The Arty Semite

Pioneering Social Worker Alice Salomon

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share

Alice Salomon, born in 1872 in Berlin to an assimilated Jewish family, was one of the great pioneers of modern social work, called during her lifetime “The Jane Addams of Germany,” referring to the saintly American founder of Chicago’s Hull House. After writing a turn-of-the-century doctoral dissertation on why women are paid lower salaries than men for equivalent work, Salamon labored to open the field of social work to women and trained generations of workers, including many Jews.

Salomon’s parents sent her to a Protestant girls’ school although her mother told a young Alice who wanted to celebrate Christmas with classmates: “Jesus wasn’t born for you.” Still, during enforced exile in Ireland during World War I — she was trapped in that country when war broke out — Salomon converted to Protestantism, apparently in gratitude to her generous, if involuntary, hosts. As readers of “Character Is Destiny: The Autobiography of Alice Salomon” out from University of Michigan Press in 2004, and the new “The Concept of the Social in the Work of Alice Salomon”, published in July by Metropol Verlag realize, Salomon was always inspired by her Yiddishkeit.

In the latter book, Adriane Feustel, head of Berlin’s Alice-Salomon-Archiv, explains that Tzedakah (often translated as “charity” but whose meaning is closer to “justice”) was a fundamental motivation for Salomon, whose conversion “was by no means a rejection of Judaism in principle.” This became especially evident in 1933 when Salomon dissolved the Academy for Social and Educational Women‘s Work which she had founded rather than fire its Jewish director and other Jewish staffers in obedience to Nazi racial law.

In 1937 Salomon was forced into exile after a Gestapo interrogation which she noted down safely after arriving in England on the way to lifelong exile in America. Describing the method and manner of this interrogation, the 65-year-old Salomon observes that she made the interrogator say “point blank” that she had to “emigrate so as to avoid being sent to a Schooling Camp (New name for Concentration Camp).” Salomon added:

All over the centuries the Jews were persecuted…. During all my life I have tried to help others who were depressed or in trouble. I know that others will stand by me.

By the war’s end, elderly and in poor health, she wrote from Manhattan to surviving German friends about the fates of former colleagues, noting that “Anna Misch was likely deported to Auschwitz, which means the gas chamber.” To which she added in English, which had become for Salomon the language of compassion, “Poor thing.”

Watch Adriane Feustel speak in 2009 about the Alice-Salomon-Archiv during a visit to Chicago.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Alice Salomon, Jane Addams, Adriane Feustel

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • What's a "telegenically dead" Palestinian?
  • 13 Israeli soldiers die in Gaza — the deadliest day for the IDF in decades. So much for 'precision' strikes and easy exit strategies.
  • What do a Southern staple like okra and an Israeli favorite like tahini have in common? New Orleans chef Alon Shaya brings sabra tastes to the Big Easy.
  • The Cossacks were a feature in every European Jewish kid's worst nightmare. Tuvia Tenenbom went looking for the real-life variety in Ukraine — but you won't believe what he found. http://forward.com/articles/202181/my-hunt-for-the-cossacks-in-ukraine/?
  • French Jews were stunned when an anti-Israel mob besieged a synagogue outside Paris. What happened next could be a historic turning point.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.