Published with permission from Jewish Historical Society of Greater New Haven

The following is an article which was published in Jews in New Haven, Volume V (1988)


Barry E. Herman, Ph.D.

A building once stood at 701 Sherman Avenue in New Haven. The building is gone but the memory of this important and proud institution lives on in the hearts and lives of hundreds of people who once lived there as children. The memory remains also through the deeds of a group of dedicated board members who carry out a noble service in the name of this once familiar Jewish organization.

The building, the institution, and the organization was the JEWISH HOME FOR CHILDREN. A small group of eleven faithful volunteers headed by President, Abraham Flaks, and Secretary, Alice Alpert, now administer a scholarship fund, in the name of the Jewish Home for Children, which dispenses funds to local Jewish students who may need financial aid to attend college, to purchase college books, or to further their educational aims. Jewish day schools in the area are also recipients of this largesse. Over $30,000 is given each year in the name of the Jewish Home for Children.
What was the Jewish Home for Children? Who lived there? Why was it so important in the Jewish community?
The Jewish Home for Children was founded in 1905 to fill a need to protect homeless Jewish children, products of tragic circumstances and broken homes. A place was needed to shelter and safeguard them, and to provide them with education and religious training. These were children who came from divorced and one-parent homes in which the parent had to work long hours and could not care for the child. Other children needed placement because of serious family financial difficulties and others because of neglect. Very few could be considered "full" orphans. Some of the children living at the Home joined their families on weekends and on holidays. However, others lived permanently at the Home until they became young adults and were able to function on their own.
A group of Jewish women in the community were quick to see the need to provide a place for Jewish children whose future lives could have been ruined because of parental death, serious home problems, divorce and other circumstances which hit families in those days. This group of zealous volunteers started an institution in a little house at 441 Orange Street, and named it The Hebrew Ladies' Orphan Society. There were twelve children living at this institution in 1905. The women took pride in their work and caring for children was a natural function for these typical "Jewish Mothers."
An article appearing in the New Haven Saturday Chronicle on April 7, 1906 told of "Plans for a Hebrew Asylum." The article stated that New Haven would have another orphan asylum, for the care of Hebrew children in the city. This orphanage would be started by the Hebrew Ladies Orphan Society. The article further stated that
 Hebrew orphans have been few in number, and it is a 
 noticeable fact among the people of this nationality that
 they are very reluctant to allow any of their own people 
 to become a burden of others or on the state.  Just as 
 far as possible they care for their poor.  Dividing the 
 population into three classes, namely, the Catholics, 
 Protestants and Hebrews, and it is noticed that the 
 Catholics head the list so far as allowing their poor to 
 become burdens on the state, with the Protestants 
 second and the Hebrews third.
The devoted members of the Hebrew Ladies Orphan Society worked hard over the years and the number of children in their care continued to grow. In 1920, the Society felt the need to expand and decided the orphan home needed a broader community base. They wanted men to join them in their noble cause.
In 1920, Mrs. Rose Berman served as President with the following officers: Mrs. Joseph Lachman, First Vice-President; Mrs. Hyman White, Second Vice-President; Miss Huldah Jacobs, Financial Secretary; Mrs. Jacob Horowitz, Recording Secretary; Mrs. A. E. Glickstein, Treasurer; Mrs. Lena Gittel Ginsburg, First Trustee; Mrs. Bertha Fromer, Second Trustee and Mrs. Sophie Shure, Third Trustee.
The officers went to see Judge Jacob Caplan, an outstanding leader in the Jewish community at that time. They asked him to assume the presidency of the Board of Managers of the orphan home. He accepted and in the same year (1920) the name of the Hebrew Orphan Home was changed to the Jewish Home for Children. Judge Caplan was an outstanding President and gave of himself so wholeheartedly, that he was re-elected for fourteen consecutive terms as President until his death on February 3, 1934. His career and service to the community and his devotion to the Jewish Home for Children left an imprint in the hearts of his co-workers, friends, and children at the Home. Joseph H. Ullman succeeded Judge Caplan as President and served until his retirement in 1941. The next President was Dr. Maxwell Lear.
A large influx of children in the early 1920s made the present Home on Orange Street too small to serve the needs of the community. A campaign for funds was launched in 1924 and a building was soon constructed at the corner of Sherman Avenue and Ford Street in New Haven. The building stood on a plot of ground with a frontage of 470 feet on Sherman Avenue and a depth of 655 feet going back to Dixwell Avenue. The new building was a two-story structure with a full basement, surrounded by several acres of trees and flowers. The children lived in a series of small dormitory rooms, boys and girls on separate floors.
The Building Committee, in charge of the construction of the Home, was headed by Isidor Fox as chairman who was assisted by: Mrs. Rose Berman, Harris Botwinik, Alexander Cahn, Benjamin Calechman, Joseph Calechman, Mrs. Hannah Fink, Mrs. Eva Glickstein, Israel Gordon, Miss Huldah Jacobs, Hyman Jacobs, Isic Kaufman, Isaac L. Kleiner, Mrs. Anna Lachman, Mrs. Anna Merriam, Simon Russota, Louis M. Sagal, Mrs. Anna R. Weiner, and the President, Judge Jacob Caplan.
Unfortunately, however, the result of that first drive was found insufficient to meet all the expanses of the new building and its equipment. Another campaign was instituted in June 1927 for the purpose of raising $80,000 which would clear the Home of all outstanding debts.
