The Syrian Society of the City of New York

Title

The Syrian Society of the City of New York

Subject

Charitable organizations
Immigrants--Lebanese--United States

Description

Introduction
The Syrian Society of the City of New York was among the first charitable associations dedicated exclusively to the interests of Syrio-Lebanese immigrants. It was organized by a group of American Presbyterians the spring of 1892 and officially incorporated on January 19, 1893. The society was headquartered in the Syrian enclave on Washington Street, and focused its activities among the population there.

Initially, the only Syrian involved in the endeavor was the well-educated Presbyterian Dr. Ameen F. Haddad, who is listed as secretary in the society’s first annual report. Though the highest chairs of office were given to Americans, according to the Society’s first president, Frederick W. Perry, Haddad was “the father of this Society … the projector and founder of this scheme to benefit his countrymen” (“First Annual Report,” 5). Haddad remained affiliated with the Syrian Society throughout its tenure, and was still serving as its secretary in 1912 (Jacobs, 377).

The dearth of Syrians involved in the initial project was noted and critiqued by Nageeb Arbeely in the English-language pages of Kawkab America. Though he expressed displeasure that he and other community leaders had not been invited to participate upon the society’s founding, Arbeely closed his critique with an offer to support any organization that would benefit his people. Arbeely was good on his word, and was among the several Protestant Syrians who contributed to the society in its first year. Despite his monetary support, Arbeely remained critical, suggesting in 1893 that Haddad--and by extension the Syrian Society--were encouraging anti-Syrian reporting in the larger New York press. Nonetheless, the Syrian Society seems to have fostered the creation of similar societies with a higher percentage of community members; for example, an 1896 notice in The New York Times stated that the Syrian Society of the City of New York was allowing the Daughters of Syria to meet in its rooms at 95 Washington Street.

As indicated by the cover of the Syrian Society’s first annual report, which depicts two young Syrian children, a central focus of the organization was the care and education of children. While it had sincere ideals to improve the lives of children, the Syrian Society also expressly aimed at linguistic and cultural assimilation. In 1892, Ameen Haddad and his brother Saleem opened a school for Syrian children at 95 Washington Street. Though the Syrian Society planned an expansion to Chicago and hoped to open a home for Syrian children whose mothers left the city annually to work as traveling salespeople, or peddlers, these goals were hampered by either financial restrictions or a lack of proven need. The Syrian Society of the City of New York was funded by charitable donations; as a result, it perpetually struggled to maintain its school, much less expand to new locales or projects. It was active until at least 1912.

Scope and Contents

This collection contains:

  • The First Annual Report with the Constitution and By-Laws of The Syrian Society of the City of New York, May 1893
  • Financial Report of the Syrian Society of the City of New York, 1897

Creator

The Syrian Society of the City of New York

Source

New York Public Library
Linda K. Jacobs

Publisher

Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies

Date

1893-1897

Rights

Donor retains full ownership of any and all copyright currently controlled in agreement with Khayrallah Center. Nonexclusive right to authorize all uses of these materials for non-commercial research, scholarly, or other educational purposes are granted to Khayrallah Center pursuant to Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA).

References

Jacobs, Linda K. Strangers in the West: The Syrian Colony of New York City, 1880-1900. New York: Kalimah Press, 2015.

Collection Tree

  • Documents
    • The Syrian Society of the City of New York