation projects in Palestine. Linked to labor Zionism, Pioneer Women, founded in 1921, established an Albany chapter in the 1920s. These women’s organizations acted to reinforce Jewish identity in Albany and provided different options for women to contribute to the community. They bridged the gap between becoming American and remaining Jewish. Zionism became an integral part of Jewish identity in Albany by 1920 for Jews of East European origin and by 1929 for Jews of German origin. [29]

These organizations helped Jews preserve their identity and provided mutual aid, social support, and ”camaraderie in times of joy and comfort in times of trouble, illness, and death.” Jewish organizations raised funds for philanthropy, social services, education, and maintaining Jewish institutions. As a small religious and ethnic minority in American society, Jewish organizations allowed Jews to retreat into an “exclusive social and cultural space.” Ever since Jews arrived in America in 1654, Jews have faced the same question---how to maintain Jewish identity in an overwhelmingly Christian society and cling to separate ethnic, religious, cultural, and social values as they navigated between Americanization and remaining Jewish. Jewish associations were bottom-up institutions created to serve the needs of immigrants and their children, searching for options to preserve Yiddishkeit while becoming American. Each individual Jew decided on their commitment to Judaism or to a Jewish identity outside of synagogue membership. Every commitment to religion and ethnic identity was voluntary for Jewish immigrants and their descendants. Howard Sachar’s comments on the Jewish Center movement suggested one of the several ways Jewish immigrants and their descendants found creative methods to reinvent their Jewish identity in secular mediums. Jewish organizations expanded Jewish civilization and constantly reinterpreted the meaning of Yiddishkeit for Jewish immigrants and their descendants. These institutions allowed Jews to maintain their identity as Jews outside of the communal politics of synagogues and the conflicting interpretations of Judaism. [30]

About the author: Harvey Strum is a history and political science professor at Russell Sage College in Troy and Albany. His most recent publications include: America’s Mission of Mercy to Ireland, 1880, New York History, 2018; Schenectady’s Jews, Zionism, New York History Review, 2019, 2020, 2021.




[1] Ewa Morawska, Insecure Prosperity: Small-town Jews in Industrial America, 1890-1940 


(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 135.


[2] Hasia Diner, A Time for Gathering: The Second Migration, 1820-1880 (Baltimore and 


London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), 87; S Joshua Korn, The Jewish 


Community of Utica, 1847-1948 (New York: American Jewish Historical Society, 1959), 


40; Max Schlesinger and Simon Rosendale, “A History of the Jewish Community of 


Albany, 1836-1910,” in Beth Emeth Yearbook, 1910 (Albany: Beth Emeth Congregation, 


1910), 69.


[3] Diner, Time for Gathering, 93; Louis Silver, “The Jews of Albany,” YIVO Annual of Jewish 


Social Science (1954), 241; Rabbi Naphtali Rubinger (Ohav Shalom), “Albany Jewry of 


the Nineteenth Century,” (Ph.D. diss.:Yeshiva University, 1971), 278, For Jewish 


cemeteries, Walter Zenner and Jewish Historical Society of Northeastern New York, 


Guide to Jewish Cemeteries in Northeastern New York (Albany: Jewish Historical Society, 


2003). Covers Jewish cemeteries between Newburgh and Plattsburgh. 


[4] Hoffman’s City Register, 1847,28. The records of the Society of Brotherly Love are in 


the Archives of Congregation Beth Emeth, Albany, New York; Rubinger, “Albany Jewry,” 


241. For the Hebrew Benevolent Society-B’nai B’rith dispute, Israelite, November 3, 1854, 


1:17.134; For praise of the Hebrew Benevolent Society, see Albany Argus, September


13, 1885. 5; For a yearly report of its actions, Albany Argus, November 2, 1897, 9. As an 


example of the Hebrew Benevolent Society upholding Jewish traditions see the support 


for Succoth, Albany Argus, September 20, 1918, 16.


[5] Howard Sacher, A History of the Jews in America (New York City: Vintage Books, 1992), 


70; Diner, A Time for Gathering, 109-110; Deborah Dash Moore, B’nai B’rith and the 


Challenge of Ethnic Leadership (Albany: SUNY Press,  1981), 7.