Headed by Joseph C. Johnson with his "Give and Smile, Smile and Give" campaign, and Col. Isaac M. Ullman, Louis M. Sagal, Samuel J. Weil, and Rudolf Steinert, serving as Honorary Chairmen, this campaign went over the top, netting $96,000. Also, beginning in 1927, the New Haven Community Chest made an annual allocation to the Home to aid in meeting operating expenses. As a result of the successful fundraising drive and annual support from the Community Chest, necessary financial support was now established for the Jewish Home for Children.
Endowment funds for the Home were established by the following families: Israel and Anna Gordon Scholarship for Boys, the Mishkan Israel Scholarship for Girls, the Alaric Eli Persky Fund, Daniel A. Steinbach Scholarship Fund endowed by his father, A. D. Steinbach, the Max Meyers Educational Fund, Mary Bretzfelder Linde Prize Fund, Helen Bretzfelder Kleiner Trust Fund, the Shaindel Brody Trust Fund, the Jacob Caplan Endowment Fund, Col. Isaac M. and Major M. Ullman Fund, Samuel J. Weil Trust Fund, Moses and Rosa Heller Trust Fund, and the Louis B. Drazen Trust Fund.
When a child was taken into the Home, he or she immediately received full attention - medical, physical and spiritual. A full-time registered nurse was in attendance at the Home continuously. Each child received a warm friendly greeting from devoted staff members and every effort was made to help each child feel welcome and secure in a new environment. A new child soon became part of an extended family joining the other children living at the Home. Free medical and dental care was available from volunteer physicians and dentists. Even diet arrangements were made for those children requiring special attention.
Children living at the Home attended local public schools and went to Hebrew classes at the Jewish Community Center. At the Home, Friday night and Saturday morning services were conducted by the children with their own cantor and presiding officers of their own congregation. The boy or girl who led the religious observance received a prize. Prizes were also given for excellence in public and Hebrew school as well as academic achievement.
Peer pressure was important. Children taught other children the fundamentals of neatness and cooperation with their "home" mates. Each child learned to care for his or her own clothes, to keep his or her own room tidy, and to help occasionally with table setting and washing dishes. Children took part in extracurricular functions at the Jewish Community Center, Y.M.C.A, the Boys Club, Boy Scout and Girl Scout activities, and in outdoor sports and games. The Home's baseball team also had neighborhood children on the team. One such player was New Haven's former mayor, Richard C. Lee
. The entire operation of the Home was administered for many years by a pair of dedicated staff members, Maurice and Minnie Osber. Mr. Osber was the superintendent and Mrs. Osber was the matron supervisor. According to Benjamin Sussman, who lived at the Home as a youngster, "Murray" Osber was a strict but fair person. He awarded children merits and demerits. Merits could earn children trips to New York to see the Yankees play baseball or to visit Radio City Music Hall, museums, or the Hayden Planetarium. In addition to these trips, children had the opportunity to attend overnight camp for two weeks during the summer at Camp Cedarcrest or Camp Clearview. Mr. Sussman also related that Mr. Osber gave each child an allowance of 25 cents a week. The money was earned by mowing the lawn, cutting hedges, washing dishes, waiting on tables, etc. If a child missed a weekly religious service, he or she had 5 cents deducted from the 25-cent weekly allowance. The Rev. Abraham Slutsky was the cantor at the Home and taught the children religious chants and synagogue hymns. Mr. Sussman also related that the children were served three full meals a day and so there were a lot of "fat Jewish kids" at the Home. New clothes were purchased at Perlmutter's on Grand Avenue and at J. Johnson & Sons on Church Street. During World War II, Benjamin Sussman and other young men enlisted in the army. Mr. Osber was there at the railroad station to see "his boys" off to do their patriotic duty. He wished them good luck and each young man received a "care" package, compliments of the Home's Ladies Auxiliary. Packages were also sent at Hanukkah, birthdays and at holidays to the Home's young men serving in the armed forces.
The number of children who lived at the Home averaged between 10 and 55 during its years as a haven for children. Abraham Flaks, a past President of the Home and presently the President of the Home's Scholarship Program, related that the Home provided a "fantastic education for children and each boy and girl grew up as part of a large family." Mr. Flaks stated that each child had a personal birthday party each year and he personally made the birthday cake. There were also presents given to each child at the birthday celebration, at Hanukkah and at Purim.
Mrs. Alice Alpert, a past President of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Home and an active participant in the Home activities for 48 years and Secretary for 30 years, told that on May 31, 1969, a reunion of children who lived at the Home took place at the Ambassador Restaurant in Hamden. A large turnout of former residents, their spouses and former board members attended this gala event. Mrs. Alpert proudly mentioned the Home's annual bazaar and other fund raising activities that were run by the active Ladies Auxiliary to benefit the Home and its children.
On October 28, 1935, the Jewish Home for Children celebrated its 30th Anniversary at the Seven Gables in Milford. Over 1,000 people attended this celebration. A New Haven Register article reported that Hyman Jacobs was the general chairman and toastmaster and speakers included Mayor John W. Murphy of New Haven, Congressman Herman P. Kopplemann of Hartford, Hon. Thomas A. Tully, former Mayor of New Haven, Mrs. A. E. Glickstein, Judge Nathan O. Perlman, Judge Isaac Wolfe, Mr. Joseph Ullman, and Rabbi Edgar Siskin of Mishkan Israel who gave the invocation. Other rabbis in attendance were Louis Greenberg and Aaron Shuchatowitz. Mayor Murphy stated that he "honored the Jewish people for the esteem and respect they held for their aged; and also the help they were giving the children." He also spoke of the recently deceased Judge Jacob Caplan and of Col. Isaac Ullman and of the fine work both men did for the Home and for the community.
The 30th Anniversary Program gave a general description of the Home on Sherman Avenue.

