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.
Adele Lewisohn Lehman was born in New York on May 17, 1882, to Adolph and Emma (Cahn) Lewisohn. Her father was also active in charitable work and was a leader in prison reform. Adele was educated at the Anne Brown School and attended Barnard College. On November 25, 1901, she married Arthur Lehman, son of Mayer and Babette (Newgass) Lehman. Arthur Lehman had two brothers, Herbert H. Lehman, former governor and senator of New York, and Irving Lehman, former judge of the state court of appeals. A senior member of the investment banking firm Lehman Brothers, Arthur Lehman was also a philanthropist and founded the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies. He died in 1936.
Adele and Arthur Lehman had three daughters, Dorothy Lehman Bernhard, Frances Lehman Loeb, and Helen Lehman Buttenwieser. As her children grew older, Lehman devoted an increasing amount of time to volunteer work and was particularly involved in the Service for the Orthopedically Handicapped. She also served as the president of the East Side Free School for Crippled Children (P.S. 157, Manhattan) and was a volunteer for the Purple Box, an outlet for the sale of goods made by disabled women. Lehman was director of the Adoption Bureau and a board member of the New York Board of Charities, as well as a member of the Crusade for Children, which was part of the Child Welfare League of America. In the 1940s, Lehman was active in the League of Women Voters and served as vice president until 1945.
Some of Lehman’s volunteer work was focused around specifically Jewish causes. She was a board member of the Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society and was active in the Federation for Support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies. Lehman was also a member of the women’s auxiliary at her synagogue, Temple Emanu-El of New York City.
Lehman was devoted to both civic and cultural causes, and was elected to the board of directors for the Philharmonic Symphony Society of New York in 1947. In 1957, she made a gift to Barnard College that established Adele Lehman Hall, which currently houses Barnard’s Wollman Library. Until approximately the end of World War I, she was also a championship tennis player and won thirty-eight competitions.
Adele Lehman died on August 11, 1965, in her home in Purchase, New York, of a cerebral hemorrhage. Her involvement in charitable activities and welfare work, both with secular and Jewish organizations, makes her a significant figure in the history of New York City philanthropy.
AJYB 67 (1966): 539; DAB 7; Obituary. NYTimes, August 12, 1965, 27:1; WWIAJ (1938).
How to cite this page
Sokol, Laurie. "Adele Lewisohn Lehman." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 27 February 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 24, 2019) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/lehman-adele-lewisohn>.