The Fruits of Her Hands: Jewish Women and Social Welfare, 1819-1920
Introduction Religion Orphans Health Care Settlements Music
"Deeply impressed with the necessity of providing a home for destitute and unprotected children of Jewish parentage," Mrs. David Samuel wrote in the preamble of the Jewish Foster Home Constitution, "the ladies of the several congregations have associated to form an institution wherein the orphans or the children of indigent Israelites may be rescued from the evils of ignorance and vice, comfortably provided for, instructed in moral and religious duties and thus prepared to become useful members of society." Present at the 1855 inception of the Jewish Foster Home were Rebecca Gratz, Evelyn Bomeisler, Mrs. David Samuel, Mrs. Abraham Hart, and Rachel Pesoa. Mrs. Anna Allen was named the first Directress and Harriet Brown the first matron.
Passover Seder, circa 1900
From its humble beginnings caring for five children at 799 North Eleventh Street, the Home continued to grow. By 1901, it had moved to its permanent location at Church Lane (Mill Street) near Chew Street in Germantown. Its name changed to the Jewish Foster Home and Orphan Asylum of Philadelphia. The Home housed one hundred and twenty-five children, and employed a staff which included a superintendent, matron, governess, seamstress, gardener, engineer, cook, Hebrew teacher, music and gymnastics instructor, physician, and dentist. Children were admitted from six to ten years old and remained in the institution's care until they turned sixteen.
The children attended a public school while receiving Orthodox religious instruction at the Home.
Jewish Foster Home and Orphan Asylum, circa 1905
In order to prepare the children for life beyond the boundaries of the institution, the Cassie Theobald Pfaelzer Educational Trust Fund was established in 1900 to assist female orphans seeking vocational training. By 1905, six girls had benefited from the financial assistance entering careers as dressmakers, stenographers, and typists. Boys were encouraged to learn a trade or were placed in positions at various Philadelphia businesses. The Jewish Foster Home Alumni, originally formed in 1891 as the Isidore Binswanger Society, also pledged "to further the interest of its members by mutual assistance, mutual improvement and encouragement" after leaving the school.