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History of the Jews in Philadelphia

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Like many Philadelphia neighborhoods that experienced a middle-class influx, rising rents and tax assessments made life increasingly difficult for poorer residents. One study estimated that real estate taxes in Queen Village had increased almost percent since the start of the decade. In , the neighborhood was nearly 50 percent black.

By , that figure had fallen to 20 percent. By , only about 5 percent of Queen Village residents were African American. There were also cultural conflicts between old-timers and newcomers. Long-time residents resented the intrusion on their tight-knit ethnic communities.

In the late s, dozens of chic businesses catering to the upper middle class opened. In a few short years, the once-conservative immigrant neighborhood had become a hotbed of hip nightlife.

By the end of the millennium, the transformation of Queen Village was complete; the languishing ethnic enclave had been entirely remade into a middle-class haven. The gentrification of Queen Village and Society Hill were exceptions in a region that continued to suffer the effects of deindustrialization and decline. Indeed, the effect of these localized neighborhood transformations could not stem the continued exodus from the city. From to , Philadelphia lost over 18 percent of its remaining residents, its population falling to nearly a half a million people below its postwar peak.

As manufacturing jobs continued to decline—from , in to a meager 31, by —white working-class residents fled to suburbs in Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey. While the nearby blocks of Queen Village saw large investments from city organizations to restore houses and raise property values, the Southwark Plaza apartment buildings for working-class residents lacked funds for trash collection and basic maintenance.

Here, children scavenge a playground trash pile. Yet even in the midst of this apparent nadir, there were glimmers of hope. Universities and hospitals, which could not move their operations out of the city, fueled this growth. As these anchor institutions continued to attract thousands of young, highly-educated residents to Philadelphia, previously disinvested neighborhoods—from Spruce Hill, near the University of Pennsylvania,and Washington Square West , which adjoined Jefferson and Pennsylvania Hospitals —saw increases in population and property values.

During the s, new federal tax credits helped fund the redevelopment of other overlooked neighborhoods. With the passage of the Economic Recovery Tax Act , developers could enjoy up to a 25 percent tax credit on the cost of rehabilitating certified historic structures. Tax inducements helped make the renovation of older buildings economically feasible.

From to , Philadelphia led the nation in the number of claims for such tax credits. In the Old City area just north of Society Hill, those tax incentives encouraged developers to convert abandoned workshops into stylish loft apartments. With their artistic connotations, these post-industrial spaces attracted white-collar workers looking for a taste of bohemian lifestyle.

During the s, demand for these apartments exploded, and developers scrambled to meet it. In , the neighborhood had only 90 housing units; by , it had 1, Galleries and restaurants followed the arriving middle class.

So, too, did a greater police presence, designed to enforce the newly genteel social order. In rapidly changing neighborhoods like Old City, minority residents often suffered the brunt of such measures. In the same period, tax credits helped spur commercial revivals in other historic neighborhoods.

Manayunk, a working-class mill district along the Schuylkill River to the northwest of Center City, was one such area. After a city-funded refurbishment effort, its Main Street began to draw young artists and boutique owners in search of a quaint, pedestrian-oriented corridor. This process accelerated after its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places in Residential gentrification soon followed the growth in commercial activity.

In the s, young urban professionals flocked to the area. Affluent homesteaders also continued to rehabilitate row houses in neighborhoods closer to the urban core. Spring Garden—with its attractive housing stock and proximity to Center City—began to experience gentrification by the mids.

Housing prices soared even more quickly than they had in Queen Village. The rapid influx of wealthier homebuyers triggered alarming demographic changes.

Nearly one-third Latino in , the neighborhood was only 14 percent Latino by At the same time, Greater Philadelphia enjoyed an influx of foreign immigration , which helped to repopulate neighborhoods in South and West Philadelphia. The late s saw the arrival of thousands of Southeast Asians; in the s, s, and s, they were joined by waves of Indians, Koreans, Chinese, and Mexicans. At mid-century, the area remained a bastion of black life, teeming with blues and jazz clubs, barrooms, and black-owned businesses.

Real estate prices soon reflected this surge in demand. In the s, the effects of gentrification began to spill over into other neighborhoods adjacent to Center City. Developers met the demand, refashioning old factories into spacious lofts. They also converted spacious industrial spaces into arts and music venues. As more creative class consumers moved to the neighborhood, they were followed by cafes and bars that catered to their bohemian tastes.

