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A Philadelphia Community From 1954 to 2015
By Robert Kleiner
THE SHOLOM ALEICHEM CLUB, a secular Jewish organization that has been committed to the study of our history, to Jewish continuity, to the enhancement of Jewish identity, to the education of our community and our children, and to social activism as a vital part of secular Jewish identity, has decided to dissolve. The decision to do so was based on the reality that the aging process has claimed so many members due to death, debilitating chronic physical problems, loss of the ability to be physically mobile, and other familial obligations. During our 60+ years, the club has had meetings dealing with its commitments through lectures, seminars, music, theater, and the arts. This has been accompanied by publications of newsletters, articles in journals and books, and the publication of books as well — including the Haggadah for a Secular Celebration of Pesach, which has had five printings since its publication in 1975.
The club’s activities have included participating in the creation and development over the years of the Philadelphia Jewish Children's Folkshule by providing funds, teachers, administrators, and students. The school is now one of the biggest and most creative secular Jewish schools in the country.
The club also participated, either alone or in conjunction with many Jewish and non-Jewish organizations, in a wide range of social and politically relevant activities.
From the very beginning of the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations (its current name), the club has been active in the building and assuring the continuity of that organization, which shares its aims and goals. This has been through participation at all levels of leadership, in planning and participating in annual meetings and conferences, and involving our youth in the Congress’s activities.
Since the creation of Jewish Currents, members have been on the Editorial Board and served in other ways. A major figure with the magazine was Max Rosenfeld (a co-founder of the club), who was an editorial board member for many years and served as a writer, an educator, a translator, and a columnist for the journal. Many of our members are life subscribers to Jewish Currents.
It is out of this historical context that the club has made the following decisions unanimously:
- It will give $9,000 to the Folkshule to create the Sholom Aleichem Scholarship Fund to assist and subsidize the families who can’t afford the tuition of the school and to aid students from the school who want to participate in the activities of the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations.
- It will give $3,000 dollars to the Publications Committee of the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations for the purpose of supporting the publication of material consistent with the aims and goals of the Congress.
- It urges all of the former members and friends of the club to support as vigorously as possible a) Jewish Currents, b) J Street, c) The Jewish Peace Lobby, and d) Americans for Peace Now.
- It will provide the Archives of the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History at Temple University with the records, newsletters, publications, and past programs of the club.
- For many years, the club has placed a wreath at the annual Holocaust Memorial Program in Philadelphia. The Folkshule will continue the tradition in the name of the club.
- Lastly, the Folkshule has indicated that it will collect funds every year from former club members, friends, and others in the secular Jewish community to maintain the Scholarship Fund in future years.
Robert Kleiner received his Ph.D from the University of Pennsylvania in Social Psychology. He has been an active leader in the Sholom Aleichem Club and the Conference of Secular Jewish Organizations, and chaired the board and curriculum committee of the Jewish Children’s Folkshule in Philadelphia. He is currently working on a biography of Kurt Lewin.