[6] Albany Argus, April 5, 1886, 8,  April 23, 1886, 8, December 31, 1887, 8; Rubinger, 


“Albany Jewry,” 282;  Dr. Max Schlesinger and Simon Rosendale, “A History of the Jewish 


Community of Albany. 1836-1910’ in  Beth Emeth Yearbook, 1910, (Albany: Beth Emeth, 


1910), 69. Copies available at the Beth Emeth Archives, New York State Library, both in 


Albany. Also, Sefton Temkin Papers, MS-738, Box 8, folder 6, American Jewish Archives, 


Cincinnati, Ohio; Albany Argus, May 23, 1897, 7,  July 21, 1897, 7, August 22, 1910, 1 


and  6; November 14, 1910, 3; On the educational function of B’nai B’rith, see Diner, 


Time for Gathering, 111.


[7] Schlesinger and Rosendale, “Jewish Community of Albany,” 61.


[8]  Minutes of the Gideon Lodge of B’nai ‘B’rith, Day of the Installation, 1870, Box 1, folder 


1, Minute Book, 1870-73,  Series A, General, 1870-1932. B’nai B’rith, Gideon Lodge, No. 


140 (Albany, N.Y.), MS-377, American Jewish Archive, Cincinnati, Ohio. Also, for German 


societies and citation in previous paragraph, Silver, “The Jews of Albany,” : 230. Also,  


For citations about Jews and German organizations nationally, Gerald Sorin, A Time for 


Gathering: The Third Migration, 1880-1920 (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins 


University Press, 1992), 6. For German societies and German Day in Albany, Albany 


Argus, August 22, 1910, 1, 6. There were 37,000 Germans and their descendants in the 


Albany area in 1910. One out of every four people in Albany were German. About 1,500 


would have been German Jews and their descendants. The first German Day was held 


in 1904.


[9] Minute Book, June 9. 1872 June 7, 1903, November 12, 1905, December 3, 1905, in 


Minute Book, 1899-1912, Series A, General, 1870-1932, B’nai B’rith, AJA. Also, Mark 


Raider, The Emergence of American Zionism (New York: New York University Press, 


1998), 18.”An American Jew” to the editor, Albany Press-Knickerbocker-Express, May


21, 1903. For the national organization, National Committee for the Relief of Jewish 


Sufferers by Russian Massacres, American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish 


History, New York City. Also, see Gary Dean Best, To Free A People: American Jewish 


Leaders and the Jewish Problem in Eastern Europe, 1890-1914 (Westport, Ct: 


Greenwood Press, 1982), 114-40; Cyrus Adler, ed., The Voice of America on Kishineff 


(Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1904),xvii. Adler cites one meeting in Albany 


in 1903. For Fort Worth’s protests against Russian barbarism, Hollace Weiner, “Whistling 


Dixie while Humming Ha-Tikvah: Acculturation and Activism among Orthodox Jews in 


Fort Worth,” American Jewish History  53:2 (Fall 2020): 214. (whole article, 211-37


[10] Daniel Soyer, Jewish Immigrant Associations and American Identity in New York, 1880-


1939 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997), 162; Korn, The Jewish 


Community of Utica, 125. Also, Oscar Handlin, A Continuing Task: The American Joint 


Distribution Committee, 1914-1964 (New York: Random House, 1964), 19-33; Harvey 


Strum, “To Aid their Unfortunate Coreligionists: Impact of World War I and Jewish 


Community in Albany,” Hudson River Valley Review, 32:2 (Spring 2016):53-75. Marsha


Rozenblit and Jonathan Karp, eds, World War I and the Jews: Conflict and 


Transformation in Europe, the Middle East, and America (New York: Berghahn Books, 


2017); Moore, B’nai B’rith, 57.


[11]  For Woodrow Wilson, for example, Albany Argus, 24 January 1916; Resolutions of the 


Assembly, 17 January 1916, New York Legislative Record, and Index: A Complete 


Record. From January 5-20 May 1916 (Albany: Legislative Index Company, 1916). 521-


23; Proclamation, “For the Relief of the Jewish People in Belligerent Countries in Europe, 


21 January 1916,” Public Papers of Charles Seymour Whitman, Governor, 1916 (Albany:


J.B.Lyon Company, 1919), 5; For identification of Beth Emeth members, Congregation 


Beth Emeth, Congregation Beth Emeth Yearbook, 1914-1922 (Albany: Beth Emeth, 


1922), 73-76; Albany Times Union, January 23-28, 1916; Albany Knickerbocker Press, 


January 23-28, 1916; Albany Evening Journal, January 22-28, 1916; Albany Argus, 


January 21-28, 1916. Unfortunately, neither the Governor Whitman nor Governor Glynn 


Papers at the New York State Library provide further details on their support for Jewish 


Relief Day.


