Saturday, January 20, 2007

Thursday Jan 24

Again meetings

Right from work one
meeting attended at the
Biosy Central Hotel by
the East Side K.H. Executors
and the 2nd meeting
of the Maccabean Camp
at 50 Delancey St,

I notice that our new
camp is gradually


Papa worked in a garment factory, but he doesn't write much about it. Perhaps, after so many years of factory work, his routine didn't surprise him enough to warrant much attention in his diary, or maybe he just considered his Zionist activities to be his "real"work.

In any event, knowing he went right from the factory to a series of meetings gives us another small hint as to what the atmosphere in those meetings was like. I'm not sure yet whether they convened in smoky, crowded social club basements, in private apartments where boxes of Zionist flyers stood in for chairs, or in little rented offices papered with Yiddish posters. Maybe Papa and his compadres pressed around the corner table of a kosher restaurant in a tight ring, craning their necks to see whatever papers or materials their leader spread out before them, urgently pointing and gesturing.

We do know, though, that they were all probably dirty and tired, their clothes and hair and nails carrying with them whatever traces of grease or thread or dust or blood their professions exposed them to. I wonder, too, how many of them were like Papa -- clever, articulate people who couldn't wait to rush from work to these gatherings where their ideas and powers of reason and most serious thoughts, having been suppressed all day, could finally burst forth and collide in the air. Maybe the American Zionist and labor movements benefited, in some way, from the way this pent-up intellectual energy fueled the urgency of meetings like the ones Papa attended.

By the way, for those of you just joining us, "K.H" refers to Keren Hayesod, a Zionist fundraising organization that's still around today. "The Maccabean Camp" refers to Papa's chapter of the Order Sons of Zion (a.k.a. B'nai Zion) a charitable fraternal organization I've mentioned before. Here are some stats about them from the 1924-1925 American Jewish Year Book:

Org. Apl. 19, 1908. OFFICE: 44 E. 23rd, New York City
Fourteenth Annual Convention, July 1923, New Haven, Conn.
Camps, 101. Members 7,000.
PURPOSE: Fraternal and Zionistic
And here's a little more background from the 1917-1918 Jewish Communal Register:
PURPOSE: "Aims to improve the condition of the whole Jewish people at large and to help the Zionist Congress create for the Jewish people a publicly owned, legally secured home in Palestine."

BENEFITS: Graded insurance against death ranging from $100.00 to $2000.00. Health and accident insurance.

ACTIVITIES: Supports Jewish and Zionist Educational Institutions. Encourages the study of the Hebrew language
An essay in the Register also has some interesting things to say about the importance of fraternal orders like B'nai Zion:

In their present form the Jewish Orders constitute a valuable and important factor in our communal life. The interests of about a million Jews are involved in their existence and welfare. Their influence for good is of inestimable value to our social activities. In his lodge and order, the Jew, who is a member, finds an agency which affords to him and his family a certain measure of protection in the event of death, illness or distress, and at the same time, a ready means to aid and assist others when in similar circumstances.
With all the good features these organizations possess, and the good work they actually do, their existence as a whole, with very few exceptions, is uncertain and insecure.

As mentioned before, the Jewish fraternal system did indeed become far less important to Jewish life as Jews found other means to organize and Americanize. Still, greatly transformed descendants of fraternal organizations -- including B'Nai Brith and B'Nai Zion -- still carry on.

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