In the early 1900s, Baltimore’s Jewish population was mainly divided into two distinct groups: German Jews, who had immigrated in large numbers during the 1850s and Eastern European Jews, who arrived during the 1880s and 1890s.
In 1906, the German Jews, who predominantly lived uptown, created an umbrella organization to help raise funds for charitable agencies that served their
A year later, the Eastern European Jews, who settled in immigrant enclaves downtown, established the United Hebrew Charities. Both organizations helped support agencies that offered everything from free loans and burials to immigrant aid to care for orphans and the elderly.
But as the services of the two organizations overlapped more and more, the need to create one fundraising organization became obvious. “The kindly feeling now existing among Jewish charitable organizations of our city will ultimately lead to one large and stronger organization,” said William Levy, president of United Hebrew Charities in 1910.
By 1920, both groups formally merged into the Associated Jewish Charities (AJC), with representatives from each group serving as leadership, including Louis H. Levin, as its first executive director. But the AJC was more than just a fundraising agency. It was also a coordination and social planning agency, which looked at the whole community and was able to meet needs as they arose.
At the time of the merger, the AJC supported 19 varied agencies in Baltimore. Among them was the Hebrew Benevolent Society of Baltimore, which in 1921 offered legal aid to 70, provided financial support to 850 needy families and gave 207 people fresh-air vacations at the Jewish Country Home. That same year, the Council Milk and Ice Fund distributed 42,746 quarts of milk and the Hebrew Ladies Sewing Society distributed 3,649 pieces of clothing to men, women and children.
“We consider the pursuit of the Associated Jewish Charities of Baltimore as an effort for the betterment of the Jewish community of Baltimore, clerically, religiously, spiritually as well as materially and practically,” wrote Rabbi Avraham Nacham Schwarz of Shomrei Mishmeres Hakodesh Congregation.
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