Guide to the Records of the National Association of Jewish Social Workers, undated, 1908, 1911-1917

Processed by Jon Ain (December 14, 1992), reprocessed by Rebecca S. Gordon (2007), electronically reformatted by Adina Anflick (2001)

American Jewish Historical Society

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 294-6160



© 2020  American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY. All Rights Reserved.
Finding aid was encoded by Marvin Rusinek on July 2, 2007. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: National Association of Jewish Social Workers
Title: National Association of Jewish Social Workers records
Dates:undated, 1908, 1911-1917
Abstract: Contains programs and papers read at the Annual Meetings of 1915-1916, the resolution passed at a special meeting in 1915 re the founding the School for Jewish Communal Work, the pension plan proposals, and correspondence re the Summer School for Social Work held jointly with the Jewish Chautauqua Society. Includes correspondence with the American Jewish Committee, National Americanization Committee, National Conference of Jewish Charities, New York City Board of Education, and the U.S. Dept. of Labor Immigration Bureau relating to the work of the association. Contains also the correspondence of Cyrus Adler, Ludwig Bernstein, Louis d. Brandeis, Lee K. Frankel, Israel Friedlander, Oscar Leonard, Louis Levin, Irving Lipsitch, Minnie F. Low, Louis Marshall, Belle Moskowitz, Milton Reizenstein, H.L. Sabsovich, Philip Seman, and Morris D. Waldman.
Languages: The collection is in English.
Quantity: 1 linear foot (2 manuscript boxes)
Identification: I-88
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
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Historical Note

National Association of Jewish Social Workers

Founded in 1908, the National Association of Jewish Social Workers (NAJSW) attempted to unify various social welfare societies throughout the United States. Although NAJSW provided an ideological common ground for its members, it was nonetheless an umbrella organization whose membership was participatory. Many times, NASJW passed resolutions that favored its members at large, such as the establishment of the position of a paid field secretary. However, it was only in rare cases that the organization attempted to force legislation on its members. In other words, NAJSW was established to service its members in the smoother operations of their organizations.

David M. Bressler, the former General Manager of the Industrial Removal Office, became president of the National Association of Jewish Social Workers in 1914.1 Previously he had served as the first president of the Society of Jewish Social Workers of Greater New York.2 As the president of NAJSW from 1914 through 1916, Bressler took his position "seriously."3 Bressler was the organization's lifeline. Every success of the organization was the direct result of Bressler's tenacity and charisma. Indeed, he orchestrated the conference of 1915 nearly single-handedly - no small task, considering that he, alone, wrote an estimated 500 documents pertaining to this meeting. Bressler was an excellent diplomat whose cleverness allowed him to accomplish great goals. An example of this skill can be seen in the file of A. Lincoln Filene. Bressler effectively "bargains down" Filene's secretary until the latter agrees to convince his boss to speak at the conference. Not all of Bressler's methods were admirable. He was aggressive and sometimes unfair as in the case of Alexander Kaminsky who agreed "tentatively" to speak at the conference. When Kaminsky later wrote that he was unable to attend the conference due to a "family occasion," Bressler responded as though Kaminsky had previously given an absolute "yes." Despite Bressler's shortcomings, he achieved astounding accomplishments.

One aim of NAJSW was to improve the knowledge and practice of social work throughout the country. To this end, the association held bi-annual conventions where issues pertinent to the social welfare of the Jewish community were discussed. In order to schedule a successful conference, careful planning was required. Topics had to be of interest to a wide spectrum of the community as the association consisted of members varying from superintendents of philanthropic organizations to headmasters of Jewish schools. Furthermore, the subjects had to be relevant to the times. The conference of 1915, probably the high point in the existence of NAJSW and certainly the most widely discussed issue in this collection, well exemplifies this spectrum. Speakers presented topics ranging from the effect of Zionism on the Jews of America to the need for the establishment of a Jewish school of social work. A great deal of effort was exerted in order to make this conference successful, and plans for its execution began nearly a year before its date.

