Frankel, Lee Kaufer, 1867-1931

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Lee Kaufer Frankel (1867-1931)

Dr. Lee Kaufer Frankel was born in Philadelphia on August 13, 1867, the son of Louis and Aurelia Lobenburg Franken. He attended public schools as the Rugby Academy of Pennsylvania and the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1887 with a B.S. and again in 1891, when he received a Ph.D. He specialized in chemistry and was an instructor in chemistry at the university from 1888 until 1893. He practiced as a consulting chemist in Philadelphia from 1893 to 1899, and was vice president and then president of the chemical section of the Franklin Institute between 1895 and 1898. He came to New York in 1899 as manager of the United Hebrew Charities. A year earlier, he married Alice Reizenstein of Philadelphia and they had two children, Lee K. Frankel Jr. and Eleanor Frankel (Mrs. Richard Rafalsky). In 1908 he went to the Russell Sage Foundation as a special investigator. Frankel's friendship with Rabbi Henry Berkowitz helped arouse his interest in Jewish community affairs and social work.

From 1909, Dr. Frankel had been associated with the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, where his work regarding the promoting of health won wide recognition. President Roosevelt appointed him a member of the Ellis Island Commission in 1903. He served as commissioner of the State Board of Charities and in 1921 and 1922 was welfare director of the Post Office Department.

Dr. Frankel helped introduce professional social work standards into Jewish philanthropy. He stressed the importance of adequate relief geared to rehabilitation, the development of a pension program for such dependents as widowed mothers, and a program of assisted migration to reduce the concentration of the Jewish population in New York City. He became interested in the potential contribution of social insurance to the prevention and relief of poverty.

At Metropolitan, Frankel pioneered the development of social and health programs under private insurance auspices. These included the distribution of many pamphlets on communicable diseases and personal hygiene, the organization of public health nursing services, and community health demonstrations.

Dr. Frankel was a director and, in 1914, vice president of the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis. He also had served as treasurer of the American Public Health Association and was its president in 1919. In 1912 he was president of the National Conference of Jewish Charities. He was a member of the national council of the Survey Associates, and a member of the hygiene reference board of the Life Extension Institute.

In 1917, Dr. Frankel was president of the New York State Conference of Charities and Corrections. He was made chairman of the Special European Relief Commission of the American Jewish Relief Commission in 1922, and was chairman of the National Health Council from 1923 to 1925. In 1923 and 1924, Dr. Frankel was vice president of the National Conference on Social Work. He served as chairman of the commission of experts that made a survey of Palestine under the auspices of the Jewish Agency in 1927. The honorary degree of Doctor of Hebrew Laws was conferred upon him by the Hebrew Union College at Cincinnati in 1928.

President Hoover named Dr. Frankel a member of the planning committee for the White House conference on child health and protection.

Dr. Frankel served on the Palestine Joint Survey Commission with Felix M. Warburg and the late Lord Melchett. At a meeting of so-called non-Zionists held here in October, 1928, Dr. Frankel pleaded for agreement between Zionists and non-Zionists and for the support of all Jews in the development of the higher economic, spiritual and cultural life of the ancient home of that people.

Dr. Frankel's appeal was so successful that at a meeting of the Jewish Agency Council at Zurich, Switzerland, the following August, Zionists and non-Zionists united to carry on the work of establishing a Jewish National Home in Palestine. Mr. Warburg was chosen chairman of an administrative committee of forty, composed of twenty Zionists and twenty non-Zionists and Dr. Frankel was a member of the American group.

In November 1929, moved by a declared interest and concern for the Zionist movement, Associate Justice Louis D. Brandeis of the United States Supreme Court joined with Dr. Frankel, Mr. Warburg, Bernard Flexner and other prominent Jews at a conference in Washington, in a decision to form an American business corporation for the investment of funds with a view to furthering the economic development of Palestine.

Dr. Frankel was chairman of the executive committee of the Jewish Communal Survey of Greater New York, which, after an exhaustive study of three years, made a report in the Fall of 1929 urging greater hospital and clinical facilities, the establishment of a central council for the development of a unified recreational program for the Jewish community, the concentration of communal expenditures for research and the standardization and development of sound educational practices. As a result, the present city wide Federation for the Support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies became the unified and coordinated agency that it is today.

Dr. Frankel prepared a review of the medical and sanitary work of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which conducted a campaign to raise $2,500,000 from America Jews to carry on its work of rehabilitating the Jewish suffering in Central and Eastern Europe. Dr. Frankel, who was chairman of the medical and sanitary committee of the organization, said its work had been largely responsible for the health improvement of millions of persons and saved many who suffered from tuberculosis, typhus and other diseases.

At a meeting of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia in April of 1930, Dr. Frankel described a world fifty years from then in which he said the main problem would be "the adequate use of leisure."

"The picture of the future is clear," Dr. Frankel said. "Orphan asylums will, we hope, become things of the past. There will be less need for welfare organizations for the indigent. Year by year we shall have fewer hospitals. Industry, in view of our constantly increasing development of technological processes, will be able to maintain efficient production with a marked reduction in the length of the working week."

"Because of the stabilized population resulting from the lower birth rate and the advancing age of the future population, the laborer at 40 will not be looked at askance when he seeks work; nor will he be discharged at 50 to be replaced by a younger man with less skill and less experience. The maintenance of a larger number of men in industry as a result of this may change our industrial system. The world will have more leisure."

