Sunday, February 6, 2011

YWHA founded: February 6, 1902

“On February 6, 1902 Bella Epstein Unterberg held a meeting in her New York City home to discuss the founding of the first Young Women's Hebrew Association. At the meeting, at which she was unanimously elected president of the new association, a decision was made to establish a sister organization to the YMHA, a community center dedicated to the uplift—both social and spiritual—of young Jewish women.” --

The YWHA, predecessor to the Jewish Community Center, was a central feature of the life of my aunts, my mother, and their friends in the 1920s. It offered them a social life and also many classes and informal situations in which to learn to be "real" Americans and to forget the immigrant ways of their parents. It did not encourage them to become non-Jews or even to drop out of religious life, but ultimately the philosophy of assimilation changed much in the Jewish community. It's ironic that they went to the "Y" to forget Yiddish, and now Jewish people go to the successor JCC to learn Yiddish and undo some of the assimilation.

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