The ideas of the Jewish People’s Home were not uncontroversial among German Jews.
The religious philosopher Gershom Scholem (1897–1982) described the home’s activists as »Western European Jews who almost exclusively had national Jewish attitudes and leaned toward Zionism but who had only an embryonic knowledge of Jewish matters.«
Scholem took a critical view of the »cult of the Eastern European Jew«, which in his view had emerged at the Jewish People’s Home. Instead of uncritically adopting allegedly Jewish values through »such nonsense and literary drivel«, he recommended that the activists learn Hebrew and read source texts. His dispute with Siegfried Lehmann/Salomon Lehnert eventually led him to break with the home.
Gershom Scholem on the Jewish People’s Home:
»When I visited the Jewish People’s Home for the first time in September 1917, I was greeted by a strange sight. The assistants and visitors were sitting on chairs; the young girls were gathered picturesquely around Gertrude on the floor, their skirts draped in a highly aesthetic manner.[...] Siegfried Lehmann was reading from a book of Franz Werfel’s poetry, and I can still hear the ›Talk at the Wall of Paradise‹ in my ears – certainly not one of Werfel’s worst poems. But I was shocked. I was surrounded by an atmosphere of aesthetic ecstasy, probably the last thing I had expected find. [...]
I went again and was again displeased, not only by the atmosphere, but also by a seriously intended discussion about the question – which I regarded as a joke – of whether a reproduction of a famous painting of the Virgin Mary could be hung in the People’s Home’s rooms – a home, I might add, where the children of poor, yet strictly orthodox Jewish families from Eastern Europe spent the day and would be picked up by their parents in the afternoon.«
From: Gershom Scholem, Jugenderinnerungen (Frankfurt am Main, 1994), 83–85.
Gustav Landauer (1870-1919), a theorist of anarchism and a politician in the Munich Soviet Republic, described the Jewish People’s Home in a letter to his daughter.
Gustav Landauer to his daughter Charlotte:
»May 19, 1916. My dear Lotte!! [...] The Jewish People’s Home was officially opened on Dragonerstrasse yesterday and I read a self-contained version of my concluding lecture on socialism at the opening. A large crowd turned out, with around two hundred people pressing into the three or four rooms, which weren’t too large. A small group of young people had created an attractive space there with relatively little money. The apartment is furnished in a delightful way – pleasant, cozy and serious at the same time. Students, businesspeople and workers of both sexes will meet there for informative talks and lectures, mothers will receive counseling, a day nursery is planned, and two rooms will be set up as workshops for carpentry, etc., which is quite valuable for Eastern European Jews, who often have learned only peddling or other similar occupations.«
From: Gustav Landauer, An Charlotte Landauer, in Gustav Landauer: Sein Lebensgang in Briefen, ed. Martin Buber (Frankfurt/Main, 1929), 136f.