Throughout his career Frankel kept an interest in Jewish affairs. He served on the board of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and in 1927 was chairman of the commission that surveyed Palestine for the Jewish Agency. Frankel published many articles on health and welfare issues and was the coauthor of several books, including The Human Factor in Industry (1920), A Popular Encyclopedia of Health (1926), and Health of the Worker, How to Safeguard It (1924).

Dr. Frankel died on July 25, 1931. He was almost 64 years old. His death was due to heart disease.

Sources: Encyclopedia Judaica, Second Edition New York Times, "Dr. Lee K. Frankel Dies On A Tour", July 26, 1931 Dr. Lee K. Frankel by Solomon Lowenstein ( )

  • August 13, 1867: LKF born
  • 1887: Univ. of Pennsylvania
  • 1891: Receives Ph.D. from Univ. of Pennsylvania
  • 1897: Marries Alice Reizenstein
  • 1888 - 1893 : Instructor of Chemistry at Univ. of Pennsylvania
  • 1893 - 1899 : Consulting chemist
  • 1895 - 1898 : Vice president and president of Chemical Section of the Franklin Institute
  • 1899 - 1908 : Manager of United Hebrew Charities, N.Y.
  • 1908: Special investigator at Russell Sage Foundation
  • 1909: Manager of Industrial Department at the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company
  • 1912: President of the National Conference of Jewish Charities
  • December 24, 1912: Became sixth vice president of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company
  • January 23, 1917: Became third vice president of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company
  • January 22, 1924: Became second vice president of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company
  • 1923 - : Chairman of the National Health Council
  • 1917: President of the New York State Conference of Charities and Corrections
  • 1918: Vice president of National Tuberculosis Association
  • 1918: Commissioner of State Board of Charities
  • 1919: President of American Public Health Association
  • 1921: Member of Executive Committee of the New York Campaign for Jewish War Sufferers, American Jewish Relief
  • 1922: Chairman of special commission to study conditions in Europe
  • 1922 - : Director of the New York Tuberculosis Association
  • 1922 - : Member of executive Committee of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations
  • 1922 - : Member of governing council of the American Public Health Association
  • 1923: Member of board of directors of the American Social Hygiene Association
  • 1923 - : Member of general committee of the American Jewish Committee
  • 1923 - 1924 : First vice president of the National Conference on Social Work
  • 1924: Member of advisory committee of the City Housing Corp.
  • 1924: Member of advisory council of the Palestine Economic Corp.
  • 1924: Member of the Committee on Jewish Agency
  • 1924 - : Member of board of governors of the National Conference of Jewish Social Service
  • 1925: Member of finance committee
  • 1925: Treasurer of the Sedgwick Memorial Fund
  • 1925: Member of the advisory committee of the Canadian Social Hygiene Council
  • 1925: Member of the committee on immigration and naturalization of the Merchants' Association of New York
  • 1925: Member of the advisory council of the New York Federation of Women's Clubs
  • 1925: Vice president and member of the board of trustees of the Training School for Jewish Social Work
  • 1925: Member of administrative committee of the Emergency Com. On Jewish refugees
  • 1925: Member of organizational committee of non-Zionist body of the Jewish Agency
  • 1926: Member of National Committee of United Jewish Campaign
  • 1926: Chairman for the insurance industry, United Jewish Campaign of New York
  • 1926: Chairman on the executive committee of the Jewish Communal Survey of Greater New York
  • July 25, 1931: Died in Paris, France

From the guide to the Lee Kaufer Frankel collection, undated, 1889-1933, 1936-1938, 1942-1944, (American Jewish Historical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Lee Kaufer Frankel collection, 1889-1933, 1936-1938, 1942-1944 American Jewish Historical Society
referencedIn Charles-Edward Amory Winslow papers, 1874-1977, 1915-1945 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Winslow, C.-E. A. (Charles-Edward Amory), 1877-1957. Charles-Edward Amory Winslow papers, 1874-1977 (inclusive), 1915-1945 (bulk). Yale University Library
creatorOf Frankel, Lee Kaufer, 1867-1931. Correspondence file, 1929, from Horace Liveright, Inc. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Barrows family papers, 1861-1931. Houghton Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee corporateBody
associatedWith American Jewish Relief Committee for Sufferers from the War corporateBody
associatedWith American Public Health Association corporateBody
correspondedWith Barrows family. family
associatedWith Boy Scouts of America corporateBody
associatedWith Brandeis, Louis Dembitz, 1856-1941 person
associatedWith Council of Jewish Communal Institutions (N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Denver -- National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives corporateBody
associatedWith Jewish Agency for Israel corporateBody
associatedWith Jewish Family Service (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Kesher Shel Barzel corporateBody
associatedWith Lewisohn, Adolph, 1849-1938 person
associatedWith National Conference of Jewish Charities corporateBody
associatedWith New York -- Graduate School for Jewish Social Work corporateBody
associatedWith Non-Partisan Survey of Palestine corporateBody
associatedWith Palestine Economic Corporation corporateBody
associatedWith Rosenau, M. J. (Milton Joseph), 1869-1946 person
associatedWith Warsaw Nurses Training School corporateBody
associatedWith Winslow, C.-E. A. (Charles-Edward Amory), 1877-1957. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Meriden (Conn.)
Social service
Hygiene--New York (City)
European War, 1914-1918--United States


Birth 1867

Death 1931



Ark ID: w6gx4dbf

SNAC ID: 2810838