 The building is of Colonial architecture, in red brick 
 and two and one half stories in height.  The upper 
 floor contains the girls' dormitory with small rooms 
 beautifully and carefully decorated, superintendent's 
 quarters, nurses' rooms, linen closets, girls' living
 room and two isolation rooms.

 The main floor consists of the office, boys' dormitory, 
 also made up of comfortable rooms, synagogue and 
 auditorium, library, Hebrew School classroom, boys' 
 living room, doctor's room and isolation room.  The floor 
 below (basement) contains the kitchen, two pantries, 
 two storage rooms, dining room, playroom, laundry 
 room, boiler room and help quarters.

 The building is fireproof throughout and is modern in 
 every respect, with the latest type of heating plant, 
 plumbing, lighting, refrigeration and sanitation.

The program also contained another passage which best sums up the aims and purposes of the Jewish Home for Children:
By equipping a modern building with a colorful and home atmosphere, by maintaining a well organized character-building, spiritually-endowed healthy haven of refuge, under the guidance of trained leaders, the community can well be proud of the fine quality of manhood and womanhood which the Home sends forth as leaders of tomorrow.

Joseph H. Ullman, President
Miss Huldah Jacobs, Vice-President
Mrs. A. E. Glickstein, Vice-President
Hyman Jacobs, Vice-President
Mrs. Wolfe Jacobs, Secretary
Israel Gordon, Treasurer
Mrs. Harry L. Reader, Assistant Treasurer

Board of Managers S. Bennett Alderman
Isaac Kopkind
Dr. Maxwell Lear
Benjamin D. Levine
Mrs. Rose Osterweis
Louis L. Rosenberg
Mrs. Nathan G. Sachs
Judge Joseph Weiner
Mrs. Herman J. Weisman
Martin Greenblatt, Waterbury
A. H. Lavietes, Shelton
Samuel Umansky, Meriden