The conference of 1915 had special significance, as its success appears to have been pivotal to the continuity of NAJSW. Even before the conference, several people, such as Walter Leo Solomon of the Council of Education Alliance, questioned the "need for a national union of Jewish social workers." In his letter to Bressler, Solomon warned that the issues of the conference had better not be "silly" like "those of 1913." Thus, many variables had to be considered when determining the topics of the conference. Certainly, not all of the issues discussed at the Conference pertained to everyone. The topic of "Newer Methods of Adjusting Industrial Disputes'' was of no practical uses to a rabbi; likewise, the superintendent of a school cared little for the discussion on "Transportation Rules." However, the inclusion of each of these topics attracted delegates who might have otherwise been absent such as businessman, J.E. Williams or Charles Strull, superintendent of the Federation of Jewish Charities of Louisville.

In the early twentieth century, two of the most vital issues facing American Jewry were immigration and Zionism, and these topics were widely discussed in the 1915 conference. The concerns of the time were of real impact: "What will be the effect of the Great War on immigration" and "To what extent will a 'settlement program' take cognizance of Nationalist ideals."

Based on its mission, NAJSW was primarily concerned with aiding its membership as a whole. One example of this occurred in 1912 with the establishment of a pension fund. Much effort was exerted in attaining this goal as special committees were formed and many people were consulted to make the plan as attractive as possible. Some of those experts asked to give their opinions were the famous Louis D. Brandeis and Dr. Lee Frankel. Occasionally, there were times that, for the benefit of all of its members, the NAJSW would attempt to force legislation. An example of this occurred at the conference in Baltimore, when the transportation laws were amended. These laws pertained mainly to families that had been deserted by the husband/father, and regulated which recipients of charities were considered members of which community. In this situation, regulations were passed in order to affect the cessation of the exploitation of one organization to the other.

In some respect, it was the revision of these transportation rules and other similar resolutions that represent the final downfall of NAJSW. Assumedly, the organization formed to act as a unifier of American Jewish social workers. While such a federation may have been necessary for the social workers of 1910, it may no longer have been appropriate for those of 1920. As Jewish charity organizations grew larger, they no longer had to rely on a larger union for security. Additionally, as was demonstrated at the conference of 1915, the concerns of Jewish social workers were no longer universal. The charity worker had little in common with the rabbi whose interests did not relate to those of the business entrepreneur. In effect, as the position of the social worker rose in society and the field's range of interests widened, one national association could no longer accommodate all of their needs. Thus, the rabbis attended rabbinical conferences, and the philanthropy workers attended the National Conference of Jewish Charities.

In conclusion, the National Association of Jewish Social Workers and its management understood the importance of Jewish social worker in America. The goal of this organization was to help improve the quality of Jewish social services in the United States. It appears as though NASJW had a large impact on this professional field, such as the establishment of the American Hebrew Social Workers Biography Series and of the Jewish School of Philanthropy. However, NAJSW was a short-lived organization that in the long run became too broad to be effective. By 1918, the organization was no longer listed in the American Jewish Yearbook.

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Scope and Content Note

The National Association of Jewish Social Workers (NAJSW) collection contains unique documents dealing with the activities of this organization dedicated to the improvement of the quality of Jewish social services in the United States. While the collection does not appear to preserve the total volume of papers produced by the NAJSW, it reflects the numerous social activities in which, over the span of its history, the organization was involved.

The collection covers the years 1908 to 1917 and comprises two manuscript boxes. The bulk of the material was created after 1914. The NAJSW collection contains correspondence, questionnaires, programs, minutes, official documents, reports, essays, membership records, photographs, notes, off prints of articles, biographical records, and telegrams. All of the documents contained in the NAJSW collection are written in English.

A large majority of the collection refers to the preparation for, papers presented at, and resolutions of the Conference of 1915, held in Baltimore. This conference was possibly the climax of the NAJSW's existence.

Many important figures in American Judaism are documented in the collection. The most notable of these are Cyrus Adler, Sadie American, Louis Brandeis, A. Lincoln Filene, Lee K. Frankel (Lee Kaufer), and Minnie Low.

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The collection is arranged into the following three series:

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Collections and Engagement of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Executive Director of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011

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Related Material

Related material can be found in the Papers of Louis Kraft (P-673), the Records of the Society of Jewish Social Workers of Greater New York (I-87), and the Records of Boston YMHA Hecht House (I-74).

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); National Association of Jewish Social Workers records; I-88; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY.

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Acquisition Information


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Access Points

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Click the box in the request column to open the form that allows you to request a box for onsite viewing in the reading room at the Center for Jewish History, New York, NY.


Series I: Administrative Records, undated, 1911-1912, 1914-1916

Box 1, Folders 1-10.

