“Neighborhood House on St. Paul’s West Side expands its sports and recreation program. Camp Owendingo on Carver Lake in Woodbury provides wholesome outdoor activities for the children of recent immigrants.” *
“Led by Sophie Wirth, the classes grew into an industrial school. Girls and boys learned home and industrial arts. They took English language and American citizenship classes. In 1897 the industrial school grew into Neighborhood House, a full-service settlement house located at 153 Robertson Street. Still led by Wirth, and supervised by Mount Zion’s rabbis, Neighborhood House added recreational activities, dental and baby clinics, and programs for adults.
People of all religions and ethnic groups flocked to Neighborhood House. In 1903 it reorganized, evolving from a purely Jewish social effort into a non-sectarian one. In 1921 the population of the Flats was two and a half times greater than it had been in 1915. This led to crowding and housing shortages.
Under Constance Currie, who became head resident in 1918, Neighborhood House added playgrounds and camping activities. Most notable was the Sophie Wirth Day Camp in White Bear Lake. The Northern Pacific Railway provided free transportation to the camp for five years after its founding in 1919. The service gave hundreds of mothers and children a rare day of leisure.”**
“We praise Thee, O G-d, and thank Thee for all the blessings of the week that is gone; for life, health, and strength; for home love and friendship; for the disciplines of our trials and temptations; for the happiness of our success and prosperity. Thou hast commanded us: Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath unto the Lord thy G-d. Thou hast ennobled us, O G-d, by the blessings of work, and in love and grace sanctified us by the blessings of rest.” ***
Jesus, I praise You for the work of Sophie Wirth, and all who contributed to the Neighborhood House! Thank You for the inspiration and practical training this community center provided to West Saint Paul. Thank You for making a place for Russian Jewry, and that their place of Shabbat spilled over so much and blessed their neighbors!
How good and pleasant it is when brothers, and sisters, live together in unity. Thank you for the Sabbath of this day camp! Thank You that charity begets charity, and that the Northern Pacific Railway joined in to provide free rides.
I can’t imagine the reasons of judgments of Russian Jews, but by faith I acknowledge to You that we as human often fail each other in this way. Will You forgive any transference and judgments from Minnesotans’ towards this group of immigrants? Will You take any bitterness up, out, and onto the Cross?
Conversely, will You forgive the judgments that the Neighborhood House may have held towards its neighbors? Will You forgive any judgments towards Saint Paul, and the state of Minnesota? Will You forgive any bitter roots against the predominant Catholic faith?
We ask that You bless the heritage of Sophie Wirth in the community, her family, and her spiritual ancestry. May You continue to provide our State with those who have a heart for others! May You forever bless Minnesota through Your people Israel, specifically all Jews from Russia, and may they forever be welcomed here and endowed with Your Divine favor and protection. Amen!
*** Union Prayer Book II, (New York, NY: Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1973) p.36