Marcia Zuckerman contributed this blogpost about the history of Deborah Boys Club. When she was employed at JCYS (Jewish Council for Youth Services), Marcia was part of a research team that uncovered many wonderful aspects of early Jewish immigrant life, especially the Deborah Boys Club.
For seven years, I worked in the Development Department for the 104-year-old agency that built and ran Deborah Boys Club on Ainslie. (This was the second Deborah Boys Club. The first was on Division Street.) The agency originally was called Young Men’s Jewish Council (YMJC) and was formed because many children of poor immigrant Jewish families were truant or worse.
The original clubs included: American Boy’s Commonwealth, Boy’s Better Republic, Humbolt Park Boys Club, South Shore Boy’s Club and the famous Camp Henry Horner (still in operation). YMJC was established by young philanthropists who felt these families were not being served by the Jewish agencies back in 1907. Young Men’s Jewish Council was renamed Jewish Council for Youth Services in (approx.) the 1980’s to attract women to its Board of Directors.
Besides Camp Henry Horner, JCYS operates Camp Red Leaf for special children and adults; Camp STAR for Attention Deficit Disorder children; and four centers for mainstream children around the metro Chicago area.
While employed by JCYS, I had the privilege of helping to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2008. It was an incredible outreach, culminating with 600 people attending a Gala. Until two years ago, Deborah (Ainslie) held an annual “reunion.” Obviously many members were deceased, but several met (and may still be meeting) for lunch at Zhivago’s in Skokie!
Famed WWII Photographer Worked at Deborah
Incidentally, one of the greatest and most well-known photographers who covered World War II was Phillip Drell (deceased), who taught photography at Deborah Boys Club on Ainslie. From 1936-1940, Phil was a Camp Henry Horner counselor and shot many camp photos.
In 1942, Phil was drafted into the army. During the war, Phil was attached to Eisenhower’s unit and photographed Dachau as Eisenhower’s troops liberated the camp. The horror of what Phil photographed was published worldwide and now can be viewed on the web. His photos served to confirm the purpose of the camps.
Thanks to Marcia for sharing the work she and many dedicated researchers did to document the history of this community organization.
Additional information on Phil Drell: I highly recommend Phil’s WWII photographs. When I saw the exhibit of his photographs at the Illinois Holocaust Museum, I felt a strong sense of immediacy. This was someone from our area, a young guy out of Roosevelt High School who was a overnight camp counselor and took wonderful photographs of children enjoying the outdoors. Then, suddenly he was shipped thousands of miles away from Albany Park, and was photographing war scenes and witnessing the liberation of Dachau. Chicago Tribune obituary. 2007 Illinois Holocaust Museum exhibit.
Related post: This was Deborah, part 1
Read more Albany Park Memories