The event draws thousands of people year to the previously industrial-focused section of Philadelphia. This resurgence was fueled by a demographic upheaval which found baby boomers, new immigrants, and young college graduates choosing cities over suburbs. Factors that had once driven people away from cities—their density, their older housing stock, the presence of ethnic and racial minorities—now drew them back to the urban core.

As a result of these secular changes, more formerly depressed neighborhoods saw increased investment. One example was Fishtown , an enclave of working-class whites bordering Northern Liberties.

By the early s, it boasted scores of infill projects and row-house rehabilitations. Universities also continued to play an outsized role in the transformation of their surrounding neighborhoods. In the following decades, it encouraged professors to invest in the neighborhood by providing mortgage incentives and funds for building rehabilitations.

Along with other area institutions, it created the University City District , a nonprofit organization tasked with promoting development in the area. It succeeded in upgrading real estate values but also faced criticism from long-established residents. The area around Temple University in North Philadelphia also witnessed rapid changes. But tensions rose as young, mostly white, suburban-raised Temple students began to move in. Longtime residents complained about loud parties and unkempt rental properties.

By the s, Greater Philadelphia was grappling with issues familiar to all urban areas in the midst of gentrification. Residents of neighborhoods undergoing the most rapid changes watched as their longstanding social networks evaporated. One by one, local associations, congregations, and ultimately whole communities fell prey to the vicissitudes of the real estate market. Many uprooted residents resettled elsewhere in the city—some moving to adjoining neighborhoods still awaiting rehabilitation, some following cheaper rents to inner-ring suburbs.

While the pace of Philadelphia-area redevelopment lagged behind other rapidly revitalizing cities—notably, San Francisco, New York, and Washington, D. Gentrification had become a policy problem necessitating a public response. Bravo treasurer , Miss Rebecca Gratz secretary. Wolf has acted as its president starting in the early s.

In , the United Hebrew Benevolent Society was organized. The oldest Hebrew Sunday-school in America was formed in Philadelphia. These facts attest the early activity of the women of Philadelphia in the cause of religion and education. Rebecca Gratz — was, perhaps, the best-known American Jewish woman of her day. Not only was she one of the organizers of the Hebrew Sunday-School Society, but she was identified with nearly all the charitable organizations in the city.

Another woman prominent in the life of the city at this time was Louisa B. Hart, who was untiring in her devotion to the religious education of the young. The attendance at the various schools of the society, of which Mrs. Ephraim Lederer was president, numbered over 3, in The most virile force in the community when these organizations were founded was Isaac Leeser. He was essentially an organizer, and his name is connected with the inception of nearly every charitable and educational institution of his time.

In , he issued " The Occident and American Jewish Advocate ," which he edited for twenty-five years. He provided text-books and catechisms for the use of the young; he made a masterly translation of the Bible; and he rendered into English the Hebrew prayers. In he was the moving spirit in the organization of the Hebrew Education Society of Philadelphia.

The first suggestion toward the establishment of a school for the higher education of Jewish youth came from Mordecai M.

Noah , the well-known journalist of New York. In , he advocated in the "Occident" the formation of such an institution, the plan receiving the warm support of Leeser. In , a ball was given for the purpose of raising funds for the "establishment of a Hebrew school in this city.

Davis being elected chairman, and on July 16, , the Hebrew Education Society was formally organized, with Solomon Solis as its first president. On April 7, , the school was opened with twenty-two pupils, and since that time the attendance has steadily increased. On December 4, , a meeting was held which resulted in the establishment of the first Jewish theological seminary in America. The need of such an institution was strongly felt, as there were numerous synagogues in the country, but few persons capable of filling the rabbinical office.

The seminary was established under the joint auspices of the Hebrew Education Society and the Board of Delegates of American Israelites, and was named "Maimonides College"; it was opened October 28, , with Isaac Leeser as its provost. Williams; and the provost comprised the faculty. At a later date Hyman Polano and George Jacobs were added to this number. Abraham Hart was president, and Mayer Sulzberger secretary, of the board of trustees. Dropsie and Isidore Binswanger acted successively as president of the college.

After an activity extending through six years the work of Maimonides College was discontinued owing to lack of support Dec. The work of the Hebrew Education Society had met with great success during the s and s.

