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Biennial session of the National Conference of Jewish Charities in ..., Volume 1 online

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fold — waste in money, misdirection of energy, deterioration of
the communal spirit!

First, from the monetary point of view, and in the matter of
expenditure; the printing, addressing and mailing of costly an-
nual reports and of circulars are items which represent no mean
amount, which could be cut down to one-third if competition for
members had not introduced trade methods of advertising. In
the collection of membership dues, an average expense of two
to three per cent is probably involved, the greater part of which

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might be saved. On the income side, we find no society, how-
ever active, able to canvass the field of possible contributions
thoroughly, and it is not too much to say that the solicitor for
membership on behalf of one society spoils the field for two
others. Experiments like those here in Chicago and Cincinnati,
among the Jews, and in so many cities among the general public,
have shown the force of a thoroughly organized, concerted effort
at raising funds, in place of spasmodic attempts on this behalf
and that behalf. I am convinced that, in New York, many do
not give because they have not been asked, man}'^ who know
their duty shirk it by alleging gifts elsewhere, but very many
withhold funds because they do not realize how little they are

In 1897, ^t a^ informal meeting of gentlemen interested in
Jewish philanthropy, I read the results of an investigation made
by a small committee of enthusiasts on confederation. Perhaps
some of the details may interest you here, though they be three
years old. We had collated the membership lists of the twelve
largest Jewish institutions of New York, all that received at
least $10,000 yearly from these voluntary contributions: Four
hospitals, two orphan asylums, one home for the aged, four edu-
cational institutions and the United Hebrew Charities. In these
lists appeared 20,704 subscriptions made by 10,282 contributors,
and' that might fairly represent the number of Jews who interested
themselves in the truly communal charities. I believe the total
amount of the direct contribution did not exceed $350,000, of
which two-thirds, say $230,000, were contributed by 209 indi-
viduals, leaving the other $120,000 to the credit of ten thousand
supporters, of whom over six thousand gave to but one, and
fifteen hundred to but two institutions apiece. It rather startled
us to find that the Jewish community in New York contained
less than 3,000 persons who contributed more than the cost of
100 good cigars, or an evening at the opera, to our great benevo-
lent institutions; but those were the facts. Some gentlemen
doubted the accuracy of the canvass and were invited to inspect
their own records in our card catalogue the next morning. They
did so and several professed to be surprised and ashamed at the
smallness of their contributions, which they here saw systematic-
ally summed up for the first time.

Now, let me not impugn the generosity of my co-religionists in
New York; many give liberally, and no more than rightly, for

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unsectarian objects; many give to the smaller societies, not
studied in our investigation, as of small statistical value; few, I
think, of the well-to-do do much private charity work except
among relatives, or in the shape of indiscriminate alms in petty
amounts. But they think they are giving a great deal, because
they buy many charity tickets for concerts, receptions, balls and
attend charity fairs. Every cent paid for these tickets, the hire
of carriages, dresses for wives and daughters, the outlay for ex-
traordinarily bad suppers — perhaps even the consequent doctor* s
bill — is enthusiastically registered under the head of charity;
the institution probably realizes two-thirds of the proceeds of
the tickets. Some years ago, I analyzed the results of a * 'suc-
cessful" charity entertainment, at which $21,000 were realized
from the sale of tickets, etc. I found that about $10,000 had l)een
paid by the directors themselves for boxes; the expenses were
$8,000; so that $3,000 w^as actually contributed by the general
public to the coffers of the very worthy charity. These directors
put $10,000, which they could have afforded to donate directly,
as a good example for others to follow, into advertising their
ball, and possibly themselves a little, and realized $3,000. Mean-
while Jthey spent on performance, printing, decorating, etc.,
$8,000 of what might have gone directly to the support of sister
institutions. Can trade competition go farther ?

Secondly: As to misdirected energy. It is a notorious fact
that a large part of the attention of managers, both at meetings
and at other times, is devoted to the raising of money. The
efi&ciency of directors is frequently judged by their ability to
bring in new members. I have heard gentlemen praised for
resigning their seats in a board because they had exhausted their
circle of acquaintances, and that they wished to make way for
fresh blood. Is it not a confession that such members were of no
value in the management of the institution, if their familiarity
with its needs and methods counts for naught against the money-
getting capacity of a new man ? Far be it from me to criticize
the devotion of this class of workers, their abilities or their prin-
ciples. But their place is not upon the directorate of the indi-
vidual institution, their ability as canvassers should not be con-
fined to the aid of one society, but should extend its benefits to
all. They should act as the intermediaries of philanthropy by
urging on the one hand greater liberality on the part of the indi-

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vidual, and choosing for him, on the other, the best channels for
the exercise of his benevolence.