[12] Martin Glynn, “The Crucifixion of Jews Must Stop,” American Hebrew, October 31, 1919. 


Used a copy at Beth Emeth Archives, Albany, N.Y. Unfortunately, Dominick C. Lizzi, 


Governor Martin Glynn. Forgotten Hero (Valatie, N.Y.: Valatie Press, 2007) does not 


mention Glynn’s support: Albany Argus, October 19, 23, 1919; Minute Book,  October 5, 


1919, in  Minutes of the Gideon Lodge of B’nai B’rith, Box 1, folder 3, Minute Book, 1913-


32, Series A, General, 1870-1932, B’nai B’rith, AJA. For the mass meeting in 


Schenectady, Broadside in Yiddish and English, “Big Mass Meeting to Protest against the 


Massacres and Pogroms of Jews in Ukraina and Eastern Europe,” Box 1, Rosenthal 


Collection, Rensselaer County Historical Society, Troy, N.Y. For Albany protests, see 


Albany Evening Journal, December 16, 1918; Albany Argus, December 12 and 16, 1918; 


For a protest in Schenectady see Schenectady Jewish Community to Robert Lansing, 


May 16, 1919, Woodrow Wilson Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. For a 


protest against the pogroms by Jewish soldiers, see Petition by Jewish Soldiers 


Protesting the Treatment of Jews in Europe, folder 260-105, Box 86, Governor Alfred 


Smith Papers, New York Archives, Albany, N.Y.


[13] B’nai B’rith Lodge, No. 140,Celebrate the 120th Anniversary (1870-1990) (Albany: B’nai 


B’rith, 1990), 6-7, copy in Historical files of B’nai B’rith, Jewish Historical Society of 


Northeastern New York, Jewish Federation, Albany. “B’nai B’rith Parkview Apartments 


25th Anniversary,” 25th Anniversary Scrapbook, Records of Parkview Apartments, Albany, 


N.Y. For a couple of surviving records of the B’nai B’rith chapter in nearby Schenectady, 


see Letter of Introduction for Hershel Graubart, Member of the Junior Order of B’nai B’rith, 


March 19, 1942, given by Hershel to the Agudath Achim Archives, Niskayuna, New York, 


and Aleph Zadik Aleph (Youth Fraternity of B’nai B’rith) Membership Certificate for


Hershel Graubart, Schenectady Lodge 879, B’nai B’rith. Collections in B’nai B’rith House, 


Niskayuna, New York. Agudath Achim is a Conservative synagogue.


[14] Diner, Time for Gathering, 109; Albany Directories for 1902, 1907, and 1915; Beth 


Emeth Congregation Yearbook, 1910, 69-70; Silver, “Jews in Albany,” 141-43; Rubinger,


“Albany Jewry,” 296; Book of Incorporation Papers, Books V and VI, Albany County 


Records Office, Albany, N.Y.; Albany Times Union, June 11, 1903, Also, see “Jewish 


Societies,” Albany Argus, April 15, 1894, 2. For the incorporation papers of Assembly of 


Israel, November 27. 1894, Book of Incorporation Papers, Albany County Records Office. 


Copy provided by Maura Cavanaugh, Archivist, August 3, 2021. For Free Sons of Israel


and Theodore Roosevelt, Albany Argus, April 20, 1899. For the national convention of 


B’rith Abraham, Albany Argus, August 22-24, 1896—see 22nd, 5 and 24, 9 especially the 


24th for a large story on the convention. B’rith Abraham and the International Order of 


B’rith Abraham were separate national associations with separate Albany lodges.


[15] See for example, Diner, A Time for Gathering, 106, 109, 113,125; Sacher, Jews in 


America, 198-200; Sorin, A Time for Building, 97-98, 115-16; Henry Feingold, A Time for 


Searching: Entering the Mainstream, 1920-1945 (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins 


University Press, 1992), 58-59.


