First Krystynopoler Sick and Benevolent Society Brith Isaac

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(First Krystynopoler Sick and Benevolent Society Brith Isaac burial plot at Montefiore Cemetery)
(Eleanor Kaplan, Society President, stands front and center)

The First Krystynopoler Sick and Benevolent Society Brith Isaac was organized in 1895. At that time there were no government programs to help those in need, like Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment Insurance, Food Stamps, and Welfare. Organizations, like the First Krystynopoler Sick and Benevolent Society Brith Isaac, sprung up among immigrants to provide assistance to families in crises. These organizations, called Landsmanshaftn, (also landsmanschaft; plural: landsmanshaftn) are a mutual aid society, benefit society, or hometown society of Jewish immigrants from the same European town or region. Landsmanshaftn also became social organizations, providing recreational activities for the membership.

In 1938, a federal Works Progress Administration project identified 2,468 landsmanshaftn in New York City, where the overwhelming number in the United States were located. The number of landsmanshaftn began to decline in the 1950s and 1960s as their members died and were not replaced by the next generation of their members' children. The vast majority became defunct, though some societies continue to meet regularly into the 21st century, and operate scores of burial plots in cemeteries in the New York metropolitan area.

Over time, landsmanshaftn lost members as they aged and died, and many became defunct. The next generation felt less need of a connection to Europe, relied on the national programs of the New Deal if they needed financial support during difficult times, and because they were not immigrants, didn't need landsmanshaftn to socialize or meet others. When officers were not replaced, it sometimes resulted in difficulties for the relatives of members who died, because the officers were required to issue burial permits to the cemeteries in which their plots were located. The state of New York, particularly the Department of Insurance, stepped in to take over these functions for some groups. Many records of defunct landsmanshaftn eventually made their way from the New York State Department of Insurance to the archives of YIVO.

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