Jewish Ladies Benevolent Society No. 1
The dawn of the 20th century brought changes and challenges for American Jews. German Jewish immigrants of the mid 1800s had established houses of worship, community groups, and successful businesses throughout the United States. But the late 19th and early 20th centuries brought a new wave of Jewish immigration from eastern Europe. Fleeing oppression and violence, many arrived on American shores destitute and unfamiliar with the language and customs of their new home. Groups such as Jewish Ladies Benevolent Society No. 1, organized in Louisville in 1849, sought to ease the way of these new Americans.
In his work The American Jewish Woman: A Documentary History (1981), Jacob Rader Marcus describes Hebrew Ladies Benevolent Societies as:
“An essential part of the structure, of the very being, of the entire Jewish group in any area. Its functions were manifold. Very often it was a mutual-aid society helping the local Jewish poor, especially impoverished women. Though dedicated to charity and synagogal aid, it was at the same time the social club for the town’s Jewish women. Whatever the guise, the members persisted in emphasizing their identity as women.”