WPA Yiddish Writer's Group Study (1938-39)
Directory of Organizations: Yiddish listing
The following 2145 organizations are listed in Di yidishe landsmanshaftn fun nyu york (The Jewish landsmanshaftn of New York) (pages 274-372) prepared by the Yiddish Writers' Guild of the Federal Writers' Project, Works Projects Administration, published by the I.L. Peretz Yiddish Writers' Group in 1938.
IIt was based on a survey form that was sent to 2,468 New York landsmanshaftn. The questionaires were completed by 1,757 organizations consisting of anshei synagogues (landsmanshaft congregations), independent societies, ladies aid societies and ladies auxiliaries, workmen's fraternal orders (Workmen's Circle, Jewish National Workers' Alliance, and International Workers' Order), other fraternal orders, united relief committees, patronati (organizations that aided political prisoners in Poland), and miscellaneous centers and clubs. 131 family circles also responded, which are listed directly beneath the aforementioned organizations. A third category is 257 organizations that may have responded, but did not provide enough information. The remaining balance of 323 organizations are assumed not to have responded at all and are not listed below. Several organizations that filled out surveys are erroneously listed again in the third category under a different variation of their name, such as Erste Bacauer Kranken Unter. Verein/Erster Bacauer K.U.V.; Erster Chacemirer K.U.V./Erster Chacemirer Kranken Unt. Verein; and Narovler Unterstützung Verein/Narovler Aid Society.
For the organizations and family circles that responded to the survey, the tables below contain the following data columns: the name of the organization, the year in which it was organized, the number of members at the time of organization, the number of members at the time the survey was taken in 1938, the percentage of members that were American-born, and the percentage of members who were non-landsleit (those who did not come from the town for which the society was established). I have also indicated the numerical order (order no.) and page number in which the organization appears on the original list. The societies are not listed in their original order here because I have alphabetized them according to the English alphabet. To ease your search I have added a keyword column; to find a society that is of interest to you, please search by keyword.
At first glance the statistics may seem genealogically irrelevant and not worth the time and effort of including. However, I did so because they give an idea as to when the bulk of immigration for a given town occurred. For instance, if an organization had a much larger number of members in 1938 than it did at its founding, then it means that the bulk of immigration from that town occurred in the first two decades of the 20th century and the organization would have still been in its heyday. However, if an organization had a much smaller number of members in 1938 than it did at its inception, it means that the bulk of immigration from the town occurred earlier, such as in the last two decades of the 19th century, and that the society was on the decline. Additional data contained in the original, but not included here are the day(s) and place where the monthly meetings were held, the language in which the meetings were conducted, the purpose of the society, and the name and address of its secretary. To see what a typical entry looks like in its original Yiddish, click here.
This list is a transliteration of the original Yiddish. There was no consistency. Standard Yiddish words found in society names were either written in Yiddish or much more frequently their English equivalent was written in Yiddish letters. For instance, "Erste" and "First", "Frauen" and "Ladies", and "Verein" and "Society" were used interchangeably throughout. Other English words that were spelled or abbreviated in Yiddish letters were Aid, Association, Auxiliary, Benevolent, Brotherly, Brothers, Center, Circle, Club, Congregation, Friends, Independent, League, Men's, Progressive, Relief, Social, United, and Young, amongst others. I left most Yiddish words as is, with the exception of the Yiddish for aid, circle, old age home, orphans, sister, united, vicinity, and youth, which I translated into English so that they would be recognizable.
With the exception of the anshei synagogues and the relief organizations, all or most of the other societies are in the book's separate English listing, but with no other details other than the name and address of the secretary. However in many cases the name of the societies are inconsistent between the Yiddish and the English. For instance, Erste Novoselitzer K.U.V. on the Yiddish list is First Novoselitzer Bessarabier S.B.S. on the English. Such inconsistencies in the society's name illustrates the difficult task that would await someone if they ever tried to compile a master list of all the Jewish landsmanshaftn that existed in New York. The only way of knowing that these two Novoselitzer societies are the same is by comparing the name and address of the secretary, and providing that there was no typographical error. In this particular case there was -- a discrepancy between 214 E. 92nd and 214 E. 93rd St., Brooklyn.
The WPA Yiddish Writers' Guild of the Federal Writers' Project is a separate survey than the Works Progress Adminstration WPA Federal Writers Project - Survey of State and Local Historical Records: Church Records Jewish - Synagogue in 1939. The former submitted a totally different questionnaire to each society than the latter. Click here to see the questionnaire used by the WPA Yiddish Writers' Guild.
For further information about the survey that is the subject of this webpage, read Jewish Hometown Associations and Family Circles in New York: The WPA Yiddish Writers' Group Study, edited with an introduction and afterword by Hannah Kliger. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1992.
Note that this list contained a fair amount of typographical errors that were in the original manuscript, such as Bertcher for Beitcher and Dzezaner for Brzezaner. I corrected as many as I could by comparing them against the English listing (and other lists of landsmanshaftn). In at least one case the spelling was wrong on both the Yiddish and English lists -- Obertyner was spelled as Abertiner. Do not accept these spellings as the definitive standard, particularly in regard to the name of your ancestral town.
To search for data, just type at least four characters of the organization name, year founded, or keyword. Your search will return all records that match any portion of your search term, so the more precised you are, the better the search will be.