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Boston YMHA-Hecht House Records

Identifier: I-74

Scope and Content Note

The Boston YMHA-Hecht House Collection contains the records of the YMHA and Hecht House when they were separate organizations as well as after the merger, including constitutions, meeting minutes, budgets, financial reports, correspondence, publications and photographs. Overall, the records of the Hecht House are more complete, and include the records of numerous clubs and activities held at the organization. Materials pertaining to organizations and associations that worked with the YMHA-Hecht House are also included in the collection. These organizations range from Associated Jewish Philanthropies (the precursor to Combined Jewish Philanthropies) to the Jewish Welfare Board.

There are several folders of restricted material in the collection, including personnel evaluations and reports of anti-Semitic incidents at Hecht House. These records cannot be accessed without permission from the archivist.


  • undated, 1896-1971


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

The Young Men's Hebrew Association (YMHA) was founded in Boston's South End and incorporated on January 30, 1882 by a small group of residents, including Edward S. Goulston, Grace Cohen, Raphael Lasker, Mark Wolf, Abraham L. Fisbel, Louis Gans, Mark Stone, Abraham P. Spitz, Nathan Schloss, L.B. Schwabe, Samuel B. Sterne, Morris Clarke and Julius Rosenthal. At the time of it's founding, the mission of the YMHA was to be the impetus of "the moral, physical, intellectual and social improvement" of its members. Several years later the YMHA received, as a donation by Godfrey Hyams, a converted residence at 39 East Concord Street in the South End of Boston, where it conducted the majority of its activities. By 1909, the Jewish population had moved out of the South End to Roxbury and Dorchester, prompting the YMHA to relocate to the former Hetty Green mansion on the corner of Warren and Howland Streets in Roxbury.

Once the organization was established in Roxbury, a shift in its ideology compelled the Board to declare that the YMHA was a Jewish cultural organization, responsible for not just its members, but also the entire Jewish community. Included in its new mission was a religious school that moved under the auspices of the Bureau of Jewish Education in 1918; also that year, the practice of Friday Night Services, instituted by the Y.M.H.A, were held by individual synagogues. In conjunction with the National Y.M.H. and Kindred Associations, the organization published a manual in 1917 on the development and management of boys' clubs, which is included in this collection.

With membership continuing to increase, the YMHA needed to relocate once again, this time to a building on Seaver Street, on the corner of Humboldt Avenue, in Roxbury. Administration recognized that programs and facilities needed expansion, and in 1920 they hired an executive director to lead the process. After a lengthy fundraising campaign that was put on hold during World War I, enough funds were raised to build a gymnasium, completed in 1925. More staff was trained and hired to replace volunteers who no longer fit the changing needs of the organization.

As the Jewish population began to move out of Dorchester, Mattapan and Roxbury and into Brookline, Newton and Brighton, membership and funding decreased. However, the organization remained positive about its location and impact on the community and stayed in this location until the merger with Hecht House in 1960.

Hecht House

Lina Hecht founded the Hecht House in 1889 as the Hebrew Industrial School in the North End of Boston. The school's primary purpose was to educate young female immigrants in a trade (particularly sewing) so that they could provide for themselves in their new country. Lena Hecht died in 1920, the same year the school moved to Bowdoin Street in the West End. Two years later, on February 7, 1922, the school incorporated under the name "Hecht Neighborhood House." Signatories on the incorporation papers included the organization's officers: Sally Hecht Ehrlich, Lena F. Leviseur, Morris Rosenthal, Lena H. Frankenstein, Henry Ehrlich and Adolph Ehrlich. In 1936, Hecht Neighborhood House moved to 160 American Legion Highway in Dorchester. At this point it operated as a community center for children and adults, and included a Nursery School, as well as programs for school children, high school students, young adults and adults.

The Hecht House had four overriding objectives: 1) foster democracy and citizenship; 2) to advance understanding of Jewish ideals; 3) conduct relevant programming to promote physical, cultural, moral and educational well-being, and 4) promote understanding among all community groups. Membership was open to all community members, although programs generally serviced community members from the Roxbury, Mattapan and Dorchester neighborhoods. Programming, in addition to the nursery school, included after school programming for elementary school children, evening programs for high school students and adults, and over sixty clubs-some not directly affiliated with Hecht House. In addition, there were men's and women's associations, which were responsible for planning activities and events for adults, and a summer day camp that operated for eight weeks out of the summer.

