Coping with Life and Death: Jewish Families in the Twentieth Century

By Peter Y. Medding | Go to book overview

What Happened to the Extended Jewish
Family? Jewish Homes for the Aged
in Eastern Europe
Shaul Stampfer
(the hebrew university)

On Sunday, May 17, 1846, Moses Montefiore spent a day in Warsaw en route to England after a meeting with Czar Nicholas in St. Petersburg. What sights of the city did the local Jewish leadership choose to show him? According to Louis Loewe, who later published a summary of Montefiore's journals, “in order to show how desirous the Jews here are, under the most unfavorable circumstances, to promote the welfare of their poorer brethren, Sir Moses gives a long description of the hospital … and of Mr. Matthias Rosen's Aged Needy Asylum and speaks in terms of the highest praise of all the arrangements. ” 1 Montefiore was clearly impressed by what was considered at the time to be a most innovative institution: a home for the needy Jewish aged. In fact, the old-age home in Warsaw had been founded only a few years earlier—at the time of Montefiore's visit, it was probably the only such Jewish facility in all of Eastern Europe. In the course of time, however, more and more such institutions were founded until the old-age home became a standard component of Jewish communal organization and even a stock institution in Yiddish literature. 2 In tracing its historical development, we hope to clarify the place of the elderly in the Jewish family, along with broader issues of communal organization.


The Elderly in the Traditional Family Structure
of East European Jewry

In traditional East European Jewish society before the mid-nineteenth century, the elderly neither lived with their children nor resided in institutions. They lived on their own; contrary to common belief, the typical Jewish household consisted solely of a husband, wife and minor children. 3 When children were old enough to support themselves, they usually married and went off to live on their own, whereas their parents remained an independent economic unit. This pattern, which had been typical for many generations, was one that distinguished East European Jews from the predominantly agricultural populations among whom they lived. 4

-128-

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Coping with Life and Death: Jewish Families in the Twentieth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Studies in Contemporary Jewry *
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Symposium - Coping with Life and Death: Jewish Families in the Twentieth Century *
  • The Place of Ethnic Identity in the Development of Personal Identity: A Challenge for the Jewish Family 3
  • Notes *
  • Marriage, Americanization and American Jewish Culture, 1900–1920 27
  • Notes *
  • Making Fragmentation Familiar: Barry Levinson's Avalon 49
  • Notes *
  • The Economics of Contemporary American Jewish Family Life 65
  • Notes *
  • Children of Intermarriage: How “jewish”? 81
  • Notes *
  • What Happened to the Extended Jewish Family? Jewish Homes for the Aged in Eastern Europe 128
  • Notes *
  • Cohesion and Rupture: the Jewish Family in East European Ghettos During the Holocaust 143
  • Notes *
  • The “family-Community” Model in Haredi Society 166
  • Notes *
  • We Are All One Bereaved Family: Personal Loss and Collective Mourning in Israeli Society 178
  • Notes *
  • Essays *
  • Evangelists in a Strange Land: American Missionaries in Israel, 1948–1967 195
  • Notes *
  • Balfour's Mission to Palestine: Science, Strategy and Vision in the Inauguration of the Hebrew University 214
  • Notes 228
  • Review Essays *
  • Vichy and the Jews: A Past That is Not Past 235
  • Notes *
  • Mastering the Middle East: Israel in a Regional Context 250
  • Examining the Oslo Process: A First Cut 256
  • Notes *
  • Book Reviews *
  • Antisemitism, Holocaust and Genocide 265
  • Notes *
  • Notes *
  • History and the Social Sciences 281
  • Notes *
  • Notes *
  • Notes *
  • Language, Literature and the Arts 307
  • Notes 309
  • Notes *
  • Religion, Thought and Education 325
  • Notes *
  • Zionism, Israel and the Middle East 339
  • Notes 349
  • Recently Completed Doctoral Dissertations 351
  • Studies in Comtemporary Jewry XV 360
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