[16] Sorin, A Time for Building, 30; Sachar, History of the Jews, 197. The surviving records 


of the Albany and Capital District branches of Workmen’s Circle are in the archives of the 


YIVO Institute for Advanced Jewish Research in New York City. Records are primarily in 


Yiddish. The author obtained photocopies including of a couple of photos. Also, Silver, 


“Jews in Albany,” 244-45. For Jewish peddlers, see Peddlers Books, Special Collections, 


New York Archives, Albany.


[17] Kohn, The Jewish Community of Utica, 44; Michael Dobkowski, ed., Jewish American 


Voluntary Organizations  (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1986), 489-94; Silver, “Jews 


in Albany,” 244; Stuart Rosenberg, The Jewish Community in Rochester, 1843-1925


(New York: Columbia University Press, 1954), 152-54 on local Workmen’s Circle, which


acted like the chapters in Albany. Also, Soyer, Jewish Immigrant Associations, 66-70. For 


a later discussion of Workmen’s Circle, see Tillie Wasserman, to the Executive Secretary, 


May 5, 1964, Workmen’s Circle, Branch 117, Workmen’s Circle Papers, YIVO Institute 


for Advanced Jewish Research, New York City. For correspondence, primarily in Yiddish 


on the Workmen’s Circle School in Albany, also see Workmen’s Circle Papers.


[18] Interview of Sadie Flax with author in 2005. Sadie was the volunteer historian/archivist 


at Temple Agudath Achim in Niskayuna, N.Y. and former co-president of the Jewish 


Historical Society of Northeastern  New York Silver, “Jews in Albany,” 244; Albany Argus, 


August 28, 1917,10. The case, Pierce v, United States went to the Supreme Court in 1919 


and decided in March 1920, 7-2 upheld the conviction with dissents by Brandeis and 


Holmes. Also, New York Times, August 27, 1917, 2, and list of prisoners, Albany County 


Jail and Penitentiary Records, 83, Albany County Records Office. For the reach of the 


Albany chapter to surrounding branches, Albany Argus, March 21, 1920, 26. For the 


relationship between Workmen’s Circle and Jewish bakers, Albany Argus, March 28, 


1920, 14. For an example, contributions by Workmen’s Circle to Jewish causes, like 


the relief of Jews in Europe, Albany Argus, March 1, 1916, 5. March 21, 1916, 8, March 


28, 1916, 8.



[19] Silver, “Jews in Albany,” 244; Walter Zenner, Jewish Cemeteries, 21, 8, 10. 20; 


Dobkowski, Jewish American, 491, 190-92. Maurice Isserman wrote the entry on JFPO.


[20] Albany Argus, December 28, 1912, 5, December 29, 1912, 3,and January 1, 1913, 8; 


Dobkowski, Jewish American, 305-09. Also, Albany Times Union, January 1, 1913; 


Albany Evening Journal, December 30, 1912; Albany Knickerbocker Press, December 


31, 1912; Moses Rischin, The Promised City: New York’s Jews, 1870-1914 (Cambridge,


MA: Harvard University Press, 1962, 1977), 166.


[21] Incorporation Papers, Hebrew Tailors’ Association, August 31, 1891, Albany County 


Records Office; Silver, “Jews in Albany,” 243. Silver spoke to Z. Levitan, the then 


secretary of the Tailors in 1936; Rubinger, “Albany Jewry,” 297-98; For example, Albany


Argus, March 1, 1916, 5 for second round of fundraising for displaced European Jews. 


Also, March 21, 1916, 5, For recreational events, see Albany Argus, January 4, 1898, 2, 


February 25, 1902, 5 and January 4, 1910, 5. Hebrew Tailors have a significant cemetery 


for the burials of the children and grandchildren of the original members with a very visible 


chapel that can be seen from the nearby road. Zenner, Jewish Cemeteries, 16.


[22] Silver, “Jews in Albany,” 243-44.


[23] Emma Goldman to Leon Malmed. February 1906 and March 18, 1915, Emma Goldman 


Papers, University of California at Berkeley; Albany Knickerbocker Press, April 2, 1906. 