The building on American Legion Highway was well equipped to handle the needs of its members, with a gymnasium, exercise rooms, health club, science laboratory, and photography dark room. A dance hall, kitchen, nursery rooms, clubrooms, adult lounge and canteen were on the group floor. On the second room, the building housed a game room, children's library, sewing room, and additional nursery rooms. The third story included a young adult lounge, art and ceramic studios, a theater, and additional clubrooms. In addition to the main building, two bungalows existed on the property, one equipped with a woodshop and the other used by "Golden Agers" and Scouts. A 250 square feet playground was also on the grounds. Additionally, Hecht House also had cooperative agreements with three public schools that were used for juniors programming.

The Boston YMHA- Hecht House

In 1960, Hecht House and the Boston YMHA merged to create one organization, the Boston YMHA-Hecht House. Their goal was to provide "the development and conducting of a comprehensive program of guided leisure time activities for its members utilizing the skills and methods of group work, informal education and recreation, and aimed at helping individuals achieve an affirmative relationship to their community." The organization was located at 150 American Legion Highway in Dorchester and welcomed both children and adults from Dorchester, Mattapan, Roxbury, Hyde Park and Milton.

A Board of Directors oversaw the Boston YMHA-Hecht House. The Board was elected by adult members of the organization and responsible for participating in the majority of activities. Staffing included an executive director, program director, teachers and specialists who were responsible for running several departments, including the nursery school, programs for students in grammar, junior and senior high schools, post high school, young adults, adults, senior citizens programming, the physical education department and day camps.

In 1970, Hecht House was sold to the Lena Park Housing Development Corporation, a move sponsored and supported by Mayor Kevin White and then mayoral aid Barney Frank.


  1. Materials from the collection.


YMHA founded in the South End, incorporated on January 30th
Lina Hecht founds the Hebrew Industrial School in the North End of Boston
The Y.M.H.A moved from East Concord Street in the South End to Warren and Howland Streets in Roxbury
YMHA publishes a manual on boys' clubs through the National Y.M.H. and Kindred Associations
Bureau of Jewish Education assumes control of YMHA Religious School
Synagogues begin Friday night services, modeled after YMHA services
Lina Hecht dies
Hebrew Industrial School moves to the West End
YMHA hires an executive director
"Hecht Neighborhood House" is incorporated on February 7th
YMHA completes building the gymnasium
Hecht Neighborhood House moves to 160 American Legion Highway in Dorchester
YMHA and Hecht House merge to become the Boston Y.M.H.A- Hecht House, located at 150 American Legion Highway in Boston
YMHA-Hecht House sold to the Lena Park Housing Development Corporation


13.5 linear feet (27 manuscript boxes, 3 oversized folders)


This collection includes constitution, minutes of the Board of Trustees (1934-1948, 1953-1958), budgets (1942-1948, 1951-1953, 1955-1958), financial reports, material on membership, and numerous activities. Among the latter is extensive material on camping, clubs, and the nursery school. Contains material on the history of Hecht House, surveys, publications, and other material issued, photographs, and memorabilia. Includes similar material of the YMHA for the years 1933-1958, and for the merged organization for the years 1959-1970. Among the latter are the minutes of the Board of Directors (1959-1970) and budget reports (1959-1963). Contains some material of the Hebrew Industrial School as well as papers on the following institutions relating to the work of the Hecht House: Associated Jewish Philanthropies, Central Service Agency for Groupwork, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Greater Boston Council of Jewish Centers, Jewish Centers Association, Jewish Community Centers Camps, Jewish Community Council of Metropolitan Boston, National Jewish Welfare Board, National Association of Jewish Center Workers, New England Association of Jewish Center Workers, New England Association of Jewish Center Youth Councils, New England Association of Young Adult Councils, United Jewish Youth Council, and United Synagogue of America.

Physical Location

Located in Boston, Mass.

Acquisition Note

Donated by the Hecht House, 1992; additional materials donated in 1971 and 2000.

Processing Information

Reprocessed by Stephanie Call, 2010

Guide to the Boston YMHA-Hecht House Records, I-74
Reprocessed by Stephanie Call
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at American Ancestors Repository

99-101 Newbury Street
Boston MA 02116 United States