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Life as a Jewish Woman


An Open Letter to the Jewish Community displays the contributions Mary Sachs made to the Harrisburg community and the wider world. (PSA, MG297m3, Box 3)


This is a protrait of young Mary Sachs. (PSA_MG297m1_Box1)

While many people consider male protestants to be the main advocates for the City Beautiful Movement, this did not stop Mary Sachs. Mary Sachs was a Jewish woman who made a great deal of difference in Harrisburg. 

Mary Sachs and her parents were Russian immigrants. Life was not always easy for Russian Jews in Harrisburg. In 1900, 18% of the Russian immigrants coming to American were children. However, in 1930, there were no Russian children immigrating to the United States (Digital Harrisburg Census Data). There were children born from Russian immigrants but they were born in the United States, not Russia. The decrease in Russian children immigration is probably due to the tougher immigration laws being placed on immigrants after World War 1. Barton, a historian of Harrisburg, points out that many immigrants came to work in the factories but they often stuck to their own groups (1998). Therefore, the United States Immigration Commission wanted to limit the types of immigrants coming to America. Plus, there was also the Red Scare which caused tension between Americans and Russians.

With all the harsh measures being placed on Russians, they tended to stick together in the 10th, 12th, or 7th ward. However, Mary Sachs was one of the few who decided to work in the fourth ward, and later, she lived in the fourteenth ward. However, she was not alone, she surrounded herself with other Jews she was close with, including her sister Hannah, and a rabbi named Philip David Bookstaber who rented out the same building at 208 North Third Street. While Mary Sachs was rooted to the Jewish community, she was also advocate for the mixing of faiths and races in Harrisburg.

Mary Sachs’ strong commitment to the Jewish faith is what drove her to help others in and outside of Harrisburg. She was chairman of the Jewish Relief Drive in Harrisburg. She also made contributions to the United Jewish Appeal. A lot of people supported her leadership as she ran drives and campaigns for the Jewish community. The city became lovelier through the donations people were able make to the building of facilities, like the Jewish Community Center, and to the poor.

Mary Sachs loved her home in Harrisburg, but that did not mean life in Harrisburg was always great for her fellow Jews. Therefore, Mary Sachs strove to help her fellow Jewish Community members. Despite hardships, many Jews did love Harribsurg and they too wanted to make it a more beautiful place to live.

Life as a Jewish Woman