The attention given at board meetings to questions of ways
and means paralyzes the activity of the management proper; the
places on the board for non-canvassing members are so few that
but a handful can find time to attend to committee work, and
grave questions of internal policy must be decided in a few min-
utes upon the report of one or two members, who alone have any
familiarity with the conditions. But all this is internal and per-
sonal. In the mutual rivalry for members, institutions disregard
each other's policies, tread upon each other's grounds; there is a
constant overlapping of work, through lack of systematic co-
operation, or because one institution refuses to surrender to
another, work which the second is better equipped to accomplish.
At times, again, necessary but distasteful work is not done be-
cause no existing society is willing to take up the burden. Use-
ful societies languish for lack of proper support; useless ones are
founded, and if a voice is raised in opposition by some charity
worker best qualified to judge of the circumstances, he is accused
of jealousy, of spite, of fearing competition.

Deterioration of the communal spirit of philanthropy is the
worst feature attendant upon the indi\ddualization of charities.
We are often told that selfish motives govern the majority of the
managers, as well as of the supporters of our institution; that
vanity is the prime mover rather than altruism. I, for one, shall
never believe this to be true of the majority, while I admit that
some selfish motive can be found for every act; for the heroism of
the life-saver and the stern self-sacrifice of the soldier. But if
the spirit of vanity and self-advertisement be rampant in our
charity work, shall we seek to medicate the sick and up-
lift the poor while simultaneously debasing ourselves? Must
we foster this egotism, seeking to liave the end justify the
means? I am asked to give to A's pet institution, and do not re-
fuse for fear of offending him, though I am ignorant of its meth-
ods and objects; perhaps I am giving to him money that I had
intended to go where my sympathies were more directly assured.
I write the same against my charity account: was I not mistaken
in entering it elsewhere than under business or social expenses ?
B refuses a subscription to a hospital, because its president buys
of B's competitors. C withdraws his subscription from an insti-
tution, one of whose directors has criticized some policy of C's

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asylum. Charity trustees behave as if they were trustees of a
bank, and look upon a neighboring charity as a business rival;
the}'^ fail to see that in a bank the directors guard the money of
their depositors; in a charity the donors have parted with their
money forever, and their vested rights are mere fiction, as com-
pared with the rights of the beneficiaries.

I dare not dwell upon the harmful effects of the charity en-
tertainments: it would carry me too far. I have already com-
mented upon their wasteful methods. But if you will reflect
upon the extravagance and vanities of the public balls; the chaf-
fering and the law-breaking of the bazaars, the unjust taxing of
professional entertainers, the improprieties of public amateur per-
formances, you will agree with me that other things than mone3%
labor and time are sacrificed on the altar of charity. We are
told that people will not give, unless they receive something in
return; that is a slander. There are many who know the truth,
and the rest should be educated to see it. How many who pur-
chase tickets for one of these entertainments know beforehand
what they are to be shown ? How many come to enjoy the at-
traction for its own sake? On the score of giving the money's
worth, the charity entertainment is a self-confessed fraud; on the
score of ethics, it debases one of the noblest of man's impulses in
its participants. Do not bribe a man with a piece of cake to cast
his bread upon the waters.

Community of spirit and purpose is a powerful uplifter of the
individual; at present the variety and multiplicity of interests in
a large city distracts the attention of men from the nobility of
the cause of charity as a whole; they only see the failings and ad-
vantages of these various single societies. Fear of becoming in-
volved in bickerings, inability to weigh the relative advantages,
indolence in investigating for themselves, has caused many to
hold aloof, who would find satisfaction and self-improvement in
altruistic deeds. Put a common object before all, appeal in the
name of the general good, rather than in that of some little comer
of benevolence, and you will touch many who are now unre-

By neglecting this larger aspect, by unduly fostering a spirit
of rivalry and emulation, we may stimulate individual partici-
pants of a charitable enterprise to greater monetary activity.
But we miss an opportunity for educating ourselves and others to
a larger view of true philanthropy. By assimilating the meth-

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ods of charity to those of commerce, we incur the danger that the
next generation may confound the two, and seek that alone which
promises the greatest personal profit. As a remedy for the evils,
material and moral, which I have sought to recall to you, two
methods would present themselves: consolidation or federation of
the existing Jewish charitable societies in a single city. Both
plans have their advocates, and both are being tried more or less
thoroughly, here and elsewhere. While I consider complete con-
solidation preferable to complete individualization, it appears to
me that difficulties are introduced that are likely to imperil its

From the purely administrative view, canvassing of contri-
butions, collecting dues, granting outdoor relief , etc., nothing is
to be said against consolidation. The very incomplete, and in
some respects anomalous consolidation under the name of the
United Hebrew Charities, has taught New Yorkers what a vast
stride can be made in improving the treatment of poverty, by
consolidating the various channels for its alleviation under one
systematic management. In Chicago and Cincinnati, the idea of
simplifying the sj^stem of contributions has been welcomed en-
thusiastically and liberally. But, it seems to me that consolida-
tion goes too far, if it seeks to bring dissimilar societies into a
uniform body.

