On April 8, 1822, a group of Jewish Americans met to found New York City’s first Jewish charitable organization, the Hebrew Benevolent Society. With $300 ($6,600 in today’s dollars) collected, these Jews, who had arrived from England and Holland in the 17th and 18th centuries, aimed to provide relief to children, adults, and all families who had nowhere else to turn for support.
At the time, there were still cows grazing through Midtown. A pound of coffee was 17 cents. There was no public assistance, or public health, and yellow fever swept the city shortly after, leaving a devastating toll on New Yorkers who could not afford to escape to Connecticut and upstate. But the Hebrew Benevolent Society was there to help. Over time, the society’s focus narrowed to “orphans,” then broadened, expanded, and merged with other organizations to become what we know today as JCCA.
Our city looks very different in 2022. Coffee is more expensive; there are no cows in Manhattan. But 200 years later, we are still here, stronger than the founders could ever have imagined. In everything we do, we honor the legacy of these two centuries of tikkun olam: repair the world, child by child.
We’ll celebrate more history as we move through this momentous year. Thank you for being part of the history and future of JCCA.