Folders are arranged alphabetically by title.

Scope and Content:

This series documents the available administrative and operational records of the National Association of Jewish Social Workers (NAJSW). Although these records do not comprise all the governing records of the organization, they are representative of NAJSW's activities from 1911 through 1916. Types of materials found within this series are bulletins, correspondence, conference proceedings, committee planning materials, reports, and resolutions. Documents detailing routine, day-to-day operational and functional matters, such as financial concerns, fundraising and membership, amongst others are not available in this collection.

In 1911, NAJSW started investigating ways to assist social worker's retirement. Box 1, Folder 8 holds the materials relating to the creation of a pension plan that the association endorsed. Box 1, Folder 4 contains the NASJW Bulletin. Written by David M. Bressler, the Bulletin outlines the topics tentatively selected to be discussed at the upcoming 1915 annual conference. Topics ranged from settlement programs that are cognizant of American cultural ideals to educational curriculums for Jewish orphan asylum schools. Round tables discussions were also proposed. Box 1, Folder 1 holds the official program and guide of the Baltimore conference, May 8-12, 1915. Papers presented by both Dr. Israel Friendlander and Garfield A. Berlinksy at this annual meeting can be found in Box 1, Folder 2. Box 1, Folder 9 pertains to the resolutions adopted by NAJSW during the 1915 conference. Proceeding the 1915 conference in Baltimore in which a resolution was adopted that the organization would "inaugurate plans for encouraging naturalizations and citizenship among Jewish immigrants," Bressler instituted a committee devoted to this cause. Included in Box 1, Folder 5 are numerous letters from Bressler to several individuals asking them to become members of this committee. The papers in Box 1, Folders 6-7 relate to the 1915 resolution that the organization would employ a field secretary "who is to work under the auspices" of the NAJSW. Included are a list of names of potential field secretaries, letters soliciting contributions for the salary of the field secretary, and general correspondence between Bressler and members concerning the creation of this position. In the fall of 1915 a resolution was adopted to create a School for Jewish Communal Work. Box 1, Folder 10 contains the minutes that pertain to the establishment of this school with the support of the Jewish Chautauqua Society of New York.

Box 1, Folder 3 pertains to the Annual Meeting of 1916. In the President's Address, Bressler discusses issues that are pertinent to the operation and administration of NAJSW. Bressler points out that over the course of two years, the organization has achieved two goals: first, "to work out constructive policies, aiming at the prevention of dependency, disease and dereliction," and, second, "to clear away useless details of and duplication of effort" amongst the participating charities and organizations. This folder also includes the annual report of NAJSW outlining the following areas of the associations; membership and finance, naturalization and immigration, health and illness, and training for Jewish social workers.

11Annual Meeting of 1915: Program and Overviews 1915request_box
12Annual Meeting of 1915: Papers1915request_box
13Annual Meeting of 19161916request_box
14Bulletin of the National Association of Jewish Social Workers, Re: Conference Proposals1914request_box
15Committee on Naturalization and Citizenship1915-1916request_box
16-7Field Secretary (2F)1915-1916request_box
18Pension Planundated, 1911-1912request_box
110School of Jewish Communal Work: Meeting Minutes1915request_box
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Series II: Affiliated Organizations, undated, 1908, 1911-1912, 1914-1916

Box 1, Folders 11-20.

Folders are arranged alphabetically by title.

Scope and Content:

This series contains materials generated by organizations affiliated with the National Association of Jewish Social Workers (NAJSW). These items document the organization's contact with the wider Jewish community such as American Jewish Committee and the National Conference of Jewish Charities as well as secular groups such as National Americanization Committee and the New York Board of Education.

Information pertaining to the American Hebrew Social Workers Biographical Series can be found in Box 1, Folder 11. Letters written by David M. Bressler to selective members of NAJSW, including Sadie American, Jacob Billikoptf and Samuel Bogen, asking for their participation in this series comprise the majority of the documents in this folder. In addition, there is a published biographical sketch on Bogen written by Bressler.

Information relating to the American Jewish Relief Committee for the Sufferers from the War can be found in Box 1, Folder 13. This organization's mission is to provide "relief to Jewish families in the warring countries of Europe, irrespective of nationality."

