Boston YMHA-Hecht House.

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Boston YMHA-Hecht House founded 1889 as Hebrew Industrial School; changed name in 1922; merged with YMHA of Boston in 1958/59 to become YMHA-Hecht House; dissolved 1970.

From the description of Records, n.d., 1896-1971. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122297637

The Young Men's Hebrew Association (Y.M.H.A.) was founded in Boston's South End and incorporated on January 30, 1882 by a small group of residents, including Edward S. Goulston, Grace Cohen, Raphael Lasker, Mark Wolf, Abraham L. Fisbel, Louis Gans, Mark Stone, Abraham P. Spitz, Nathan Schloss, L.B. Schwabe, Samuel B. Sterne, Morris Clarke and Julius Rosenthal. At the time of it's founding, the mission of the Y.M.H.A. was to be the impetus of "the moral, physical, intellectual and social improvement" of its members. Several years later the Y.M.H.A. received, as a donation by Godfrey Hyams, a converted residence at 39 East Concord Street in the South End of Boston, where it conducted the majority of its activities. By 1909, the Jewish population had moved out of the South End to Roxbury and Dorchester, prompting the Y.M.H.A. to relocate to the former Hetty Green mansion on the corner of Warren and Howland Streets in Roxbury.

Once the organization was established in Roxbury, a shift in its ideology compelled the Board to declare that the Y.M.H.A. was a Jewish cultural organization, responsible for not just its members, but also the entire Jewish community. Included in its new mission was a religious school that moved under the auspices of the Bureau of Jewish Education in 1918; also that year, the practice of Friday Night Services, instituted by the Y.M.H.A, were held by individual synagogues. In conjunction with the National Y.M.H. and Kindred Associations, the organization published a manual in 1917 on the development and management of boys' clubs, which is included in this collection.

With membership continuing to increase, the Y.M.H.A. needed to relocate once again, this time to a building on Seaver Street, on the corner of Humboldt Avenue, in Roxbury. Administration recognized that programs and facilities needed expansion, and in 1920 they hired an executive director to lead the process. After a lengthy fundraising campaign that was put on hold during World War I, enough funds were raised to build a gymnasium, completed in 1925. More staff was trained and hired to replace volunteers who no longer fit the changing needs of the organization.

As the Jewish population began to move out of Dorchester, Mattapan and Roxbury and into Brookline, Newton and Brighton, membership and funding decreased. However, the organization remained positive about its location and impact on the community and stayed in this location until the merger with Hecht House in 1960.

Hecht House

Lina Hecht founded the Hecht House in 1889 as the Hebrew Industrial School in the North End of Boston. The school's primary purpose was to educate young female immigrants in a trade (particularly sewing) so that they could provide for themselves in their new country. Lena Hecht died in 1920, the same year the school moved to Bowdoin Street in the West End. Two years later, on February 7, 1922, the school incorporated under the name "Hecht Neighborhood House." Signatories on the incorporation papers included the organization's officers: Sally Hecht Ehrlich, Lena F. Leviseur, Morris Rosenthal, Lena H. Frankenstein, Henry Ehrlich and Adolph Ehrlich. In 1936, Hecht Neighborhood House moved to 160 American Legion Highway in Dorchester. At this point it operated as a community center for children and adults, and included a Nursery School, as well as programs for school children, high school students, young adults and adults.

The Hecht House had four overriding objectives: 1) foster democracy and citizenship; 2) to advance understanding of Jewish ideals; 3) conduct relevant programming to promote physical, cultural, moral and educational well-being, and 4) promote understanding among all community groups. Membership was open to all community members, although programs generally serviced community members from the Roxbury, Mattapan and Dorchester neighborhoods. Programming, in addition to the nursery school, included after school programming for elementary school children, evening programs for high school students and adults, and over sixty clubs-some not directly affiliated with Hecht House. In addition, there were men's and women's associations, which were responsible for planning activities and events for adults, and a summer day camp that operated for eight weeks out of the summer.

