Jewish Activities in Chicago, Largely Religious and Philanthropic, in M >
The present year, marked the opening of the Lawndale branch of the Jewish People’s Institute of Chicago, a structure which cost more than a million dollars. Mme. Rosa Raisa and her husband, Giacomo Rimini, both famous opera stars, have through means of a concert given in the huge Auditorium theatre, raised $10,000 for the Rosa Raisa Musical Scholarship Fund. The interest on the money in this fund is being used to further the musical education of promising young men and women. Mme. Raisa has pledged herself to give a concert every year in Chicago to add to the fund.
Directors of the organization are also working on plans for the selection of a site on the northwest side of the city where they want to erect another branch. As soon as the site is selected, building operations will commence. The Northwest side branch will represent an investment ranging between $50,000 and $1,000,000.
THE WORK OF THE JEWISH CHARITIES
In describing the present activities of Chicago Jewry, one may not omit the work of the Jewish Charities of Chicago. At the present time, according to Louis M. Cahn, secretary and executive director, it may be safely said that the Jewish Charities of Chicago supports and maintains through its constituent organizations ninety per east of the Jewish philanthropic work of the city.
Few members of the community, it has been said, are familiar with the big piece of constructive and preventive work done by the various organizations and institutions under the supervision of the Jewish Charities of Chicago. More than 400 children are cared for in the orphan homes. They are permitted to give vent to their natural inclinations and to develop in a normal way.
The old peoples homes provide comfortable and cheerful places of residence for more than 200 men and women whose old age is made happy and pleasant in agreeable surroundings. The Jewish hospitals provide an adequate number of beds for the poor who need hospital care.
Another important activity sponsored by the Jewish Charities is the Board of Jewish Education, which includes among its activities either control or supervision over twenty-four Hebrew Schools and Talmud Torahs; eleven Sunday Schools; the Central Hebrew High School; the College of Jewish Studies, maintaining three branches and cooperating with the University of Chicago; the Jewish Youth League; the Tzofim circles, and special teachers for music, art craft, current events and dramatics.
The Aid Association for Incurable Jews has constructed a Synagogue at the Cook County Infirmary at Oak Forest, so that all Jewish residents of the institution have the opportunity of worshipping in their own way. It also conducts a kosher kitchen, serving food in the dining room to those who can come to it and sending food to those who are bed-ridden.
The Jewish Charities of Chicago is a community organization in the broadest sense of the term, engaged in a great constructive community enterprise, aiming toward the building of Jewish character and Jewish self-respect. Besides the seventeen affiliated organizations, it contributes to the support of eight others.
THIS YEAR’S BUDGET $1,500,000
The budget for the present year is only slightly less than $1,500,000, which is administered with the thought uppermost in the minds of all members of its board that it must function for the greatest good for the greatest number. There are 11,000 contributing members to the Jewish Charities.
Every single cent of every dollar contributed to the Jewish Charities of Chicago is spent for the actual philanthropic work in the Jewish community of this city. This unique situation is possible because the income from the Endowment Funds of the charities is more than twice the amount of the entire operating expenses. Samuel Deutsch is president of the Jewish Charities.
THE “JEWISH BOOK WEEK”
There is another Jewish communal activity which was originated in Chicago. It is the Jewish Book Week idea sponsored by Rabbi S. Felix Mendelsohn of Temple Beth Israel His idea on the subject was presented in the Jewish Daily Bulletin on April 14, 1927. In his statement, he pointed out the great service to Judaism and to Jewish culture which a special Book Week might render, as well as his reason why the seven days following Lag B’Omer should be utilized for that purpose. (Lag B’Omer is known in Jewish tradition as the Scholars’ Festival and its proximity to confirmation enables rabbis to popularize the custom of presenting Jewish books as gifts to the confirmants.)
The Rabbis throughout the country were quick to see the importance of Jewish Book Week and a large number included its observance in their congregational calendars. Many rabbis not only delivered sermons on the subject but also arranged special exhibits of Jewish books in their houses of worship.
The Chicago Rabbinical Association was the first body to take official action endorsing the movement. Again this year, the organization is preparing to renew its efforts to popularize the idea. In his presidential report to the Conference of American Rabbis at Cape May, N. J., June 24, 1927, Rabbi Louis Wolsey had this to say about the movement sponsored by Dr. Mendelsohn: “The suggestion (Jewish Book Week) is motivated only by a desire to encourage people in the reading of good Jewish literature. Perhaps if we centered our efforts on an activity of this sort it could not be otherwise than beneficial to the religious and Jewish morals of the members of our congregations.”
SPREADING THE IDEA
“The organizations which, in my opinion,” declared Dr. Mendelsohn in an interview with a Jewish Daily Bulletin representative, “are particularly duty bound to interest themselves in spreading the idea of Jewish Book Week are the Jewish Publication Society, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Rabbinical Council of the Jewish Theological Seminary and the National Council of Jewish Women.”
“The Jewish Daily Bulletin,” he continued, “being the only national Jewish paper in America, has made the observance of Jewish Book Week possible last year, and I truly hope that this valuable medium will cooperate with the new movement in the future.”
The Chicago branch of the Hadasdah, under the direction of Pearl Franklin, is preparing to launch an active campaign for funds within a few weeks. The objective of the drive has been set $50,000 above any amount that the organization has ever raised here, but there is every sign of success as the women’s leaders are mapping out their campaign.
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