A Tradition of Giving

During the 1930s, as the Nazis took over Germany, Pittsburgh Jews mobilized to raise money to aid refugees, some of whom were brought to Pittsburgh and supported for a time by the Jewish community. The Friendship Club was founded in 1936 by German-Jewish refugees as a social and support group which welcomed those who continued to arrive. With support from the National Council of Jewish Women and the United Jewish Fund, the members of the Friendship Club helped each other adjust to life in America. Social events, lectures, religious services, and holiday celebrations were some of the club’s activities.

Members of the Friendship Club packing donated supplies for soldiers serving in World War II, 1942. (Corinne Azen Krause Photographs, Rauh Jewish Archives at the Heinz History Center)

The work of the Friendship Club is one of many stories in the history of Jewish philanthropy, volunteerism, and giving documented in a new online exhibit, A Tradition of Giving: The Story of Jewish Philanthropy in Pittsburgh created by the Rauh Jewish Archives at the Heinz History Center.

Members of the Friendship Club Ladies’ Auxiliary, 1960. (Ernest Nachman Photographs, Rauh Jewish Archives at the Heinz History Center)

Presented through an interactive timeline, the website draws from the photographs, archival documents, and oral history interviews that have been collected by the Rauh Jewish Archives since it was founded in 1989.   The Rauh Jewish Archives staff has surveyed the collections, identified and digitized archival material, edited oral history interviews, and written brief histories of the many organizations, institutions, and synagogues that help support the story of Jewish philanthropy in Pittsburgh.

Passover seder for members of the Friendship Club, 1952. (Corinne Azen Krause Photographs, Rauh Jewish Archives at the Heinz History Center)

Researchers, students, and scholars can also find links to other relevant resources, including the Pittsburgh Jewish Newspaper Project,  Pittsburgh and Beyond: The Experience of the Jewish Community (the National Council of Women, Pittsburgh Section, digitized oral history collection), and collections held at the University of Pittsburgh. Curriculum materials for teaching local Jewish history to students in Pittsburgh’s Jewish day schools will be available on the website soon.

A children’s Hanukkah celebration sponsored by the Friendship Club, c.1950.(Earnest Nachman Photographs, Rauh Jewish Archives at the Heinz History Center)

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