By settling in ethnic communities, immigrants could somewhat insulate themselves from prejudice and discrimination. These new Americans organized fraternal and benevolent societies to promote community support and protect themselves from misfortunes. Such organizations were later referred to as mutual aid societies, or voluntary ethnic associations.
In immigrant neighborhoods these societies functioned as an extension of communities. Societies often helped families start businesses, provided assistance when a family member was injured or killed on the job, and helped with funeral expenses.
These associations existed for all of the large immigrant groups in the United States. By the early twentieth century, there were hundreds of mutual aid societies for Italian immigrants in New York State, including the Fratellanza Society and the Sons of Italy, both of which still have members meeting a century later.
Groups of Jewish immigrants from the same Eastern European towns, called landsmanshaftn, banded together to operate their own mutual aid societies or shuls. By 1910, New York City had as many as 2,000 of these shuls, representing over 100 different towns Eastern Europe, and all of which provided poor people with relief or lent money for burial arrangements.
New York City’s Lower East Side became the site of a number of religious and secular educational and cultural institutions including Yiddish Rialto, Israel Eichman Yeshiva, Educational Alliance, Music School Settlement, Hebrew Technical School for Boys, and Hebrew Technical School for Girls. An anomaly among immigrant groups, Jewish families emphasized higher education for their daughters as well as for their sons. The Jewish community also built the Jewish Maternity Hospital, the Hebrew Sheltering House, and the Home for the Aged.