WORLD COMMUNITY

Throughout its history, the Schenectady Jewish community identified with its co-religionists at home and abroad. As early as 1861, when a representative of the Jewish community in Tiberias, Palestine came to Schenectady to solicit funds for a synagogue and school, Congregation Gates of Heaven collected $14.50, and promised future contributions, a premonition of future pledge campaigns for Israel Bonds. When World War I broke out, Workmen’s Circle’s local chapter, started a campaign in October 1914 to raise money for European and Palestinian Jews displaced by the war, and other Jewish organizations in the city joined to hold a mass meeting at Agudas Achim. President Woodrow Wilson recognized January 27, 1916 as Jewish Relief Day, and the Jewish community met to contribute, and as a local newspaper observed: “the gathering was of the Jewish of moderate circumstances” suggesting the immigrant nature and modest income of most the community in 1916. By 1918, the community raised about $12,000, but Rabbi Joseph Jasin of Gates of Heaven, felt that while poor and middle class Jews had contributed he criticized, in an editorial “Shame of Schenectady Jewry,” the response of the wealthier members of the community.
When the war ended, local Jews also organized protests against pogroms in Poland and Ukraine against Jews. In May 1919, the United Schenectady Jewish Community held a protest meeting and drafted resolutions sent to President Woodrow Wilson and Secretary of State Robert Lansing. Twenty years later, Jews organized protests against Nazi treatment of Jews in the wake of Kristallnacht (November 9-10, 1938). Five hundred people gathered at Union College to denounce Nazi policies. In fact, in December 1937, local Jews criticized the appearance of a leader of the pro-Nazi German-American Bund at Union College. During World War II, Schenectady’s Jews held ceremonies to highlight the persecution of Jews in Europe.
The situation in Palestine attracted Jewish attention since World War I. Zionist groups were established in Schenectady as early as 1898, and the Mt. Moriah Zionist Association was formed in 1913. The women’s Zionist organization, Hadassah, formed a local chapter in November 1915 which has been active ever since, and raised funds for philanthropic endeavors in Palestine, and later Israel. Local Jews supported the restoration of a Jewish homeland and contributed to the Palestine Restoration fund. Twenty years later, Jews in Schenectady petitioned President Franklin Roosevelt to pressure the British to open Palestine to refugees fleeing Germany. In the wake of World War II Hadassah and the Council of Jewish Women raised money and supplies for Jewish war refugees and Holocaust survivors. Eight hundred people attended a mass rally at the JCC to celebrate the independence of Israel. When Israel was threatened in 1967 and 1973 local Jews rallied, held meetings, and raised funds for the embattled Jewish state. Finally, in the 1990s, Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union were welcomed into the community, once again, showing the identification of Schenectady’s Jewish community with co-religionists abroad.

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