Report of the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society, by Secretary, Rebecca Gratz, 1835.
Report Ladies, The season has again arrived when we are amenable to renew our efforts for the relief of those who need aid from their fellow sojourners in this world of many wants and many sufferings—and while we feebly put forth a diminished strength to relieve the cravings of nature we would suggest the wish that our abilities might be directed to a more pressing need—the mental impoverishment of those who are rising to take their place among the thousands of Israel scattered throughout the facilities of the earth. In a little while the remnant of those who first plead for the female poor of this congregation will have passed away and perhaps the sweetened memorial raised to their names will be recorded that they laid the course stone to this just tuition. Is it not too much to hope—too much to expect from the daughters of a noble race that they will be foremost in the work of charity—provided their young hearts are impressed with its sacred duties. Let us then plead ---- for the means to of "training them in the way they should go"—we have ---- a teacher desirous of opening his store of useful knowledge for the improvement of the rising generation—his opp---- of study in the original language of the scriptures gives him advantages few here ------- and then unto many of the difficulties complained of among us may be attributed. The want of education shuts the door of advancement into private or public nations—which an Israelite might obtain in this country—and the consummation of our highest ambition may even be the wiping off of that stigma which rebellion and disobedience have ---- upon the nation—may be accomplished, when enlightened Jews mingle with the inhabitants of the land respecting their own laws and practicing the virtues required of the chosen people of God. Such as must prepare the way for that unto the gathering of the people be—we need look for no greater miracle than the changed heart that an enlightened faith—piety, self-respect and charity will engender to make our wilderness bloom—and a light shine on the on the mountains of Zion—but this is in advance of our present purpose—the grain must be sown before the harvest can be reaped and if we are only employed in the humblest occupation of preparing the soil for future seasons of prosperity—our labor will not be lost to that all seeing eye that searcheth out the smallest seed of good and ------. Let us then still thrive to --- and reform—give freely of our own means and ask a ----. The treasurers account will inform you of the amount of funds and expenditures—we invite—we---- every female of the congregation to take an interest in this society—the ---- aid will be gratefully received money or moneys worth that can be converted into use for the poor and those who have nothing else to give—we ask good will. Good wishes and good words to cheer and cherish the spirit of clarity in which the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society greets and claims kindred with any daughter of Israel.

Suggested Discussion Questions:

1. How does Gratz describe the poor? Why do you think she speaks about them in this way?

2. How does Gratz present the efforts and obligations of Jewish women?

3. What emphasis does Gratz place on education? What values does this emphasis reflect?

4. Is this report merely an account of the goals of the society? How is it an effective fundraising mechanism?

5. Think about an organization that helps the poor today. What does it have in common with the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society?

Time Period: Modern (Spinoza through post-WWII)