the atlanta board of education
In even as early as the 1870's, the very small Jewish community made sure to be involved in the educational regulations of their society. Jews were highly respected during this era, so it came to no surprise that a Jewish man, David Mayer, was one of the men whose efforts supported the formation of Atlanta's public school system and the Atlanta Board of Education in 1872. Mayer was also a Confederate Civil War hero and a banker (Shankman, Atlanta Jewry). Continuing into the 1890s and 1990s, several other Jews served on the Board. It was clear that the Atlanta community valued their Jewish members from the earliest days of the growth of the city, which resulted in a subsequent increase in Jewish educational organizations, some of which are discussed below. (Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life).
The Jewish Educational alliance (jea)
While the Jews of German decent were the first to populate Atlanta and assimilate into society, it was not until the early 1900's when the Jewish Eastern European immigrants began to assimilate with the help of the German Jews. (Discussed more in depth on the landing page). In 1909, the Hebrew Institute (Russian-founded) and the Free Kindergarten and Social Settlement (German-founded) merged together to form the Jewish Educational Alliance (JEA) (Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life). This organization was founded with the goal of increasing Americanization among new immigrants, including English classes, citizenship classes, and cooking instruction that taught Jewish women how to cook with Southern foods and crops. While the main purpose of the JEA was originally to help new immigrants prepare for naturalization, it eventually became more of a community center. The JEA served the needs of the Jewish community by providing Hebrew language classes, a Free Kindergarten, a gymnasium, arts and crafts groups, and summer programs for children (Shankman, Atlanta Jewry).
The Jewish Educational Loan Fund
Originally, the Jewish Educational Loan Fund was known as the Hebrew Orphan's Home when it was founded in 1899. Funding was provided to house Jewish children from across the Southeastern United States as well as to provide adoption and foster home services. The upbringing of children was very important to the Jews, as they believed that a good childhood was the foundation for a healthy development. The organization was especially important during World War II, when it placed Jewish refugee children in foster care (Breman Museum Cuba Family Archives). Eventually, the organization reorganized into the Jewish Child Services when it realized that there were many overlapping welfare services available for children. In 1961, the organization shifted its services to providing financial help for Jewish college students, with the name Jewish Educational Loan Fund (JELF) adopted in 1989. These loans were created to be interest free and need based. This encouraged all Jewish youth, regardless of financial ability, to get higher educations, which was an important aspect of American society. The organization still exists today, granting loans to students from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, with a loan portfolio of 5.1 million (Jewish Educational Loan Fund).
Header photo courtesy of Greenwich Education Group