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Eureka Benevolent Society (San Francisco, Calif.) records, 1850-1977

The Eureka Benevolent Association, one of San Francisco’s earliest philanthropic organizations, was formed in 1850 “[to] afford aid and relief to indigent, sick, and infirm Jews; to bury the dead; and in general to relieve and aid co-religionists who might be in poverty or distress.” In 1907, the organization changed its name to the Eureka Benevolent Society (EBS). As the city’s Jewish population grew in numbers and diversity, the EBS was joined by other social service agencies that broadened the scope of service and eventually formed the nucleus of the San Francisco Jewish federation movement that took place in the early twentieth century. After the incorporation of the Hebrew Board of Relief, in 1901, the EBS, the First Hebrew Benevolent Society, the Jewish Ladies’ Relief Society, and the Ladies’ United Hebrew Benevolent Society all became constituent agencies. In 1918, after the Hebrew Board of Relief was officially disbanded, the three other societies along with the Hebrew Ladies’ Sewing Circle and the Helpers merged into the EBS. In 1910, the EBS authorized the formation of the Federation of Jewish Charities. The 1920s brought a decided change in the way welfare agencies dealt with family problems. The EBS launched a complex and sophisticated program that was characterized by “a scientific approach to the problem by thorough investigation,” and it became known as the Jewish Family Service Agency, although it still remained incorporated under its old name. Another major consolidation occurred in 1955, when the Federation of Jewish Charities and the Jewish National Welfare Fund merged and became the Jewish Welfare Federation of San Francisco, Marin County, and the Peninsula. In November 1977, when the Jewish Family Service Agency merged with Homewood Terrace, which had formerly been the Pacific Hebrew Orphan Asylum, this new organization became known as the Jewish Family and Children’s Service. At this time, the EBS books were closed.

The records of the Eureka Benevolent Society (EBS) include minutes; reports; histories; scrapbooks; photographs; and newspaper clippings. The collection also contains the by-laws and constitution of the EBS (1858-1860) with signatures of its members; succeeding by-laws for the EBS beginning in 1870; a constitution of the Ladies’ United Hebrew Benevolent Society (1876); and reports, minutes, budgets, and campaign materials from the related charities and agencies listed above as well as from the Jewish Committee for Personal Service and the Maimonides Health Center. It also has case studies from the various agencies, which, although written from the perspective of the social workers, effectively portray the poorer side of Jewish life and describe the difficulties that many faced from the Gold Rush era to the 1930s. The collection’s women’s organizational material provides a contrast to that of predominately male agencies, and its scrapbooks, which range from 1929 through the 1950s, illustrate the response of the Jewish community to the Great Depression, World War II, and the Eisenhower years.

Carton 1: Institutional history, early constitutions and by laws for EBS, First Hebrew Benevolent Society, The Helpers, and the Ladies’ United Hebrew Benevolent Association, EBS annual reports (1878-1926 incomplete), EBS minutes (1919-1926), annual reports of the Ladies United Hebrew Benevolent Society (1894-1905). Box 1: EBS minutes and reports (1926, 1958-1963), Jewish Family Service Agency Minutes (1959-1963), membership materials, clippings, real estate, and a translation of I.J. Benjamin’s writing on the EBS in his 1862 book. Box 2. Pacific Hebrew Orphan Asylum reports, 1872-1896. Oversize Box 1: EBS minutes (December 1906-May 1926). Oversize Box 2: EBS minutes (June 1926-March 1941). Oversize Box 3: Maimonides Health Center campaign scrapbook (1944-1956), EBS scrapbook (1933-1940). Oversize Box 4: EBS scrapbook (1933-1940), original Constitution and By Laws of the Eureka Benevolent Association (1850).


Eureka Benevolent Society (San Francisco, Calif.)


1 carton, 2 boxes, and 4 oversize boxes (2.6 linear feet)

Collection #

BANC MSS 2010/606

Publication Date

February 14, 1850

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