Social Work

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Maida Herman Solomon

Professor of social economy at Simmons College School of Social Work, Maida Solomon was recognized as a pioneer in the field, along with a very small group of social work professionals who “invented” the field of psychiatric social work and oversaw its definition, its development of standards, and its integration with the other institutions of modern American medicine and education—in short, its professionalism.

Hannah Greenebaum Solomon

Hannah Greenebaum Solomon was the founder and first president of the National Council of Jewish Women. In creating the first national association for Jewish women, she redefined the roles they could play in American society.

Sociology in the United States

Sociological theory suggests that Jews are likely to be good sociologists, because people positioned on the margins of society (i.e., social outsiders) tend to be astute social observers (Park 1950). Since Jews historically have been the quintessential outsiders, many great sociologists have, in fact, been Jews—particularly Jewish men (e.g., Lewis Coser, Emile Durkheim, Erving Goffman, Irving Louis Horowitz, Herbert Marcuse, Karl Marx, Karl Mannheim, Robert K. Merton, and Georg Simmel), although some did not acknowledge their Jewishness.

Settlement Houses in the United States

Jewish women have played significant roles as benefactors, organizers, administrators, and participants in American settlement houses. Settlement houses, founded in the 1880s in impoverished urban neighborhoods, provided recreation, education, and medical and social service programs, primarily for immigrants.

Alice Lillie Seligsberg

Alice Lillie Seligsberg, an American Zionist, social worker, civic leader and Hadassah president, gave of herself to the orphaned and needy of her people, and influenced thousands of Jewish girls and women for more than a generation.

Alice Salomon

Alice Salomon, educator, feminist, economist and international activist, was one of the founding mothers of professional social work and particularly social work education. She directed the first full-time course of social work in her native city, Berlin, initiated and chaired the national conference of schools of social work in Germany, and altogether was among those who developed one of the earliest continuing education programs.

Lydia Rapoport

Lydia Rapoport was a social worker, professor, caseworker, and advocate of social change.

Cecilia Razovsky

Cecilia Razovsky was a remarkably active woman who spent her life striving to assist immigrants in adapting to life in the United States and other countries.

Project Kesher

Project Kesher is a feminist Jewish organization empowering women in the Independent States of the former Soviet Union (FSU) to build a society in which inclusive Jewish life can flourish, and where women are the instruments of peaceful change.

Justine Wise Polier

Justine Wise Polier espoused an activist concept of the law and a rehabilitative rather than a punitive model of judicial process, she pioneered the establishment of mental health, educational, and other rehabilitative services for troubled children. She also took a leading role in opposing racial and religious discrimination in public and private facilities.

Philanthropy in the United States

Jewish law and custom, secular culture, and economic and social roles have shaped Jewish women’s involvement in philanthropic activities. Although the term is often associated with the beneficence of the wealthy, philanthropy refers to a broad range of activities—giving time as well as giving money—that are intended to enhance the quality of life in a community or a society.

Bertha Pappenheim

Bertha Pappenheim founded the Jewish feminist movement in 1904 and led it for twenty years, remaining on its board of directors until her death in 1936. She introduced German-Jewish women to beliefs and issues raised by feminism. She spoke openly of Jewish unwed mothers, illegitimate children and prostitutes, and she encouraged Jewish women to demand political, economic and social rights as well as commensurate responsibilities.

Orphanages in the United States

Significant numbers of American Jews spent major portions of their childhoods in Jewish orphanages. Moreover, the institutions’ influence reached beyond the youngsters themselves to their parents and relatives, as well as to staff members and those who supported the institutions financially and otherwise.

National Council of Jewish Women

When the National Council of Jewish Women was founded in 1893, it was the first national organization in history to unite Jewish women to promote the Jewish religion. That its commitment to preserve Jewish heritage in a quickly modernizing America would be fraught with contradictions was not readily apparent in the optimistic surroundings of the World Parliament of Religions, convened as part of the Chicago World Exposition.

National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods

In 1913, the women of Reform Judaism, who were organized in independent, local synagogue sisterhoods founded in the 1890s and 1900s, united to create a national organization of women dedicated to religion. Reform Jewish women joined the American women of the era who established a host of voluntary associations to further various social and communal agendas.

Ruth Messinger

In 1990 Messinger became Manhattan borough president. She said of herself, “I am a New Yorker born and bred. I walk fast, talk fast, think fast and, most importantly, stand up fast when the best interests of my city are being sold down the river.” Elements of this self-description were evident in her advocacy of many liberal causes and her concerns for diverse groups in the community.

Alice Davis Menken

Alice Davis Menken stood at the forefront of what her New York Times obituary calls “the evolution of penology from an attitude of sentimentality and punishment to the broader conception of mercy and rehabilitation.” Her many published works argued that therapy, not punishment, was the most effective treatment for young offenders.

Florence Zacks Melton

Philanthropist and visionary innovator, a lay leader for over fifty years, Florence Zacks Melton has helped build institutions that have improved the quality and broadened the scope of Jewish education throughout North America.

Minnie Low

Known as the “Jane Addams of the Jews,” Minnie Low was a leader in the Jewish social service community. Born in New York City, on November 9, 1867, Low was the second of six children. When she was ten, Low’s family moved to Chicago, where she completed grammar school. Unfortunately, she was forced to leave South Division High School during her first year due to poor health.

Holocaust Survivors: Rescue and Resettlement in the United States

They had made it through World War II and now they were coming to America, 140,000 strong. The women, along with the men, had survived the rigors of the ghettos, the horrors of the concentration camps, the final agony of the death marches. They had been in hiding, or fighting with the partisans. They had escaped to the Soviet Union, some to Shanghai. And even after the war, they had been penned into displaced persons camps, in a holding pattern, waiting for a place to live, determined to get out of Europe. Now America was finally opening its doors, the doors that had been so tightly guarded during the war and, before, in the 1930s. And the American Jewish community was about to shoulder a responsibility that would sorely test its resources, commitment, and understanding.

Sidonie Wronsky

Siddy Wronsky is among the pioneers of professional social work and one of the early social work educators. In spite of her remarkable accomplishments and contributions, particularly in the area of the developing social case work as one of the traditional practice methods, she has not received as much publicity as some others in similar roles. She began her career in Germany and was one of the founders of social work education in Palestine.

Pearl Willen

Pearl Willen was a social and human welfare activist and communal leader with a love for Jewish heritage. She had a lifelong record of service for such causes as civil rights, women’s rights, and the rights of workers.

Bessie Bloom Wessel

Bessie Bloom Wessel was unique in her contributions to life in New England, both as an active citizen and as a scholar. A charter member of Temple Beth-el of New London, Connecticut, Wessel served on many important committees and published numerous studies of ethnic issues in the region.

Shoshana Werner

Shoshana Warner was appointed as the second commanding officer of the Women’s Corps (see “CHEN:” Women’s Corps of the Israel Defense Forces) in 1949. In 1942, after some years of membership in the Haganah, she was among the first sixty-six women who volunteered for the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) of the British Army.

Helen Weil

These words, written by Helen Weil, illuminate her sensitivity and commitment to older people that she developed during a long and active career in gerontology and social services.

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