The Washington Heights “Y”
To the Editor:
Because I have been a resident and a worker in this community for over twenty years, I am concerned with Ernest Stock’s failure, in his article on the German Jewish community of Washington Heights [June 1951], to mention the part played by the Washington Heights YM and YWHA in the integration of newcomers.
The “Y,” which is sponsored by the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, is the only Jewish communal agency outside of the synagogues. We provided hundreds of young people with meeting space for their clubs; the histories of the Alteo and the LEF Clubs are outstanding examples. We helped in the process of substituting the English language for German, in developing democratic procedure at meetings, in encouraging the selection of leaders with American background.
We organized a discussion group and a bridge club; we arranged concerts and lectures, in particular a series of lectures on “Our City” consisting of thirteen talks by the heads of the various city departments. We organized special English classes and facilitated securing citizenship papers. We had several meetings with the leaders of adult groups, including rabbis, in an effort to interpret to them what the “Y” had to offer. We set up a special class for those who had speech difficulties, with emphasis on the social aspect of good speech. We assisted cantors by providing rooms with pianos for practice purposes in preparation for their High Holy Day assignments. An adult singing society, organized quite a few years ago, still meets at the “Y.” Quite a few newcomers found a welcome in our Symphony Orchestra.
Over the years children of newcomers have come to the “Y” for their leisure-time activities. These children attend the nursery school, day camp, crafts shop—they participate in every activity without being set off as different from American-born children. The Golden Age Club, of oldsters, contains a large number of these European-born men and women who enjoy the hospitality of the “Y.”
Had Mr. Stock familiarized himself with the work done at the Washington Heights “Y,” he would have found that we have done and are doing a great deal toward helping the newcomers and their children in their adjustment to American life.
Samuel S. Solender
Washington Heights YM and YWHA
New York City