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COLUMN: Local organization performed host of good deeds in the 1900’s

Lou Parrotta, City of Utica Historian Special to the Daily Sentinel
Posted 3/4/23

The Utica Section, National Council of Jewish Women was an active organization in the first half of the 20th century in Utica.

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COLUMN: Local organization performed host of good deeds in the 1900’s

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The Utica Section, National Council of Jewish Women was an active organization in the first half of the 20th century in Utica. The organization began with an effort to assist foreign-born residents, to visit those in hospitals and to aid “crippled” children.

By the dawn of the 1930s, as the Great Depression was deepening, the organization helped those in need through food and clothing drives and by providing what social services they could. As time passed, the women opened a neighborhood center, helped establish a Cerebral Palsy School and a School for “Retarded” Children, volunteered at the Jewish Community Center and even provided half of a year’s tuition at Utica College.

One of the organizations finest charitable entities, though, was the establishment of the Bertha G. Krohngold Summer Camp for undernourished and underprivileged children. (The media referred to the camp as the Bertha G. Krohngold Vacation Home Camp and the Bertha G. Krohngold Vacation Home for Children at different times.)

The members of the Utica Section named their camp in memory of one of the most prominent Jewish women of Utica.

Bertha G. Krohngold, born on Sept. 17, 1889, lived a very short life but managed to earn reverence throughout it due to the “charitable acts” which she performed “every day of her life,” according to her obituary.

She married Jacob Krohngold in 1909 and together they operated Crown Coal Company.

The couple had no children, so Bertha devoted her time to providing relief to those suffering in the city. She was a member of the Shoshano Chapter 644 of the Order of the Eastern Star, Temple Beth-El, the Temple Beth-El Ladies’ Auxiliary, and spent eight years as the treasurer of the Utica Section.

Bertha passed away on December 22, 1923 at the age of 34, and her obituary stated she always thought of others because of her “large and tender heart,” and she “could be depended upon in every effort of which the aim was
relief of suffering people. ...”

Bertha’s life was mourned deeply by a “Jewish community (that) suffered a great loss” among its ranks.

The obituary concluded, “Hers was a beautiful life and should be an inspiration to those she leaves after her.” The Utica Section was so inspired, and it purchased the Old Hoffman Farm in Trenton to build a summer camp for those less fortunate in June 1924 and opened the camp officially with campers on July 6, 1925.

The camp, situated on several acres of land, consisted of a dining hall, two dormitories and a recreation hall.

The attendees, any child aged 5-14, stayed for two to four weeks at a time in July or August. Boys attended one month while girls stayed in the other. The directors and operators of the camp structured the days with many activities like hayrides and theatrical performances in addition to outdoor exercise.

There also were nutritional meals and rest times built into the schedule, as the children could sometimes be frail in constitution. When the summer sessions ended for each group, there were awards and letters handed out for such achievements as good sportsmanship and improved ability.

To fund the camp, the Utica Section fundraised often. Among the events held to raise the necessary money to operate the camp were mah jong games, card parties, teas, dinner dances and luncheons. Canned food drives took place to stock the camp with enough food to feed the campers. Outside organizations also lent their support, including the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Associations, the Harmony Club, the Senior Hadassah Society and the Carpenter’s Union members who built the dormitories. In addition, by 1946, the Utica Community Chest helped fund the operation.

In 1951, the Utica Section sold the original site of the camp and purchased another piece of property. The new location in the town of Russia in Herkimer County contained about 400 acres, two buildings for housing, several buildings for storage, and three lakes.

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