Honorary Members Mrs. Rose Berman
Mrs. Barney Fink
Mrs. A. D. Gladstone
Joseph C. Johnson
Louis M. Sagal
Bane Stock
Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Osber - Superintendent and Supervisor
The 1935 Anniversary program listed the original charter members of the Hebrew Ladies Orphan Society. The members were:

Gussie Baker
Fannie Barr
Fannie Bailey
Rose Berman
Fannie Bronfin
Rachel Cohen
Bessie Drazen
Bertha Fromer
Eva Gans
Ida Gitlitz
Ida Goldberg
Sarah Goldstein
Lena Gittel Ginsberg
Rose Horwitz
Lena Itchacovitz
Huldah Jacobs
Leah Jacobs
Annie Jessup Anna Lachman
Sarah Mendelstein
Florence Neitel
Mary Nusenholtz
Hinda Rofes
Annie Roscol
Lena Shibler
Fannie Sachs
Ida Turk
Hattie Weiner
The New Haven Community Chest, the forerunner of the United Way contributed 30-35% of the Home's budget. The rest of the budget was raised through contributions from local Jewish philanthropies and fund-raising activities of the Ladies Auxiliary.
In 1955, the Jewish Home for Children on Sherman Avenue ceased its operation because the State of Connecticut took over the function of all orphanages. These institutions, taken over by the State Welfare Department, had adopted a new national policy of foster care. Children were now taken from institutions and placed in foster care, living with families. The pros and cons of this arrangement will not be discussed in this article.
The Jewish Home for Children did operate on a smaller basis in a new home at 54 Carmel Street in the Mt. Carmel section of Hamden for a few more years caring for Jewish children who needed immediate care on a temporary basis until foster care was available. There were fewer than 10 children at any given time. The building at 701 Sherman Avenue was too large and too costly to maintain. The building was leased to the State for use as a receiving home for wards and later sold to the City of New Haven and razed. Where the Home once stood is now another building for children, the Dr. Martin Luther King Public School, fronting on Dixwell Avenue. The only remaining part of the old Jewish Home for Children are its front steps still standing as an entrance into the playground and backyard area of the school.
The Jewish Home for Children Scholarship Program is a worthy legacy of the original Jewish Home for Children. Its purpose quoted from its charter is as follows:

 The purpose of the JEWISH HOME FOR CHILDREN 
 SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM is to aid needy and 
 worthy young men and women of the Jewish faith 
 who are residents of the City of New Haven, 
 Connecticut, or any of the towns contiguous to 
 said city, by providing such persons with funds 
 to pursue a vocational, college, graduate or 
 professional education.

This scholarship program was initiated on May 28, 1969 by a small group of the original members of the Board of Managers of the old Jewish Home for Children. The present members of the scholarship program board includes: Abraham Flaks, President; Alice Alpert, Secretary; Joseph Abert, Josef S. Adler, Arnold Alderman, Joseph R. Blumberg, Leo Gilden, Attorney Sidney Gimple, Rita Gold, Burton Slossberg and Eli Solcoff. An annual meeting is held once a year and other meetings when needed. There are definite guidelines and procedures for selecting scholarship recipients and for the awarding of funds and grants. Records are maintained by the officers.
The Presidents of the Jewish Home for Children were: Judge Jacob Caplan, Joseph Ullman, Dr. Maxwell Lear, Attorney Maxwell Alderman, Louis Lackman, and Abraham Flaks. Working closely with the Presidents since 1955 and with the Home's Secretary, Mrs. Alice Alpert, has been the Home's "unofficial" secretary, Mrs. Patricia McClintick.
On June 14, 1987, a program about the Jewish Home for Children was held at the Westville Synagogue sponsored by the Jewish Historical Society of New Haven. A large turnout of interested people heard a panel consisting of Mrs. Alice Alpert, Abraham Flaks, Mrs. Rita Gold and Benjamin Sussman discuss the history and activities of the former Home and of the present Scholarship Program. A tape was made of this historic meeting. Although the Home no longer exists, its history and its story are now preserved for future generations.

This article was published in Jews in New Haven, Volume V,
Werner S. Hirsch and RenŠ¹e Kra, eds., and is
copyrighted © 1988 by the Jewish Historical Society of New Haven
This article may not be reproduced in whole or in part
(except for brief excerpts) without the permission of the publisher.

E-Mail comments to Werner S. Hirsch
Updated September 23, 2001 9:53 PM