Kraft, Louis, 1891-1975
A U.S. social worker, Louis Kraft was born on January 2, 1891 to Abraham and Etta (Gellis) Kraft in Moscow, Russia, and was taken to the United States as a small child. He was brought up and educated in New York City . He married Isabelle Jacobsohn on April 12, 1919 . They had four children, one of whom died in infancy. Stephen, Arthur, and Barbara survived into adulthood. Kraft later married Pauline Roman on July 1, 1948 .
From 1914 to 1917 he served as Executive Director of the Bronx YM & YMHA. His first association with the Jewish Welfare Board (JWB) was in 1917 as Director of Activities in military camps during World War I. In 1921, he was named Director of Jewish Community Center Activities of the JWB. From 1938 to 1947 he served as Executive Director of that organization. In 1947, Kraft helped establish the World Federation of YMHAs and Jewish Community Centers, and served as secretary of that body until the 1970s . During the 1940s and 1950s, he engaged in establishing Jewish Community Centers overseas. He established the Jerusalem YM & YWHA in 1948 . In 1950-1951, he helped reorganize the School of Social Work in Jerusalem at the request of the State Department.
In 1953, Kraft was invited by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and the Joint Distribution Committee to direct the planning of reconstruction and development of the Jewish communities in Europe and continued until 1961 . In 1951, Kraft was the first recipient of the biennial Frank L. Well Award for notable contributions to the Jewish Community Center field. He was elected an Honorary Life member of the JWB Board of Directors. In 1964, he received the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Western Branch. He served at various times as President of the National Conference of Jewish Communal Service; President and Honorary President of the Association of Jewish Center Workers; President of the Social Group Work Section of the National Conference of Social Work; President of the International Conference of Jewish Social Work. He was one of the founders of the United Service Organization (USO) and a member of its Executive Committee during World War II. From 1961 until 1974, he served as voluntary Executive Secretary of the Association of Jewish Center Workers.
Kraft wrote Century of the Jewish Community Center Movement (1854-1954) ( 1953 ) and The Development of the Jewish Community Center ( 1968 ), and edited, with C.S. Bernheimer, Aspects of the Jewish Community Center ( 1954 ). He wrote many articles on subjects related to Jewish Community Centers, and was often referred to as "the architect of the Jewish community center movement."
Louis Kraft died on July 12, 1975 in his home on Central Park West, New York .
January 2, 1891:
Born Moscow, Russia
1914- 1917: Executive Director, Bronx YM-YWHA
1917- 1920: Director, Army, Navy Welfare Work, Jewish Welfare Board
April 12, 1919:
Marries Isabelle Jacobsohn, they later divorce
1921- 1937: Director, Jewish Community Center Activities, JWB
1938- 1947: National Executive Director, JWB
1940- 1946: Member, Executive Committee, USO
President, National Conference of Jewish Communal Service
General Secretary, World Federation of YMHA's and Jewish Community Centers; Honorary President, National Association of Jewish Center Workers
Founder, Jerusalem Branch, YM-YWHA
July 1, 1948:
Marries Pauline Roman
1948- 1952: International Conference of Jewish Social Workers
Reorganizes Jerusalem School of Social Work
1950- 1951: Lecturer, Jerusalem School of Social Work
1953- 1961: Community Reconstruction and Development, Europe, Joint Distribution Committee
Author, A Century of the Jewish Community Center Movement
Co-editor, Aspects of Jewish Center Work
Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Jewish Theological Seminary of America
Co-author, Change and Challenge: A History of 50 Years of JWB
Author, Social Agency Administration; Author, Development of the Jewish Community Center
Honorary degree, Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion
Townsend Harris Medal, City College Alumni Association
July 12, 1975:
Died, New York City
References: The preceding Sketch and Chronology were compiled on the basis of archival documents in the Papers of Louis Kraft as well as from data presented in Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol. 10, p. 1235; Who's Who in World Jewry 1972. Ed. I.J. Carmin Karpman, N.Y.: Pitman Publishing Corp., 1972; The New York Times, July 12, 1975; Biographical Dictionary of Social Welfare in America (William I. Trattner, editor) Westport: Greenwood Press, 1986; and an email from Barbara S. Kraft, December 6, 2004. .
From the guide to the Louis Kraft Papers, undated, 1914-1975, (American Jewish Historical Society)
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