Following the 1915 annual convention, NAJSW embarked on the creation of summer education for social workers in conjunction with the Jewish Chautauqua Society which was established in 1893. Items located in Box 1, Folders 14-15 pertain to this development and include correspondence, minutes, recommendations, proposed curriculum, and lecturer information.

The materials in Box 1, Folder 18 relate to the National Conference of Jewish Charities and includes a paper entitled "Jewish Charitable Activities in Russia" co-written by Professor H.L Sabsovich, E.W. Lewin-Esptein, Bernard G. Richards and David Blaustein. The paper "Tentative Plan for the Inauguration of an Extension Division of the National Conference of Jewish Charities" presented by Garfield A. Berlinsky is also located in this folder.

Correspondence between Bressler and the Board of Education in New York supporting the US Department of Labor Bureau's proposal to extend night classes for immigrants is located in Box 1, Folder 19.

Materials relating to the U.S. Department of Labor, Immigration Bureau can be found in Box 1, Folder 20. Items concern the need to educate adult immigrants.

Numerous organizations requested NAJSW to send participants to conferences and meetings, including the American Jewish Committee Box 1, Folder 12, National Americanization Committee Box 1, Folder 16, and the National Conference of Charities and Corrections Box 1, Folder 17.

111American Hebrew Biography Seriesundated, 1912, 1916request_box
112American Jewish Committee1915request_box
113American Jewish Relief Committee for Sufferers from the War1914-1915request_box
114-15Jewish Chautauqua Society (2F)1915-1916request_box
116National Americanization Committee1915-1916request_box
117National Conference of Charities & Correction1914-1916request_box
118National Conference of Jewish Charities1908, 1911request_box
119New York Board of Education1916request_box
120U.S. Department of Labor, Immigration Bureauundated, 1916request_box
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Series III: Correspondence, 1913-1917

Box 2, Folders 1-62.

Folders are arranged alphabetically by name.

Scope and Content:

This series is comprised of documents relating to the Baltimore conference of 1915. Primarily, these entries, listed by name, pertain to significant figures who supported Bressler and the National Association of Jewish Social Workers. Nearly all of the folders have a repetitive theme and include:
· A letter of invitation to the conference. Often Bressler solicited recipients to participate in the conference, for instance, such as acting as chairmen of a session or presenter of a paper;
· The response on behalf of the recipient to Bressler.

Notables in this series include Cyrus Adler of the American Jewish Committee Box 2, Folder 4, Sadie American of the National Council of Jewish Women Box 2, Folder 5, Dr. Lee K. Frankel of Metropolitan Life Insurance Box 2, Folder 18, and Louis Marshall of Guggenheim, Untermyer, and Marshall Box 2, Folder 44.

Of particular interest to researchers are the materials relating to Louis Brandeis. Located in Box 2, Folder 12, Brandeis writes to Bressler in regards to the upcoming discussion on "Newer Methods of Adjusting Industrial Disputes, "I am particularly glad that the conference is to discuss the protocol. Each year adds my conviction of the soundness of the underlying principle, and my appreciation of the high qualities of employers and employees who are engaged in advancing this experienced in industrial democracy."

The lengthy communication between Bressler and Ms. Minnie Low, President of the National Conference of Jewish Charities will appeal to individuals interested in the suffrage movement. In her file, Box 2, Folder 42, Low complains to Bressler that in her opinion women will be underrepresented at the Baltimore conference. Low writes, "in the first place, while you very graciously accord women the opportunity of being Session Chairmen, you have not accorded a place to any women - north, east, south or west - on the program proper. According to your present program, there are thirty-one speakers named -all of your own sex. I am afraid that women count for very little as social workers in this world, judging by the opinion of you gentlemen in the East, but in the West, the opinion is reversed. Illinois believes in suffrage, and the Chicago Jews, in women's work."

Lastly, the materials located in Box 2, Folder 16 relate to A. Lincoln Filene, partner in Filene's Department stores. These documents attest to Bressler's ability of persuasion. In particular, as it relates to Filene, Bressler was able to cajole Filene to participate in the conference in Baltimore.

