|Jewish foundations in Hamburg against homelessness|
|The contribution of Jews toward earning Hamburg the title of "Capital of Foundations" in Germany was disproportionately higher than the general population. Foundations were set up for traditional purposes but Jewish benefactors proved for example especially sensitive to social problems in the urbanisation process in the 19th century. Poverty and neediness remained a crucial subject under the conditions of the growing metropolis and Jewish philanthropists in particular devoted themselves in innovative ways and to a notable extent.
Because charity in Judaism was conceived of in terms of religious and social values and had been an act of religious duty and human obligation since ancient times, the Jews in Hamburg built up a comprehensive net of care for needy members of the Jewish community. In the course of time, a system of relief based on normative social ethics gradually brought forth many offshoots and was extended to the whole society. Jewish charity went together with the concept of Hamburgs’s republican civic community and became a decisive factor for permeability between general and Jewish philanthropy. Confessional equality was first brought into charity by Jewish benefactors.
A negative symptom of urbanisation was in Hamburg lack of housing and exorbitant rents affecting not only the poorer but now also the middle classes. Foundations were set up for providing rental assistance as well as for rent-free flats. The Jewish share of Housing trusts, this typically Hamburg form of charity, was outstanding. In the 1920s a third of all 76 institutions had been founded by Jews at a population share of about 1.7 per cent. In contrast to the non-Jewish foundations of rent-free flats the terms of admission often have been extended to people with very low income and also the Old People's Home of the German Israelite Community based on a foundation.
The donors took up an old Hamburg tradition of private charity with ecclesiastical roots in the middle-ages, which has been transformed by an increasing importance of civic-minded charity that always had been valued highly in the republican coummunal structures. Although Hamburg Jews not until 1849 attained the possibility of obtaining the “Bürgerrecht”, the central key to the bourgeoisie and the right to buy the necessary sites, they before have been creative and innovative in developing this concept of responsibility for the community.
The success of this Jewish welfare goal underscores on the one hand the deep bonds of the Hamburg Jews to their hometown, as on the other hand it also speaks for impressive efforts in warding off homelessness.