Also, see Rischin, Promised City, 154-55, 161; Sorin, A Time for Building, 110-112; Jeff 


Coplon, ed., Spanning Two Worlds: The Rich and Memorable Lives of Jacob and Bessie   


Coplon (Schenectady: Privately printed, 1997), 3-5, 41. Courtesy of David Coplon to 


author. “Foreigners” quote taken from Albany Argus, April 2, 1906, 8. For additional 


correspondence between Goldman and Malmed: Papers of Leon Malmed and Emma 


Goldman, 1899-1982, MC 322; M88, Schlesinger Library. Radcliffe Institute, Cambridge, 


MA. The handbill in Yiddish was in an exhibition at the Albany Institute of History and Art 


on the Jewish Experience in Albany in the 1990s. Dan Malmed translated the handbill 


into English from Yiddish. This is taken from of list of objects in the exhibit.


[24] Silver, “Jews in Albany,” 246; Albany Argus, July 22, 1916, 7; Raider, American Zionism, 


40-41; Albany Times Union, January 16-19, 1916; “Jewish War Relief,” Tri-City Jewish 


Chronicle, (Schenectady), February 11, 1918, 92. Copy available at the New York State 


Library, Albany, New York and American Jewish Archives; Congregation Beth Emeth, 


Congregation Beth Emeth Yearbook, 1914-22 (Albany: Beth Emeth, 1922), 73-76. Copies 


available in the Beth Emeth Archives and the Albany Public Library; Christopher Serba,


Good Americans: Italian and Jewish Immigrants During The First World War  (New York: 


Oxford University Press, 2003), 170; Joseph Rappaport, Hands Across the Seas: Jewish 


Immigrants and World War I (Lanham, MD: Hamilton Books, 2005), 76-77, 81.


[25] Albany Argus June 2, 3, 4, 1920; Albany Times Union, June 4, 1920.


[26] Diner, A Time for Gathering, 161-62; For a photo of the Zion Lodge of Odd Fellows, a 


Jewish lodge, taken in 1939, White Studio Collection, New York State Museum, Albany, 


New York; For Utica, Korn, The Jewish Community of Utica, 58-59; For Schenectady, for 


example, “Zion Lodge of I.O.O.F. Y’s Owl, April 1925, 10, Copy used at the Schenectady


County Historical Society, Schenectady, N.Y. For the Jewish Progressive Lodge of the 


Knights of Pythias, photo of lodge members in 1927 borrowed from the private collection


of Leah Cook. Her father was a member.


[27] Diner, A Time for Gathering, 97-98; Hebrew Ladies Sewing Society Benefit, February 


6, 1883, Pamphlet, Local History Room, Washington Avenue branch,  Albany Public 


Library; Sorin, A Time for Building, 141. For Jewish women in Schenectady, see, for 


example, “Jewish Bazaar.” Schenectady Evening Star, May 8, 1903. For fair for the


Jewish Home, New York City Jewish Messenger, January 30 and February 6, 1880. For 


the continuing role of Jewish women helping the poor and aged by a contemporary report, 


see: Hortense Barnet,  “Jewish Community a Powerful Influence for Good in Albany,” 


Albany Knickerbocker News, July 11, 1915, July 18, 1915. These were incredibly positive 


portraits with photos of German Jewish women and men members of Reform Beth Emeth.


[28] For the records of the United Order of True Sisters, Manuscript Group 638, American 


Jewish Archives. Part of the records are in German. Also, for a local branch, see United 


Order of True Sisters Noemi #11 at the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at the New


England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston; Rubinger, “Albany Jewry,” 296; Albany


Times Union, October 13, December 6, 1915, May 35, 1925, March 11, 1976; Sachar, 


Jews in America, 705.


[29] Silver, “Jews of Albany,” 244-45; Hadassah Region History of the Upper New York State 


Region, 1998, private collection of Dorothy Ganz, Albany. Photos of Jewish women’s 


organizations are in the Jewish Community files, Special Collections, State University of 


New York at Albany. Additional materials, such as Y records, are in the files of the Jewish 


Historical Society of Northeastern New York at the Jewish Federation in Albany. Anti-


Jewish Arab riots in Palestine in 1929 started this change in Reform Beth Emeth. See 


Nelson Fromm, President to Members of the Beth Emeth, August 28, 1929, Beth Emeth 




[30] Lee Weissbach, Jewish Life in Small Town America: A History (New Haven, CT: Yale 


University Press, 2005), 242. Also, 269-70 for the preservation of Yiddish based culture 


in small town America. Sacher, Jews in America, 705 for how Jews used secular methods 


to reinterpret Jewish identity.