21Aaronson, Isaac - Jewish Educational Alliance of Baltimore1915request_box
22Abelson, Paul - Jewish community of New York City1915request_box
23Abt, Jacob - L. Abt & Sons1915request_box
24Adler, Cyrus - American Jewish Congress1915request_box
25American, Sadie - National Council of Jewish Women1915-1916request_box
26Berlinsky, Garfield - The Jewish Social Service Federation of Denverrequest_box
27Bernstein, Ludwig - Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society of New York, Orphan Asylum of Pleasantville1914-1916request_box
28Bettelheim, Cyd1915request_box
29Billikopft, Jacob - Jewish Educational Institute1914-1917request_box
210Bogen, Dr. Boris - United Jewish Charities of Cincinnati1914-1915request_box
211Brandeis, Louis - Attorney1915request_box
212Cooper, Charles I. - United Hebrew Relief Association of Pittsburgh1914-1915request_box
213Doherty, William H. - Department of Public Charities of the City of New York1915request_box
214Ellman, George - Hebrew Relief Association1915request_box
215Filene, A. Lincoln - Filene's Sons Department Store1915request_box
216Fishberg, Dr. Maurice - Montefiore Hospital, Bedford Sanatorium1915request_box
217Frankel, Dr. Lee K.1915request_box
218Friedlander, Israel - Jewish Theological Seminary1915request_box
219Furth, Jacob1915request_box
220Gedalecia, Joseph - Employment Bureau of the Jewish Community of New York1915request_box
221Goldman, Julius - Jewish Charitable and Educational Federation of New Orleans1915request_box
222Goldstein, Monroe - National Desertion Bureau1915request_box
223Goldstein, Sidney - Free Synagogue of New York1913, 1915request_box
224Goldwasser, Edwin - Department of Education of the City of New York1915request_box
225Grodinsky, Helene - Jewish Charities of St. Paul1914request_box
226Herzberg, Max1915request_box
227Hillman, Sidney - Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America1915request_box
228Hochhauser, Edward - Joint Tuberculosis Committee of United Hebrew Charities1915request_box
229Hyman, Joseph - Jewish Educational Alliance of Atlanta1914-1915request_box
230Joseph, Samuel - Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society of America1915request_box
231Kadis, Israel - Jewish Educational Alliance of Savannah1915request_box
232Kaminsky, Alexander - Jewish Big Brother Association1915request_box
233Kaufman, Samuel - Jewish Federation of Indianapolis1915request_box
234Klein, Katharine - United Hebrew Charities1915request_box
235Landman, Dr. Isaac - Temple Keneseth Israel1915request_box
236Langer, Samuel - Pacific Hebrew Orphan Asylum1915request_box
237Leff, Samuel - Federated Orthodox Jewish Charities1915request_box
238Leonard, Oscar - United Jewish Educational and Charitable Associations of St. Louis1914-1915request_box
239-40Levin, Louis (2F) - National Conference of Jewish Charities1914-1916request_box
241Lipsitch, Irving - Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society of America1915request_box
42Low, Minnie - National Conference of Jewish Charities1915request_box
243Lowenstein, Solomon - Hebrew Orphan Asylum of the City of New York1914-1915request_box
244Marshall, Louis - Guggenheim, Untermyer, and Marshall1915request_box
245Moskowitz, Belle - Dress and Waist Makers Union1915request_box
246Nathan, Mrs. A.J. - Baltimore Committee of Jewish Social Workers1915request_box
247Norton, Isaac - Hebrew Benevolent Society1915request_box
248Peiser, Simon - Jewish Orphan Asylum1915request_box
249Rabinovitch, Samuel - United Jewish Aid Society of Brooklyn1914request_box
250Reizenstein, Milton - Hebrew Orphan Asylum of Baltimore1915request_box
251Sabsovitch, H.L. - National Jewish Immigration Council1914-1915request_box
252Schiff, Jacob H. - Kuhn, Loeb & Co.1915request_box
253Seman, Philip H. - Chicago Hebrew Institute1914-1916request_box
254Simon, Therese - Federated Jewish of Baltimore1915request_box
255Smith, George E. - Social Service Review1915request_box
256Solomon, Walter Leo - Council of Educational Alliance1914-1915request_box
257Strull, Charles - Federation of Jewish Charities of Louisville1914-1915request_box
258Taussig, Frances - Jewish Aid Society1914-1915request_box
259Volmer, Leon - Jewish Orphans' Home1914-1915request_box
260Waldman, Morris D. - The United Hebrew Charities of the City of New York1914-1916request_box
261Wiener, Cecil B. - Federated Jewish Charities of Buffalo1914request_box
262Williams, J.E. - The Committee on Immediate Action1915request_box
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