Children’s homes and social history

Children’s homes and social history

Lyn Slome, director of Library and Archives at the Center for Jewish History in New York and curator of "Cradled in Judea," told The Jewish Standard that the center has the administrative records for six Jewish orphanages, and materials from an additional three. "We like to exhibit from our own collections," she said, noting that not only do these materials have strong visual appeal, but displaying them serves to further additional research.

The material on the orphanages made for a particularly interesting story, she said, touching on a wide range of social issues, from social welfare and child care to immigration and changes in social status.

But Slome wanted the exhibit to be "about the children," she said, and she wanted it to be "personal, but not mawkish."

Since the Pride was the last orphanage founded between 1860 and 1960 and would therefore have the youngest — and probably the most accessible — alumni, it was decided to focus on this group, together with children from Brooklyn’s Hebrew Orphan Asylum.

Slome interviewed Gould and Fineberg extensively, making use of their reminiscences and their photographs. She wanted the exhibit to "tell what happened to them" and to "show the evolution of the children’s homes though the orphans’ eyes."

Slome noted that some orphans found the experience more difficult than others, explaining that it was not only a matter of different temperaments but also of age and family circumstances, and whether the child’s outlook had already been shaped by the time he or she entered the orphanage.

Gould and Fineberg came to the Pride as the philosophy surrounding children’s homes was becoming "more progressive," she said, noting that New York’s old German-Jewish establishment was starting to give over the reins to American-born leadership, who believed in providing the children with clubs, sports, and "voices of their own."

The early ‘0th century saw the beginning of a movement in which children were housed in smaller groups and offered emotional and psychological help as well as food and clothing, she said.

The exhibit has generated "a huge outpouring of interest and visitors," said Slome. The center is at 15 West 16th St., between Fifth and Sixth avenues in New York City. For additional information, call (‘1’)’94-8301.

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