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Volunteers

Esther Loeb Kohn

“The great need today is for social inventions for the prevention of destitution and illness.” This statement, made in 1938, illustrates two of the primary interests of Esther Loeb Kohn’s life—social reform and medical social work. A thirty-year resident of Hull House, the famous Chicago social settlement founded by Jane Addams, Kohn was also an active volunteer and financial supporter of Jewish charitable organizations in Chicago.

Carol Weiss King

Carol Weiss King was one of the outstanding practitioners of immigration law during the period bounded by the Palmer Raids and the McCarthy era. In her thirty-year career, she represented hundreds of foreign-born radicals threatened with deportation in administrative proceedings in the lower courts and in the Supreme Court.

Juedischer Frauenbund (The League of Jewish Women)

The League of Jewish Women (Jüdischer Frauenbund, or JFB) founded in 1904 by Bertha Pappenheim, attracted a large following. Absorbing some traditional Jewish women’s charities and building on programs that Jewish women’s groups had pioneered, the JFB offered a feminist analysis and approach to social welfare.

Geri M. Joseph

Geri M. Joseph, a pioneer in the acceptance of women in journalism and politics, was a prize-winning newspaper reporter in an era when women were typically assigned to the society pages. She was U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands during the Carter administration, and she was the first woman to be elected to several business boards in Minnesota.

Jewish Museums in the United States

Jewish women play prominent roles as founders, directors, curators, artists, and patrons of Jewish museums in the United States. While women have rarely played an exclusive role in the creation of either small community or larger museums, their work as creators and developers of these repositories is critical.

Florence Heller

Florence Grunsfeld Heller, who became a social worker, volunteer leader in Chicago, and benefactor of Brandeis University, was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on March 2, 1897, the daughter of Ivan and Hannah (Nusbaum) Grunsfeld and the granddaughter of Albert and Heldegarde (David) Grunsfeld. Her parents and grandparents were German immigrants who came to the United States in 1873, settling in the territory of New Mexico. Her father was a wholesale merchant. Her initial years of schooling in Albuquerque were followed by years at Bradford Academy in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Faulkner School for Girls in Chicago, Illinois. In Chicago, at age sixteen or seventeen, Florence Grunsfeld lived with her maternal uncle, Julius Rosenwald—the founder of Sears Roebuck and Company—and his wife. Florence Heller’s son Peter credits the Rosenwalds with instilling in her a strong devotion and sense of obligation to society.

Hadassah: Yishuv to the Present Day

Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America (HWZOA) (hereafter: Hadassah) has a lengthy history of activity in the [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:432]Yishuv[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] and Israel, going back to 1913, about a year after it was founded in New York, and continuing to this day, with the exception of a short period during World War I. This activity, outstanding in its scope, continuity, stability and diversity, encompasses efforts in the sphere of health and medical services, and in the welfare of children and youth through support of Youth [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:293]Aliyah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary], vocational education, vocational training and more.

Bracha Habas

Editor, writer and one of the first few women journalists in [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:309]Erez Israel[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary], Bracha Habas was born in Alytus, a town in the district of Vilna (Lithuania) on January 20, 1900, to a wealthy and cultured family of merchants who were actively involved in communal life. (The family name is the acronym of Hakham Binyamin Sefardi or Hakham Beit Sefer [School].) Her grandfather, Rabbi Simha Zissel, the scion of a rabbinic family in Vilna (that of the Yesod, Yehudah ben Eliezer; Yesod is an acronym for Yehudah safra ve-[jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:307]dayyan[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary], “Yehudah scribe and judge,” d. 1762), was the first member of the family to turn to trade, opening a large general store that became a center of life in the township. On the other hand, her father, Rabbi Israel, successfully combined business with study: ordained in the yeshivas of Volozhin and Slobodka, he turned to business as a leather merchant only after marriage; nevertheless he continued to teach and to lecture on [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:424]Torah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary]-related subjects and, on joining the [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:330]Hibbat Zion[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] (Lovers of Zion) movement, was extremely active in converting people to the Zionist ideal and the study of Hebrew. He established a branch of Safah Berurah (“Plain Language,” a society founded in Jerusalem in 1889) in his hometown, was among the founders of the [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:363]Mizrahi[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] movement in 1902 and, once in Erez Israel, edited a non-partisan religious Zionist journal, Ha-Yesod (1931). Habas’s mother, Nehama Devorah, daughter of Rabbi Nahman Schlesinger (a descendant of Rabbi Eliyahu, the Vilna [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:311]Gaon[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary], 1720–1797), was also highly educated. Her father taught her Bible and she was fluent in both spoken and written Hebrew (an exceptional phenomenon among women born in the 1870s).

Rivka Guber

Rivka Guber (née Bumaghina) was born in Novo-Vitebsk in the Ukraine and went to high school in Yekaterinoslav (Dnipropetrovsk) intending to continue her studies at university. The outbreak of the revolution disrupted her plans and forced her to return to Novo-Vitebsk where she worked as a teacher. In 1920 she married Mordecai Guber, who was born in 1893 in the town of Gorodik near Bialystok. They immigrated to Palestine in 1925. The couple settled in Rehovot, where Mordecai taught Hebrew. They were among the founders of Kefar Bilu (1933), later leaving to join Kefar Warburg, where they raised their two gifted sons, Ephraim (b. 1927) and Zvi (b. 1931).

Rose Gruening

Known during her lifetime as the “Angel of Grand Street,” Rose Gruening was head worker and founder of the Grand Street Settlement in New York City. Although Gruening never liked this title, it attests to her significance in the eyes of many people. Like Jane Addams, Lillian Wald, and other women settlement workers of the early twentieth century, Gruening helped to create a social “safety net” through voluntary civic activism, before the concept of public responsibility for poor and disadvantaged Americans was enacted by the U.S. Government. Once the Depression and the New Deal transformed the workings of social welfare in the United States, the social service concept as practiced by Gruening and her contemporaries changed dramatically. Before it did so, however, thousands of immigrant families from the Lower East Side of New York experienced Gruening’s settlement house activism in personal and profound ways.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Volunteers." (Viewed on March 18, 2019) <https://jwa.org/topics/volunteers>.

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