The Luckiest Orphans

A History of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum of New York
Author: Hyman Bogen
Cloth – $48
Publication Date
Cloth: 01/01/1992
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About the Book

Founded in 1860, the Hebrew Orphan Asylum of New York was the oldest, largest, and best-known Jewish orphanage in the United States until its closing in 1941. This book, the first history of an orphanage ever published, tells the story of the HOA's development from a nineteenth-century institution into a model twentieth-century child-care facility. Because of the humane and benevolent attitude of the New York Jewish community toward its orphans, the harsh authoritarianism and Dickensian conditions typical of contemporary orphanages were gradually replaced there by a nurturing approach that looked after the religious, social, and personal needs of the children. Though primarily an instrument of social control, the HOA was also an expression of Jewish ethnicity. Its history is set in a larger context that includes the life and character of the New York Jewish community, the city's immigrant population, the social and economic conditions of the time, the child-saving efforts of other groups, and the debate over institutional versus foster care. Drawing from HOA archives, published sources, and his personal experience as a resident from 1932 to 1941, Hyman Bogen brings a unique perspective to child-saving efforts in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His compelling tale portrays daily life for those who lived and worked in such institutions. He illustrates how an enlightened orphanage, rather than crushing the spirit of its young residents, can help children to gain self-esteem and become secure adults. Bogen's tale will be of particular interest to urban and social historians, to city and government officials, and to social workers, as well as to anyone concerned with the growing crisis in child-care options.


"Bogen, president of HOA's alumni association, offers concise sketches of orphans, wardens and trustees, revealing instances of abuse but remaining positive about the institution as a whole."--Publishers Weekly


"Fascinating. . . . I would certainly recommend it to colleagues concerned with dependent children, to anyone interested in the problems of residential and foster care, to New Yorkers, especially Jews, interested in the social history of their city, and generally to urban social historians."-- Mathilda Holzman, Department of Child Study, Tufts University, and author of Language of Children