First, from the point of feasibility, it seems unlikely that in-
stitutions having large vested interests in buildings or endow-
ments should feel willing to throw them into a common pool —
even if there should be no legal difficulties in the way. Secondly,
in the matter of administration, it would be next to impossible to
obtain a general superintendent who could really act as an inter-
mediary between the overseers of the poor, managers of hos-
. pitals, principals of schools, etc. , and the general board of direc-
tors. Even granting that such a man were found, the ramifica-
tions of subordinate officials would either remove the actual
workings of the institution from the ken of the individual direc-
tors, or there would be a constant clash of authority. A school,
an asylum, a hospital, can only be managed properly, if the
salaried head is a man of training and individuality. A number
of schools may be grouped under such an executive head, and
the same might be true of a number of hospitals, or charity
bureaus. But the general superintendent must either be a
specialist in half a dozen different branches, or he must defer to

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the superior judgment of his subordinates; otherwise his inter-
ference can only produce harm.

Could not such a general manager be dispensed with and the
various -superintendents report directly to the board ? Yes, if the
board will sit daily, or will delegate its authority to committees.
The latter alternative seems hardly feasible, since it would de-
mand a board of unwieldy size, and questions of importance
would either be left entirely to a few individuals, or would be
voted upon by a body, the great majority of whose members was
unfamiliar with the details. ;

These are obstacles, I confess, that may be overcome^ by
some clever device of organizanon, unknown to me. But the
chief objection to complete consolidation arises, when we con-
sider the probable relation of such an amalgamated society to the
general community. It would be inevitable that the Directorate
would become somewhat autocratic, somewhat opinionated, some-
what self-satisfied. Healthy criticism, from outside sources,
would become more difficult; dissatisfaction cotdd only make itself
felt in a falling off of the revenues for the entire system. A
large corporation, proverbially ultra-conservative, it would be
difficult to cause such a one to take up new lines of work, to ven-
ture upon new philanthropic experiments. If an independent
organization were formed for such a purpose, it would either be
crowded out or thriving, it would gradually bring back the old
state of individualization. On the other hand, as toward a new,
but useless or vicious scheme, the consolidated board would be
powerless, since it would be held to express a single biased opin-
ion, if it sought to cause its condemnation; whereas, even now,
the consensus of a number of independent boards is sometimes
found to be efficacious in suppressing unwise or harmful move-

To secure freedom of movement in all essentials, coupled
with a unity of purpose and concentration of effort whenever
needed; healthful supervision, without arbitrary domination, our
charities should follow the example of our country, and adopt a
system of federation of sufficient elasticity to meet the wants of
the large as well as the small. No organization should be called
upon to surrender its charter or its property ; in fact, as an induce-
ment for all organizations to join the federation without hesita-
tion, it should be distinctly stipulated that any member could
withdraw, if dissatisfied with the arrangement, after giving

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reasonable notice, without any forfeit of any kind. This, I be-
lieve, is generally known as the Liverpool plan, since it either
originated in that English city, or has been most successfully
tried there.

As modified to suit the wants of an American Jewish com-
munity, this plan might advantageously take the following form.
The various co-operating societies, whether incorporated or not,
would retain their respective entities; no attempt being made to
induce them to surrender their property or their individual sub-
scribers, form of management, etc. They would agree, however,
to place the solicitation of funds from the Jewish public into the
hands of a general committee, say of fifty or one hundred,
chosen perhaps for the larger part from among their own direc-
tors. This committee would publish annually a report, stating
briefly the purposes and methods of the constituent societies,
their financial condition, etc., and ending with a list of all the
subscribers and the amounts of their respective donations. The
committee would solicit, either by circular or through personal
appeal, the contribution of an aggregate sum sufficient for the
regular annual expenses of all the constituent societies. The
subscribers would be asked to make annual, semi-annual or quar-
terly payments to a central treasurer, but the subscription blanks
would be so worded that the donation can indicate to what extent
each particular charity is to be benefited; while he can, if he de-
sires, put a. part or the whole of his subscription in the hands of
the central committee for appropriate distribution.