The building on American Legion Highway was well equipped to handle the needs of its members, with a gymnasium, exercise rooms, health club, science laboratory, and photography dark room. A dance hall, kitchen, nursery rooms, clubrooms, adult lounge and canteen were on the group floor. On the second room, the building housed a game room, children's library, sewing room, and additional nursery rooms. The third story included a young adult lounge, art and ceramic studios, a theater, and additional clubrooms. In addition to the main building, two bungalows existed on the property, one equipped with a woodshop and the other used by "Golden Agers" and Scouts. A 250 square feet playground was also on the grounds. Additionally, Hecht House also had cooperative agreements with three public schools that were used for juniors programming.

The Boston Y.M.H.A.- Hecht House

In 1960, Hecht House and the Boston Y.M.H.A. merged to create one organization, the Boston Y.M.H.A.-Hecht House. Their goal was to provide "the development and conducting of a comprehensive program of guided leisure time activities for its members utilizing the skills and methods of group work, informal education and recreation, and aimed at helping individuals achieve an affirmative relationship to their community." The organization was located at 150 American Legion Highway in Dorchester and welcomed both children and adults from Dorchester, Mattapan, Roxbury, Hyde Park and Milton.

A Board of Directors oversaw the Boston Y.M.H.A.-Hecht House. The Board was elected by adult members of the organization and responsible for participating in the majority of activities. Staffing included an executive director, program director, teachers and specialists who were responsible for running several departments, including the nursery school, programs for students in grammar, junior and senior high schools, post high school, young adults, adults, senior citizens programming, the physical education department and day camps.

In 1970, Hecht House was sold to the Lena Park Housing Development Corporation, a move sponsored and supported by Mayor Kevin White and then mayoral aid Barney Frank.

1 Historical Sketch based on documents found in the Boston Y.M.H.A-Hecht House collection.

  • 1882: Y.M.H.A. founded in the South End, incorporated on January 30th
  • 1889: Lina Hecht founds the Hebrew Industrial School in the North End of Boston
  • 1909: The Y.M.H.A moved from East Concord Street in the South End to Warren and Howland Streets in Roxbury
  • 1917: Y.M.H.A. publishes a manual on boys' clubs through the National Y.M.H. and Kindred Associations
  • 1918: Bureau of Jewish Education assumes control of Y.M.H.A. Religious School
  • 1918: Synagogues begin Friday night services, modeled after Y.M.H.A. services
  • 1920: Lina Hecht dies
  • 1920: Hebrew Industrial School moves to the West End
  • 1920: Y.M.H.A. hires an executive director
  • 1922: "Hecht Neighborhood House" is incorporated on February 7th
  • 1925: Y.M.H.A. completes building the gymnasium
  • 1936: Hecht Neighborhood House moves to 160 American Legion Highway in Dorchester
  • 1960: Y.M.H.A. and Hecht House merge to become the Boston Y.M.H.A- Hecht House, located at 150 American Legion Highway in Boston
  • 1970: Y.M.H.A.-Hecht House sold to the Lena Park Housing Development Corporation

From the guide to the Boston YMHA-Hecht House records, undated, 1896-1971, (American Jewish Historical Society Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Boston YMHA-Hecht House. Records, n.d., 1896-1971. New England Historic Genealogical Society
creatorOf Boston YMHA-Hecht House Records Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at New England Historic Genealogical Society
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Associated Jewish Philanthropies (Boston) corporateBody
associatedWith Boston -- Young Mens Hebrew Association corporateBody
associatedWith Boston. Young Mens Hebrew Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Central Service Agency for Groupwork. corporateBody
associatedWith Greater Boston Council of Jewish Centers. corporateBody
associatedWith Jewish Centers Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Jewish Community Council of Metropolitan Boston. corporateBody
associatedWith National Association of Jewish Center Workers. corporateBody
associatedWith National Jewish Welfare Board. corporateBody
associatedWith New England Association of Jewish Center Youth Councils. corporateBody
associatedWith United Jewish Youth Council. corporateBody
associatedWith United Synagogue of America. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Boston (Mass.)
Community centers
Older people

Corporate Body

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SNAC ID: 74557748