Page 74 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 12

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York, organized in 1870, included cooperation with the newly
organized American Jewish Publication Society. The
Jewish Mes-
of October 16, 1874, reports that the first entertainment
of the Y.M.H.A. of New York City over which Oscar S. Straus
presided included a lecture on “Books and Reading,” by A. L.
Sanger. The newspaper urged as the primary objective of the
organization “the cultivation of true literary and oratorial taste
by our young men.”
Eagerness for the literary enrichment of youth groups led
the American Hebrew Association, the first national body of
Y.M.H.A.’s and kindred societies, founded in 1880, to welcome lit-
erary associations as members. The
Association Bulletin
program material on literature, such as, “Hints to Library Com-
mittees” and “Books to Buy” by H. P. Rosenbach and “Chips
from a Talmudic Workshop” by Marcus Jastrow. The 1881 con-
vention of the American Hebrew Association considered a pro-
posal calling for the exclusion of organizations “not having a
permanent reading room and library.”
The first professional employee in the Young Men’s Hebrew
Associations was the librarian. The constitutions, adopted in 1874
and 1875, respectively, of the oldest still existing Y.M.H.A.’s
in New York and Philadelphia, provided for the employment of
librarians. These provisions were duly executed. When, in 1876,
the paid librarian of the Philadelphia “Y” required assistance,
young Cyrus Adler volunteered his services and catalogued Isaac
Leeser’s collection of books which had been deposited in the “Y .”
Among the aims of the St. Louis Y.M.H.A. embodied in its con-
stitution of 1880 was “the establishment of a reading-room and a
library.” When, in 1886, the Aguilar Free Public Library, which
later merged with the New York Public Library, was formed, its
nucleus was the library of the New York “Y,” which had over
7,000 volumes. A report issued in 1915 by the Council of Young
Men’s Hebrew and Kindred Associations, the third national or-
ganization, stated that libraries and reading rooms were main-
tained by 116 associations.
Encouragement to Jewish scholars and authors has been an
integral part of the program of Y.M.H.A.’s. Both the constitu-
tions of the New York and Philadelphia “Y’s” included provision
for “lectures on Jewish History and Literature.” During the
early years of these associations the following distinguished au-
thors were among the lecturers: Cyrus Adler, Emil G. Hirsch,
A. S. Isaacs, Marcus Jastrow, Alexander Kohut, Mayer Sulzber-
ger, Henrietta Szold and Simon Wolf. In 1884, Oscar S. Straus
spoke at the New York Y.M.H.A. on “The Origin of the Repub­