Immigrant Assistance Organizations >> Jews

There . Here

This page details some of the immigrant assistance organizations available in Eastern Europe, for the actual emigration process to America, and in America once they arrived. These organizations were crucial to the survival and success of Eastern European Jewish immigrants.





As shtetls in Eastern Europe, such as Bransk in Poland, grew overcrowded, poverty and health problems increased.  In response, charitable instutitions, such as Society for the Aid of Poor Fiances, Society for Good Deeds and Visits to the Sick, and Society for Fraternal Aid, arose to aid the refugees (Hoffman 2007:137-138). 
These networks addressed the community’s needs. They include voluntary societies and study groups, such as the gravedigger's society, burial societies, society of the tailors, and Torah study groups.  Taxes were sometimes used to fund these organizations. Everyone was included in the communal web. “Women Leaders” helped the needy by doing things like providing challah and rolls for the poor and taking care of the sick (Hoffman 2007:93-94).

German Jews, who came to America earlier, came to the aid of Eastern European Jews. German Jews essentially paved the way for Eastern European Jews. They established information bureaus, negogiated special rates with railroads and ships, warned about thieves, and also consulted with governments so these Jews would have easier passage to major ports (Howe 2005:29-30).  Furthermore, once Eastern European Jews arrived in New York City, it was the German Jews who provided them with many jobs, especially jobs in the garment industry.






Jewish immigrants founded this organization in 1881 when the mass immigration of Eastern European Jews to America began. According to its website, it has a “common goal: to rescue those in peril, reunite families in freedom, and enable newcomers to build new lives with hope and prosperity.” Representatives were at Ellis Island to mediate between immigration officials and the immigrants themselves, giving the immigrants much-needed advice on how to respond to questioning and how the procedures at Ellis Island worked (Howe 2005:44). They also protested steerage conditions, helped immigrants find their relatives in America or get to their destination, provided accommodations and baths, and helped them find work. They lobbied against immigration restrictions as well (Howe 2005:48-49). 

For more information, visit:

These were mutual aid or charity organizations which assisted Eastern European Jews financially.  A few major financial organizations were the Hebrew Free Loan Association, the Workmen's Circle, and credit unions.  The Hebrew Free Loan Association was known for lending to Eastern European Jews without interest on the loan (Howe 2005:129). The Workmen's Circle provided aid for the employed and fought for better working conditions and pay.  Credit unions such as the New York Retail Grocer Union provided financial services to its members (Howe 2005:121).

Henry Street Settlement House – Once, a little girl asked Lillian Wald to see her sick mother and after witnessing the horrors of tenement life, she dedicated her life to improving them. She, along with Mary Brewster, founded the Henry Street Settlement House (Howe 2005:90-93) Though it did more than nursing, medical assistance was a central part of the mission. She provided free health care services, or if one could afford it, she charged an extremely low fee.

For more information, visit:

Other settlement houses were also known to provide health care services and food to Jewish immigrants.  These settlement houses include the Hebrew Sheltering Guardian, Hakhnosas Orkhin, and the Sheltering House for Immigrants (Howe 2005:47).



These were communal self-help organizations formed to help immigrants adjust to life in the New World and were made up of people from the same town in Eastern Europe. Each wrote consitutions. These consisted of rules, such as marriage regulations, and benefits, such as sick and death benefits (Howe 2005:187-188). Many hired doctors, who provided treatment at discounted rates. They ensured proper burial for deceased Jews as well. They also served as social centers. Their goal was to maintain a “spirit of fraternity” and to provide mutual aid. Sometimes, several lansmanshaft groups would come together to form a Farband, or federation. This allowed them to form hospitals, old-age homes, and recovery centers because they combined their resources (Howe 2005:184-185).

Many hospitals were built to cater to the needs of the increasing Jewish population on the Lower East side.  One such hospital was Beth Israel Hospital which was founded by Eastern European Jews.  Built on voluntary contributions, it catered to Orthodox Jews, although it served the needs of all patients.  Another hospital was the Jewish Maternity Hospital, which was founded in 1908 in the heart of the Lower East side.  It had Yiddish-speaking doctors and served kosher food (Howe 2005:129).  

Many wealthy individuals came to the help of the poor, Eastern European immigrants (Howe 2005:121). One such individual was Baron de Hirsch.  He established the Baron de Hirsch Fund in order to provide relief to immigrants.  The Baron de Hirsch Fund provided money for education, English instruction, transportation to place of residence, and vocational instruction (Adler and Reizenstein 2009).

For more information, visit: