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Kaufman’s Brooklyn: Eight photos of ‘Public service organizations: special focus’

September 4, 2020 Phil Kaufman
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My father, Irving Kaufman (1910 – 1982), was a professional photographer who started in Brooklyn in the mid 1930s working for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. He captured thousands of images of Brooklyn through the 1950s. I have recently digitized a great many of them. My father’s profile can be found here.

This week’s theme:

This week’s photos display activities of service organizations that focused on specific constituencies and their unique needs. The organizations were privately funded and run, with minimal government support.

Again, I’m highlighting four organizations. The first is the Industrial Home for the Blind (IHB), an independent (later incorporated) organization that provided a full range of services to people who were blind or deaf-blind.

Working with the IHB, for a time in the mid- and late 1930s, was the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor (AICP). The AICP supported the work of other charitable organizations in a variety of ways. Their work with the Home for the Blind in this period included help selling products and adding to the products available in special fundraising activities.

The joint efforts of these two groups were quite extensive. I’ll be featuring them for the first three days this week. On Thursday and Friday I’ll add a few images from two other groups: the Menorah Home for the Aged and the Brooklyn Hebrew Society of the Deaf. Rather than a different organization each day, I’ll show a different topic each day: products, skills, sales, activities and support.

Today’s photos:

We’ll finish the week with a few photos showing the care and support provided by these organizations. The “care” is just a couple of pictures to show the Menorah Home’s Health Care facility. The “support” has a broader scope. First, for organizations like these, having sufficient building space is essential. And, as I’ve mentioned and illustrated many times, people giving their time, talent and money are indispensable ingredients for success. I’ll illustrate that yet again, with a couple of previously unrecognized charitable organizations.

Taking care of the basics: Menorah Home in-house health care, 1942

Health care in a home for the aged is, of course, a prime concern. But most such facilities – except for nursing homes with residents needing continuous medical attention – only to take care of basic needs. Here we see that residents received weight and blood pressure checks, chest X-rays (TB was still a serious threat, potentially disastrous in a residence like this) and no doubt many other check-ups.


Buildings are basic too: Homes for Menorah, AICP and “Federation Settlement”

Unfortunately, I don’t have dates or locations for any of these. The Menorah Home photo was most likely from 1942, since that’s when most of its interior pictures were dated. It looks big enough to house its many needs – common rooms, a kitchen, a health center, offices and, of course, bedrooms. We can’t tell the overall size of the other two buildings, but neither required living space.

The third photo shows a building identified as “Federation Settlement.” This is a new one to us. “Federation” refers to the Federation of Jewish Charities (later changed to Jewish Philanthropies), an umbrella organization that has grown over the decades to encompass many and varied Jewish services. “Settlement” refers to settlement houses that began in urban centers in the late 19th century, reaching their peak in the early 20th century, and continuing well into the mid-20th century.

Settlement houses focused on providing services most needed by the millions of immigrants who came to the United States in the decades preceding the 1920s. In later years, even if language classes and adjustment to a new culture were no longer paramount, settlement houses still provided recreation, education, and medical and social service programs. I don’t know what specific services or programs this “settlement” had, except for what I can read on the sign-board: “Roof Garden … July 5, August 23 … Music Program.”


Speaking of Federation: Fashion show, January 30, 1936

Fundraising events took as many forms as imagination and interest allowed. This photo is labeled “Junior Federation fashion show.” “Junior” refers to the younger female members of the supporters and volunteers for the Federation of Jewish Charities. The chair, co-chair and secretary of the Junior Federation are admiring the model, who is wearing a two-piece bathing outfit. This mid-winter attraction for the young women probably helped generate purchases or donations.

(By the way: this show was held in the Guild Auditorium of what was the Brooklyn Daily Eagle building at the time, located at Johnson and Adams streets.)


Jewish Welfare Board: Volunteers yet again, January 16, 1941

The Jewish Welfare Board was another umbrella organization, primarily focused on educational and anti-poverty activities. (It did not expand and last like the “Fed” did.)  Again, I have only a few pictures, but this one shows what I’m always impressed by:  another room full of volunteers, ready to give something of value to help others.


End with a banquet: Black tie not optional, April 1938

Other photos show at least 25 tables of eight. That makes at least 200 guests, plus those at the dais shown here. The evening generated a tidy sum for the Williamsburg Young Men’s and Women’s Hebrew Association.

An index of Kaufman’s Brooklyn posts may be found here.

Irving Kaufman’s profile may be found here.

I invite you to submit comments, memories, images of Brooklyn, and especially any additional background information you can supply about the photos posted here to [email protected]. I’d also be glad to supply information about buying prints of any of the images seen here. Many of my father’s images are also available for viewing and purchase at All prints purchased will be the product of professional scanning and editing.

Weekly collection 18: Photos of ‘Public service organizations: special focus’

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