During her nearly lifelong career in social work, Julia Horn Hamburger focused on health and children. She founded and helped run a wide range of Jewish charities primarily serving the new Jewish immigrants.
Julia Horn was born to affluent German Jewish parents, Jacob Meyer and Hannah Horn, in New York on October 19, 1883, during the early years of the Eastern European Jewish immigration. Like many middle-class women in the Progressive Era, she was able to attain a high level of education, earning a B.A. in 1903. Also like so many women of her class, she turned to teaching. She was a New York public school teacher from 1903 to 1905, and in 1905 she became a teacher of “mental defectives.” Since teaching was a career for unmarried women, her paid career ended with her marriage to Gabriel Max Hamburger in 1910. The Hamburgers had two children, son Bernard and daughter Maxsina.
Even before her marriage, she became involved in volunteer social work as the vice president of the Maternity Aid Society from 1906 until 1910. Much of her early charity work focused on providing health and basic care, especially for children. Between 1916 and 1920, Hamburger was the secretary of the Hebrew National Orphan Home. She was the founder and, until her death, the president of the Children’s Welfare League, affiliated with the Educational Alliance, an umbrella organization on the Lower East Side funded and run by German Jews. Its purpose was to provide health, social, and educational services for Eastern European immigrants and to Americanize them. In 1921, Hamburger helped start the first free nursery school and kindergarten on the Lower East Side. She also helped found and was the vice president of the Jewish Theater for Children, affiliated with the Jewish Education Association.
Hamburger was deeply involved in Jewish women’s organizations. She founded and was for eighteen years the president of Ivriah, the women’s division of the Jewish Education Association. She also served as the director of the Federation of Jewish Women’s Organizations from 1933 to 1936.
With the rise of antisemitism in Europe, Hamburger joined the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Nazi League. After World War II, she devoted much of her time to speaking for charitable, civic, and religious organizations.
Julia Horn Hamburger died on September 16, 1961, in New York City.
AJYB 64 (1963): 494; Obituary. NYTimes, September 16, 1961, 19:4; WWIAJ (1938).
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Bender, Daniel. "Julia Horn Hamburger." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 27 February 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on October 18, 2019) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/hamburger-julia-horn>.