Sunday, February 12, 2006

Early Twentieth Century Kiruv

Contrary to popular belief, Orthodox outreach in the US did not begin in the 1950s or 60s. From Jeffrey S. Gurock, American Jewish Orthodoxy in Historical Perspective, p. 305:

In 1901, the Jewish Endeavor Society, founded by the early students and first rabbis produced by the pre-Solomon Schechter Jewish Theological Seminary, set up shop on the Lower East Side, in Harlem and in Philadelphia "to recall indifferent Jewry [those disaffected from the landsmanshaft synagogue] back to their ancestral faith." Some 10 years later, the Young Israel movement was inaugurated "to bring about a revival of Judaism among the thousands of young Jews and Jewesses whose Judaism is at present dormant." And in 1917-1918, the Institutional Syngogue and The Jewish Center Synagogue were established in Harlem and New York's West Side, respectively, to serve the acculturated resident one-step removed from the ghetto. Their New York-based institutions inspired comparable synagogue life-styles in cities and communities nationwide.

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