Skip to main content

United Hebrew Benevolent Association (Boston, Mass.) Records

Identifier: I-223

Scope and Content Note

The collection contains case reports, including listings of funds disbursed to families and individuals in need, and a receipt, dated 1888, for dues paid to the UHBA.


  • 1888-1898


Language of Materials

The collection is in English.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for researcher use. Please contact us to request access or to make an appointment to view this collection at

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of this collection. For more information contact

Historical Note

In 1864, 26 congregants of Boston’s Adath Israel (now Temple Israel) and Ohabei Shalom held a meeting to launch the United Hebrew Benevolent Association (UHBA). The founders, many of whom were merchants and manufacturers, joined together in response to the growing number of Jewish immigrants arriving from Eastern Europe. Recognizing a cultural and economic divide between these newcomers and the earlier generations of Jewish immigrants from Central Europe, they sought “to secure if possible the cooperation of the Jews of every nationality residing in or near Boston” and “to dispense the charities of the Israelitish persuasion with a greater degree of system and effectiveness than has heretofore prevailed.”

Members paid annual dues, though records were not kept. People in need applied to UHBA officers at their places of business for cash gifts or loans. Beginning in 1869, the UHBA began holding social events to raise funds, hosting a Purim Ball and annual picnics and banquets.

Under the leadership of Jacob Hecht, a German-born businessman, the UHBA set up an office with regular visiting hours. Dividing the city into districts, officers investigated the circumstances of individuals and families applying for aid and maintained records of cases and disbursements. In 1883, the UHBA took offices in Boston’s Municipal Charities Building.

In reaction to anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe, Jewish immigration to the United States surged in the 1880s, presenting new challenges for social service agencies. In 1883, Rabbi Solomon Schindler, leader of Adath Israel and a UHBA director, proposed forming a cooperative association of Jewish charities and advocated for the inclusion of women on the UHBA board.

A series of crises during the early 1890s brought Schindler’s vision to fruition. The harsh winter of 1892 and the nationwide depression of 1893 drained the resources of the UHBA. Recognizing the need for new approaches to financial management, the UHBA and four other philanthropic organizations—the Hebrew Ladies Sewing Society, the Leopold Morse Home for the Aged and Infirm Hebrews and Orphanage, the Free Employment Bureau, and the Charitable Burial Association—created the Federation of Jewish Charities in 1895.

The new federation oversaw fundraising campaigns and shared resources among member groups. As director, Schindler registered applicants for aid and determined which agency should assist them. Staff and volunteers visited the needy, dealing with such problems as family desertion, the placement of orphaned or destitute children, and the provision of health care. In 1908, the Federation expanded to include the Helping Hand for Destitute Jewish Children, the Mt. Sinai Dispensary, and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and was renamed Federated Jewish Charities. The organization underwent several name changes and continued to expand its services. In 1960, it merged with the Combined Jewish Appeal and Associated Jewish Philanthropies to form the Combined Jewish Philanthropies.


  1. Material from collection.
  2. Ebert, Susan. “Community and Philanthropy.” In The Jews of Boston: Essays on the Occasion of the Centenary (1895-1995) of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, edited by Jonathan D. Sarna and Ellen Smith, 209-237. Boston: The Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, 1995.
  3. Solomon, Barbara Miller. Pioneers in Service: The History of the Associated Jewish Philanthropies of Boston. Boston: Associated Jewish Philanthropies, 1956.
  4. Combined Jewish Philanthropies. "Our History.” Accessed June 13, 2017.


UHBA is founded by congregants of Adath Israel and Ohabei Shalom.
UHBA holds its first fundraising charity ball.
Lina Hecht revives the Hebrew Ladies’ Sewing Circle, as an auxiliary to UHBA.
Jacob Hecht becomes president of UHBA and appoints rabbis Schindler and Raphael Lasker of Ohabei Shalom as directors.
UHBA obtains offices in Boston’s Municipal Charities Building. Rabbi Schindler calls for the formation of a cooperative association of Jewish charitable organizations and for the inclusion of women on UHBA's board.
UHBA sponsors Jewish Dispensary for Women and Children in Boston’s North End, providing free medical services.
Local Jewish organizations adopt plan to establish a federation of charities.
UHBA and four other Jewish philanthropies form the Federation of Jewish Charities.
The Federation incorporates additional local organizations and is renamed Federated Jewish Charities.
The Federation merges with the Combined Jewish Appeal and Associated Jewish Philanthropies to form Combined Jewish Philanthropies.


0.25 linear feet (1 half-manuscript box)


In 1864, congregants of Adath Israel (Temple Israel of Boston) and Ohabei Shalom founded the United Hebrew Benevolent Association, a charitable organization serving Boston’s growing Jewish community. In 1895, the UHBA and four other Jewish philanthropic organizations formed the Federation of Jewish Charities, the forerunner of today’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies. The collection contains case histories, including listings of funds disbursed to families and individuals in need, and a receipt, dated 1888, for dues paid to the UHBA.

Physical Location

Located in Boston, Mass.

Acquisition Information

Acquisition information is unknown.

Processing Information

Processed by Judith Maas, 2017

Guide to the United Hebrew Benevolent Association (Boston, Mass.) Records, I-223
Processed by Judith Maas
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at New England Historic Genealogical Society Repository

99-101 Newbury Street
Boston MA 02116 United States