From: Jacob Rader Marcus, The Jew in the American World. A Source Book (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1996): 334-337

Charter of the Kehillah (Jewish Community) of the New York City, April 5, 1914


An Act to Incorporate the Kehillah of New York City

The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly do enact as follows:

Sec. 2. The objects of said corporation shall be, to stimulate and encourage the instruction of the Jews residing in the city of New York in the tenets of their religion and in the history, language, literature, institutions and traditions of their people; to conduct, support and maintain schools and classes for that purpose; to publish and distribute textbooks, maps, charts, and illustrations to facilitate such instruction; to conduct lectures and classes in civics and other kindred subjects; to establish an educational bureau to further the foregoing purposes; to conduct religious services and support, maintain and establish temporary as well as permanent synagogues; to adjust differences among Jewish residents or organizations located in said city, whenever thereunto requested by the parties thereto, by arbitration or by means of boards of mediation and conciliation; to maintain an employment bureau; to collate and publish statistical and other information concerning the Jewish inhabitants of said city and their activities; to study and ameliorate their social, moral and economic conditions, and to cooperate with the various charitable, philanthropic, educational and religious organizations and bodies of said city for the promotion of their common welfare . . .

Rabbi Judah L. Magnes, Chairman of the Jewish Community of New York city, Presents His annual Report, November 8, 1914

To the Members of the American Jewish Committee:

The Jewish Community (Kehillah) of New York City, the constituent of the American Jewish Committee in its Twelfth District, has the honor to report the following summary of its activities for the period since the holding of the last annual meeting of the American Jewish Committee.

A. Education

The Bureau of Education, under the direction of Dr. S. Benderly, continues to demonstrate its unique value for the community, and is making its influence increasingly felt. It has a Department of Investigation, Collection, and Attendance, a Textbook Department, and an Extension Department. It conducts three preparatory schools, supervises institutional schools and its affiliated Talmud Torahs, and cooperates in the training of teachers with the Teachers’ Institute of the Jewish Theological Seminary. During the past year the Bureau has aroused the interest of hundreds of Jewish high school girls in matters Jewish; these girls have been organized, and many of them are fitting themselves to become teachers of Jewish subjects, meantime making themselves helpful to the Bureau in a variety of ways. As a result of a tour made by a representative of the Bureau of Education, the Bureau is in touch with Jewish schools in forty cities in different parts of the country. These schools turn to the Bureau for textbooks, methods, and advice.

B. Religious Organizations

1. Vaad Horabbonim, Board of Rabbis. At the last convention, it was resolved to make this Board independent of the Kehillah, in the belief that the organization of the Orthodox section of the community would be facilitated by such action.

2. Provisional Synagogues. Three provisional synagogues were conducted over the recent holidays under the auspices of the Kehillah. [Temporary synagogues were established during the High Holy Days.]

3. Ghet (Jewish Divorce). A joint committee of the Kehillah, the Board of Rabbis, and of the National Desertion Bureau has considered the legal problems connected with the issuance of the Jewish divorce, and is endeavoring to work out a method whereby the rabbis may issue the decree of divorce without violating the law of the country. [Some Orthodox Jews failed to get a civil divorce after securing a religious divorce; others remarried without a civil ceremony after receiving a religious divorce.]

4. Milah (Circumcision). It is planned to constitute a board of physicians and rabbis which should certificate competent hohelim [circumcisers], in order that Jewish children may be safeguarded from the dangers of unhygienic treatment.

5. Mikwehs (Ritual Baths). Investigations of a number of mikwehs has shown them to be a menace to the public health owing to lack of proper sanitary arrangements. The Kehillah has enlisted a number of sanitarians and rabbis to cooperate with the Department of Health as an advisory committee.

6. Sabbath and Holiday Observance. Difficulties are constantly arising in connection with Sabbath observance because Sabbath observers are not permitted to carry on their business on Sunday. It has hitherto been impossible to secure the passage of a much-needed law to this effect.

The usual efforts have been made to secure leave of absence from Federal and City Departments, public service corporations, etc., for Jewish employees over the High Holidays. Correspondence has been had with various colleges and universities in order to have due note taken of the dates of Jewish holidays when examinations are set.

C. Social and Philanthropic Work

1. Committee on Philanthropic Research. The Kehillah is endeavoring to constitute a Committee on Philanthropic Research, which is to serve as a laboratory for the study of philanthropic needs, and for the assembling of such authoritative information as would both prevent the founding of unnecessary institutions and would show what philanthropic needs were at the present time not dealt with. A careful consideration of the merits of a federation of charities would be well within the scope of this Committee. [This federation was established in 1917.]

2. Industrial Relations. A Committee on Industrial Relations has been established within the Kehillah, which has two representatives, Dr. Paul Abelson and Dr.Leo Mannheimer, at work. A new trade agreement has been arranged in the fur industry, guaranteeing peace for the next two years and a half. A representative of the Kehillah has acted as Chariman of the Furriers’ Conference Committee for the last two years. A tentative agreement has been drawn up in the men’s and youth’s clothing trade for a period of one year, which provides the terms of a permanent collective agreement shall be worked out in the course of the year, and that in the meantime all matters in dispute shall be brought before the Clothing Trades Commission for adjustment.

3. Employment Bureau. The Employment Bureau handled 4599 individual cases during the year, for whom 4260 positions were found. The Bureau devotes itself especially to securing employment for those who are seriously handicapped.

4. Protection of East Side Depositors. Immediately after the closing of several East Side banks by the State Banking Department, the Kehillah formed a Depositors’ Protective Committee, to keep in touch with the State Banking Department, in order that the depositors might be guided and their interests protected.

5. Welfare Committee. The Welfare Committee organized in July, 1912, has accomplished large results in dealing with vice and crime on the Lower East Side. Its unremitting and intensive work has been done in cooperation with the Police Department and other city authorities.

6. Oriental Jews. The most urgent need of the Oriental community is a Haham Bashi, or Chief Rabbi. The salary of the Haham Bashi is to be raised by the New York Foundation, the Baron de Hirsch Fund, the Kehillah, and the Oriental Community.

7. Good Name of Immigrant Peoples. A committee organized by the Kehillah, which includes representatives of all of the immigrant peoples in New York City, has secured the suppression of many objectionable advertisements, moving picture films, and theatrical performances.

8. Jewish Court of Arbitration. At the present time innumerable petty cases are brought before the municipal courts by Jews and Jewish organizations. In order to decrease the amount of such litigation, the Kehillah is considering the establishment of a Court of Arbitration under its own auspices. It will also be the function of this Court to ensure a measure of justice for persons who have no redress before a court of law. [Such a court was established in 1920.]

Respectfully submitted,
J. L. Magnes
Chairman, Executive Committee