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Jewish Sheltering Home for Children, Minneapolis

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Black and white photograph of residents of the Jewish Sheltering Home for Children in Minneapolis, c.1925.

Residents of the Jewish Sheltering Home for Children in Minneapolis, c.1925.

Orthodox Jews concerned about Jewish children who were cared for in non-Jewish foster homes founded the Jewish Sheltering Home for Children in North Minneapolis in 1918. The founders felt that such children would become estranged from their religion and culture. The home they organized functioned as a Jewish institution through the early 1960s.

Rabbi and Mrs. Louis Seltzer of Sharei Zedeck Synagogue led the group that incorporated the home in November 1918. They purchased a twenty-bedroom, five-bathroom Victorian house at 1704 Tenth Avenue North. (Tenth Avenue was soon renamed Oak Park Avenue.) The house stood on a five-lot corner parcel. In January 1919, eighteen Jewish children were gathered from foster homes and moved into the house.

Families in crisis could place their children in the home for periods ranging from a few weeks to a few years. Adoptions were arranged for those whose parents had died in the influenza epidemic of 1918–1919. A report from the 1920s classified the children as motherless; fatherless; with parents who were sick or in institutions such as the Glen Lake tuberculosis sanitarium; or with working mothers who were unable to care for them.

In August 1921, forty-two children lived in the home—the legal limit. The need for a new facility was clear. The Sheltering Home Women’s Auxiliary led a fundraising campaign that culminated in the dedication of a new building in 1934. The three-story, red brick building was designed by the architectural firm Liebenberg and Kaplan. It was located across the street from the site where the Emanuel Cohen Center (also designed by Liebenberg and Kaplan) was built six years later in a similar Georgian style.

Various Jewish women’s organizations, synagogues, and fraternal groups aided the Sheltering Home’s board of directors. They provided for the religious, academic, personal, and social needs of the children. After 1930, the Jewish Federation provided financial support.

The Sheltering Home housed twenty-four children from seven families in 1936. Two years later, the number of children was down to ten, ages four to fourteen years, also from seven families.

Most of the thirteen children who were discharged from late 1937 to early 1938 went home to their parents. For this reason, a 1938 survey of social and health work in Minneapolis recommended that the home should close and place children in need with relatives or in boarding houses. This did not happen for over twenty years.

The Sheltering Home changed its name to Oak Park Home in 1940. A brochure from that year stated, “Our style Home [sic] offers the best possible facilities for a positive group family life without sacrificing the individuality of the child.” It stressed that children were given an Orthodox Jewish upbringing. Older children participated in activities at the Emmanuel Cohen Center across the street.

People who stayed at the Sheltering Home as children later recalled being cared for in a stable atmosphere. They stayed connected to their families and the larger Jewish community. Oak Park Home staff urged former residents to continue to think of the home as a place they could visit and come to for guidance if needed.

The Sheltering Home assisted refugee children waiting to be adopted after World War II. In the 1950s, however, trends in social welfare evolved. Social service agencies again preferred foster home care to institutional group settings. In 1964, the Oak Park Home ceased operations as a sheltering home for Jewish children. For a brief time it housed a Jewish-sponsored treatment center for “emotionally disturbed children.”

In 1997, the building on Oak Park Avenue became the home of another organization that served youth in need of shelter: Avenues for Homeless Youth. According to a 2009–2010 annual report, the Minneapolis Jewish Federation and Adath Jeshurun Congregation were among its financial supporters. As of 2015, Avenues for Homeless Youth was located in the same building.

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© Minnesota Historical Society
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Avenues for Homeless Youth.
www.avenuesforyouth.org

Avenues for Homeless Youth. 2009–10 Annual Report. Personal collection of the author. N.p.: [Minneapolis, 2011].

Community Survey of Social and Health Work in Minneapolis: Agency Report for Jewish Sheltering Home for Children. [Minneapolis, MN]: N.p., 1938.
Jewish Sheltering Home for Children collection (001647). Nathan and Theresa Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives, University of Minnesota.

Jewish Sheltering Home for Children Picnic, Sunday, July 8, 1934 at Glenwood Park. [Minneapolis, MN]: N.p., [1934?].

Lewin, Rhoda. Jewish Community of North Minneapolis. Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 2001.

Oak Park Home, Operated by Jewish Sheltering Home for Children. [Minneapolis, MN]: N.p., [1940?].

Plaut, Gunther. The Jews in Minnesota: The First Seventy-Five Years. New York: American Jewish Historical Society, 1959.

Schloff, Linda Mack. Unpublished notes on the history of the Jewish Sheltering Home for Children. Jewish Sheltering Home for Children collection (001647). Nathan and Theresa Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives, University of Minnesota.

Sixteen Years of Progress, 1918–1934. [Minneapolis, MN]: N.p., 1934.
Jewish Sheltering Home for Children collection (001647). Nathan and Theresa Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives, University of Minnesota.

Related Images

Black and white photograph of residents of the Jewish Sheltering Home for Children in Minneapolis, c.1925.
Black and white photograph of residents of the Jewish Sheltering Home for Children in Minneapolis, c.1925.
Black and white photograph of a man telling a story to residents of the Jewish Sheltering Home for Children in Minneapolis, c.1925.
Black and white photograph of a man telling a story to residents of the Jewish Sheltering Home for Children in Minneapolis, c.1925.
Black and white photograph of the playground of the Jewish Sheltering Home for Children in Minneapolis, c.1925.
Black and white photograph of the playground of the Jewish Sheltering Home for Children in Minneapolis, c.1925.
Black and white photograph of the Jewish Sheltering Home for Children at 1704 Oak Park Avenue in Minneapolis,1925.
Black and white photograph of the Jewish Sheltering Home for Children at 1704 Oak Park Avenue in Minneapolis,1925.
Black and white photograph of residents of the Jewish Sheltering Home for Children, 1934.
Black and white photograph of residents of the Jewish Sheltering Home for Children, 1934.
Black and white photograph of residents of the Jewish Sheltering Home for Children, c1935.
Black and white photograph of residents of the Jewish Sheltering Home for Children, c1935.
Black and white photograph of the Oak Park Home for Children (formerly the Jewish Sheltering Home for Children) at 1704–1708 Oak Park Avenue in Minneapolis, 1948.
Black and white photograph of the Oak Park Home for Children (formerly the Jewish Sheltering Home for Children) at 1704–1708 Oak Park Avenue in Minneapolis, 1948.

Turning Point

The Jewish Sheltering Home for Children, often filled to capacity, raises funds to build a larger facility that opens in 1934.

Chronology

1919

The Jewish Sheltering Home for Children begins operations in a home at 1704 Tenth Avenue North (later renamed Oak Park Avenue) in Minneapolis with eighteen children.

1934

A new, three-story brick building, designed by the architectural firm Liebenberg and Kaplan, is constructed on the site.

1940

The institution changes its name to Oak Park Home.

1964

Oak Park Home ceases operations and becomes a short-lived treatment center for emotionally disturbed children.