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Philanthropy

Etta Wedell Mastbaum

Etta Wedell Mastbaum was the scion of a prominent nineteenth- and twentieth-century Philadelphia family. A philanthropist, department store executive, art collector, and director of a national chain of motion picture theaters, Mastbaum donated a collection of Rodin sculptures and ephemera to the city of Philadelphia.

Minnie Dessau Louis

Minnie Dessau Louis was one of the most active and important Jewish communal workers on the American scene from the 1880s through the early 1900s. Born in Philadelphia on June 21, 1841, the second daughter of Fannie (Zachariah) and Abraham Dessau, Minnie moved to Georgia with her family when she was four months old. She returned north to attend Brooklyn’s Packer Collegiate Institute in 1857 and 1858, and in 1866 married businessman Adolph H. Louis.

Fannie Eller Lorber

Fannie Eller Lorber was Denver’s twentieth-century “friend of children.” The Colorado philanthropist worked on behalf of Jewish children suffering from the devastating effects of lung disease, believing that “the cause of a child is the cause of humanity.” Lorber epitomized the volunteer spirit of urban Jewish women in the American West, where established institutions for the poor and infirm were scarce. She founded the Denver Jewish Sheltering Home for the children of tuberculosis patients in 1907, and remained its president and chief fund-raiser for over fifty years. Later renamed the National Home for Jewish Children (NHJC), the institution merged with the National Jewish Hospital in 1978, and it remains a world-class medical and educational facility. Thousands of the NHJC’s “alumni” are the living legacy of Fannie Lorber and Jewish female philanthropy during the Progressive Era.

Margaret Seligman Lewisohn

Margaret Seligman Lewisohn—education advocate, philanthropist, art collector, and college trustee—was born in New York City on February 14, 1895. She was the daughter of Isaac Newton and Greta (Loeb) Seligman. Lewisohn came from a prominent German Jewish family. Her father headed J. & W. Seligman, the bank that served as the fiscal agent for the Union during the Civil War, and her mother’s father founded the firm of Kuhn, Loeb and Company.

Irene Lewisohn

Irene Lewisohn was a German Jewish philanthropist whose devotion to the arts led to the formation of two important New York City cultural institutions, the Neighborhood Playhouse and the Museum of Costume Art (now part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Her involvement in these and other social and philanthropic activities make her an important figure in New York’s cultural history.

Adele Rosenwald Levy

Adele Rosenwald Levy used her affluence to promote public-spirited philanthropy and Jewish causes. Active in thirty-five charitable, artistic, and community organizations, Levy never failed her father’s principle that those of good fortune should assume “the obligations that come with wealth.”

Jennie Davidson Levitt

Jennie Davidson Levitt represented the “finest synthesis of Americanism and Judaism,” according to the leaders of the Minneapolis Jewish National Fund at a 1968 dinner in her honor. Deeply aware of her responsibilities as a financially secure Jewish woman, Levitt labored to improve social conditions for diverse groups in the United States and abroad. Her broad approach to social reform, and the particular issues that she addressed, paralleled the changing concerns of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), her most beloved organization for more than fifty years.

Edith Altschul Lehman

Although she preferred to be addressed as Mrs. Herbert H. Lehman, and often insisted that marriage was her career and family was the greatest interest in her life, Edith Altschul Lehman’s public persona reflected her commitment to social causes. Known to many only as the cultured wife of one of New York’s most popular governors and senators, she was in her own right a passionate social activist and philanthropist, although much of her philanthropy was not made public.

Adele Lewisohn Lehman

Adele Lehman, a New York City philanthropist, was not only a substantial donor and fund-raiser for a number of organizations and causes, but was also an administrator and served as an officer or board member for many agencies. Although Lehman is primarily recognized as honorary chairperson for the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, most of her volunteer work centered around secular organizations. She was a board member of the New York Service for the Orthopedically Handicapped and founder and board member of the Arthur Lehman Counseling Service.

Tillie Leblang

Tillie LeBlang is known as a businesswoman, philanthropist, and mother. When her husband, Joseph, died in 1931, she took control of a family business valued at $12 million to $15 million. During their thirty years of marriage, the LeBlangs built a small retail cigar shop into a cultural empire that operated three ticket agencies and controlled five theaters, three in New York City and two in Newark, New Jersey. LeBlang worked with her husband while raising three daughters. She continued to manage the business until just a few months before she died, with the help of her second husband, William Jasie, who had been the LeBlangs’ business lawyer.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Philanthropy." (Viewed on August 30, 2015) <http://jwa.org/topics/philanthropy>.

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