Louis Gerstley acted as its president for many years, and David Sulzberger had been its secretary since The first Jewish hospital in Philadelphia originated in a suggestion of Abraham Sulzberger, who insisted in that a hospital was an urgent necessity in the community and that steps should be taken at once to secure the funds necessary to establish one. The first officers were Alfred T. The association was incorporated September 23, The first site of the hospital was at Fifty-sixth street and Haverford road.

Within a decade the needs of the first hospital had outgrown its accommodations, and in , during the presidency of Abraham S. Wolf, it removed to Old York road. Sarah Eisner has recently built a Home for Nurses.

The Jewish Hospital is one of the best-equipped and best-managed institutions in the United States. Hackenburg succeeded Abraham S. Wolf as president in , and has served in that capacity ever since. To them is due, in a great measure, the success of the hospital. The Jewish Maternity Association was founded November 3, In addition to the maternity hospital there is a training-school for nurses, of which Mrs. Belle Cohn is president. In , the ladies of the various congregations of the city, "deeply impressed with the necessity of providing a home for destitute and unprotected children of Jewish parentage," organized the Jewish Foster Home.

Its first building was in Eleventh street, near Jefferson street, and was dedicated in May, Anna Allen was its first president. The home was moved in to Mill street, Germantown, its present quarters. Isidore Binswanger was president for fifteen years, and during his term of office the home became one of the best institutions of its kind in the country.

Mason Hirsh was president for a number of years; Leo Loeb now fills that position, and S. Samuel Hirsch of the Congregation Keneseth Israel. Instead of keeping the children together in one institution, this society endeavors to find homes for them among respectable Jewish families. He was greatly opposed to the Reform movement and was the champion of traditional Judaism. Perhaps the greatest monument of his life is the Jewish Theological Seminary of America , which he founded in He served the congregation until his death in ; Leon H.

Elmaleh was the rabbi The Gratz College , the most liberally endowed institution of Jewish learning in the city, is controlled by a board of trustees elected by the congregation. It was founded under a deed of trust executed by Hyman Gratz in , which became operative in ; Moses A.

Dropsie was president of the board of trustees. The college had a faculty of three, and 25 students in Many synagogues were founded in the city after , when the Congregation Beth Israel was founded June 12 , the first rabbi being Simon E.

It now worships in Eighth street, above Master street, and Menahem M. Eichler is the officiating rabbi. Jones served at various times as presidents. George Jacobs was elected rabbi in , and remained with the congregation until his death in The congregation, failing to secure a suitable successor after several attempts, disbanded a few years later.

Breidenbach being its first rabbi; Henry Iliowizi held the office from until resigned , when B. Ehrenreich was appointed in his stead.

Rose Frank, as a memorial to her husband, Henry S. Beth Samuel was referred to as Beys Shmuel, or the litvishe shul. The earliest publication relating to the Jews was issued in from the press of Andrew Stewart; it was a sermon by Moses Mendelssohn delivered by his preceptor David Hirchel Frankel, and translated from the German. The first dealer in the United States who dealt exclusively in rare books was Moses Polock — ; at his death he was the oldest bibliophile in the country. The society owed its existence to Isaac Leeser.

It published eleven works, including two by Grace Aguilar. The present Jewish Publication Society of America, a national organization, with headquarters at Philadelphia, was formed June 3, ; Morris Newburger was its first president. In , Mayer Sulzberger was chairman of the publication committee; Edwin Wolf was president.

In the best collection of Hebrew books and manuscripts in the city, that of Mayer Sulzberger, was transferred to the Jewish Theological Seminary of America at New York. There have been several Jewish newspapers in Philadelphia, of which The Occident was the first; it was founded by Isaac Leeser in , who edited it until his death in ; it was edited for one year thereafter by Mayer Sulzberger. The "Jewish Index" was issued in , but it lasted only a year.

In , the "Jewish Record" appeared, under the editorship of Alfred T. The "Jewish Exponent" was first issued April 15, ; its present editors are R. There were several daily papers published in Yiddish, the most important being the "Jewish Evening Post.

The object of the association is "to promote a higher culture among young men"; its membership in numbered over 1,, under the presidency of Adolph Eichholz. Its building is situated in North Broad street. Fanny Binswanger Hoffman on February 5, ; the object of the union is to educate the younger children of immigrant Jews. It maintained a kindergarten, day-nursery, sewing-school, etc.

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