Page 124 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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early publications refer to such articles as “Chips from a Talmudic
Workshop” by Marcus Jastrow, and “Hints to Library Com-
mittees.” Virtually every YMHA had its own library and read-
ing room. The librarian was the first professional employee in
many Ys. Engagement of a librarian was specifically provided
for in the first constitutions of the two oldest existing YMHAs,
New York (1874) and Philadelphia (1875). When the Philadel-
phia Y’s librarian called for assistance, the young Cyrus Adler,
later to be the first president of JWB, volunteered his help and
catalogued Isaac Leeser’s library which had been deposited in
the Y. The Aguilar Branch of the New York Public Library was
originally established in 1886 by the 92nd St. YM 8c YWHA and
by the Educational Alliance with a representative collection of
Judaica.
Lectures on Jewish history and literature were provided for
in the constitutions of the Philadelphia and New York YMHAs
in the 1870s. Among the lecturers were Cyrus Adler, Abram S.
Isaacs, Marcus Jastrow, Alexander Kohut, Emil G. Hirsch, Simon
Wolf, Henrietta Szold and Mayer Sulzberger. Essay and oratorial
contests on Jewish themes were utilized to encourage cultural
creativity. Among the early prize-winners in such YMHA con-
tests were Emma Lazarus and Solomon Solis-Cohen.
To meet the Jewish cultural needs of the growing numbers
of YMHAs in the 1880s, the American Hebrew Association
established a national literary bureau. Jewish courses and speak-
ers on Jewish themes were provided through this bureau. The
United Young Men’s Hebrew Association, founded in 1890, in-
eluded (as one of its six objectives) a lecture bureau for its
affiliated Ys.
Deeply committed Jewish leaders who saw in the early YM-
YWHAs an indigenous American institution for spreading Jew-
ish culture among American Jewish youth brought into being
in 1913 the first permanent national association of Ys. This was
the Council of Young Men’s Hebrew and Kindred Associations,
the immediate predecessor of JWB.
It was Jacob H. Schiff who in 1907 proposed to the president
of the New York YMHA the need for “a national league of
YMHAs” to “promote Jewish life among the younger generation
of American Israelites.” The Y’s president was then Felix M.
Warburg, Schiff’s son-in-law, who convened an impressive array
of Jewish leaders in 1912. Among them were Dr. Cyrus Adler,
Judge Julian W. Mack, Louis Marshall, Prof. Morris Loeb, Dr.
Solomon Schechter and Dr. Judah L. Magnes. This group called
the meeting out of which emerged the Council of Young Men’s
Hebrew and Kindred Associations (CYMHKA).