1879 – 1983
Florence Dolowitz was a founder and lifelong leader of the Women’s American Ort (Organization for Rehabilitation and Training). She was born in a small town in Lithuania sometime in 1879, the exact date unknown. She was a precocious student, and, to further her education, she was sent with a brother-in-law to live with a childless uncle and aunt in the United States. When the nine-year-old arrived in the country, her destination had been shifted to another uncle. After a few years, she moved to New York City to join her two older sisters who had also emigrated and were now living on Henry Street.
Florence continued her schooling while helping her sisters with their neckwear piecework in their home. As a teenager, she attended classes run by the Davidson Society at the Educational Alliance. Thomas Davidson was an ardent advocate of “breadwinners’ colleges,” where the participants were both students and teachers. In this idealistic atmosphere, Florence met and married Alexander Dolowitz, one of the “breadwinners” who taught mathematics. He became an accountant and grew increasingly concerned about discrimination against Jews in hiring and academic admission policies. His work in this area led to his participation on a committee that greeted the first World ORT delegation that came to the United States. Thus began the Dolowitzes’ interest in ORT.
Upon graduating from Normal College (now hunter college), Florence Dolowitz became a teacher. Her interest in Jewish matters led her to study at New York’s Jewish Theological Seminary. She and her husband contacted people from their Davidson Society days in their efforts to establish an American ORT and a separate Women’s American ORT.
The first organizing meeting of the Women’s American ORT was held at the home of Anna Boudin, a Davidson link. Dolowitz was instrumental in getting the fledgling organization started. ORT’s mission was to provide “help through work,” vocational and agricultural training for young people in institutional settings, in order to improve the economic structure of European Jewish communities. By June 1922, the American ORT was established, and by 1927, so was the Women’s American ORT.
Dolowitz quickly assumed a leadership position and helped the Women’s American ORT to receive national status. She was elected national president in 1932, serving until 1937. She also served as a board member of the World ORT Union, the American ORT Federation, and the Conference of Jewish Women’s Organizations. In 1974, she was elected honorary national president of the Women’s American ORT. She held the post until her death on July 26, 1983, in Brooklyn.
AJYB 85:414; Obituary. NYTimes, July 26, 1983; WWIAJ (1938).