This central committee would be a small body of men es-
pecially chosen for their broad acquaintance with the needs of our
institutions, and preferably containing some men not actively
interested in any one particular society. It would be called upon
to supervise the work of the general committee and to see to the
proper distribution of the funds collected through it. Of course,
the designated contributions are beyond its control; but, assum-
ing that the amount of undesignated contributions be considera-
ble, it would be called upon to apportion it. And herein would
lie its most important and delicate function: for the fund should
be distributed according to the amount of legitimate deficit ap-
pearing in the annual budget of the various societies, after the
designated contributions have been distributed. By submitting
their accounts to the criticism of this disinterested central com-,
mittee, the various societies would give their subscribers the best

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possible guarantee of the economy and efficiency of their man-
agement. It often happens that, with the best intentions in the
world, one societ}'^ does too much, another too little. A wise and
tactful central committee could do much toward procuring a
proper balance in these and other respects. Societies which dis-
regarded the rights of others, showed gross internal mismanage-
ment or in other respects seemed undesirable, could be dropped
by this committee; on the other hand, it might admit new ones,
with the consent of the general committee.

It is understood that the collections above referred to are
only those meant to defray regular running expenses. From
time to time, an institution is forced to ask for larger sums, for
equipment, endowment or building purpbses; sometimes these
demands are made by several institutions at the same time, so as
to greatly interfere with one another; sometimes a doubt arises
with many, whether such a proposition is really justified by cir-
cumstances. The societies should be required to lay their re-
quests before the central committee, and if they be thought
legitimate and opportune, the appeal should go forth with the
sanction of this committee. It would certainly have far greater
weight than when made by the interested society alone.

To what extent this plan coincides with that adopted at
Chicago and elsewhere, I hope to learn at this meeting. It was
presented to a number of New York societies in 1897, ^^^ was
rejected by so many of the larger and richer ones that it did not
seem possible to give it a fair trial. I cannot help feeling, as
did those who were interested with me, that the managers of these
endowed institutions would have jeopardized none of their in-
terests by entering into an arrangement from which they were at
liberty to withdraw at any time. In the event of its failure, from
their standpoint, they could have gone out with their property
unaffected and their membership list intact. If the general
public, however, were once given the chance of testing the
advantages of a system, whereby giving once according to their
means and inclination, they are relieved from constantly recur-
ring solicitations, there would be no chance of failure.

The President. — Ladies and gentlemen, we have all listened
with a great deal of interest to Prof. Loeb's able paper. I take
it that this is a burning question with very nearly all our constituent

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societies, and the paper will be open for informal discussion at
the pleasure of the Conference.

Dr, Landsherg. — Mr. Chairman, I have listened with a great
deal of interest to the paper of Prof. Loeb, and I must say that
I found it so interesting, so remarkably suggestive, that hearing
this paper alone is sufficient to repay, one for the trouble of com-
ing froni quite a distance. It is not only on account of the
masterful manner in which he exposes a good many of the abuses
of n^any societies, and the startling manner in which he shows
how few in the large city of New York are really actively sup-
porting the charitable institutions. But of greater importance,
it seems to me, are the remedies which he proposes, and I can
only express my sincere regret that this system was not put in
operation when it was proposed in the city of New York, so that
we could have heard results to-day of the trial of three years,
which undoubtedly would have been a success. It seems to
me that the single reading of such a paper is not sufficient to
do it justice, and I would therefore propose that this paper
should be printed with the proceedings of this meeting, so that it
would be made accessible to all. While it refers particularly to
conditions which exist only in large cities — that is, especially in
large cities — it touches upon conditions which are in every city,
even in the smaller communities, and criticises faults and mis-
takes in such a full manner that I think it would do a great deal
of good to the whole community. I therefore make this motion
that this paper should be printed, as it may be decided after-
wards, either with the proceedings or in pamphlet form, separate,
for distribution among the constituent societies.

The President. — I think, although it has not yet been de-
cided, that it is the intention, or will be the intention, of the
Conference to print its proceedings. As I understand it, the dis-
cussions that we are holding to-day are not only for our own
benefit, for the benefit of the handful of people that we have here, '
but for the benefit of our constituents also, and under those cir-
cumstances of course all formal papers presented to this Confer-
ence will be printed, I should like very much to hear from other
gentlemen and ladies present as to local conditions in regard to
what I consider one of the most important matters before this
Conference, and especially as far as it affects the condition of
charities in some of the smaller cities.

Mr. Fraley. — Mr. Chairman, it is rather difficult for one to

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speak after such a logical paper as has been read by the
gentleman. You invite the members here to speak of their
experience. I will give you the benefit of ours. We had in St.
lyouis the Sisterhood of Personal Service, the Auxiliaries, the
Ladies' Zion Society, the Sewing Society, the Jewish Relief,
and others, and on comparison we found that the various
S€)cieties were contributing ta tluEt .same person. We found
not only duplication, but there was triplication. A great many
of the ladies were somewhat reluctant to let us hear all the
names they had on their list, claiming that they were helping
people who did not want it known. In order that'* they shbuld
maintain their little secret we handed them our list and said

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Online LibraryGeological Survey (U.S.)Biennial session of the National Conference of Jewish Charities in ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 4 of 20)