Society for Ethical Culture


For many years I have known of this building but I was never quite sure what it was.  The lintel over the door reads “The Society for Ethical Culture.”  This name always made me pause and contemplate what lay beyond the door itself.  It sounded like it could be a government institution or a school.  The building faces Central Park and is in a favorable position in Manhattan.  Certainly an area of town that enjoys a comfortable standard of living- the kind of place that is good for sitting around and thinking about being ethical.

So I did not forget about the building, this time I snapped a picture and did a little research.  What I learned is that the building is the flagship building of the Society for Ethical Culture and is still used by the group today.  The group was founded by a German immigrant, Dr. Adler.  He grew up in New York, the son of a Rabbi.  After college, Dr. Adler returned to Germany to study at Universitat Heidelberg to become a Rabbi.  while in Germany he became aware of the condition of workers in factories, particularly women and children.  Appalled by this he spoke out about it upon his return to New York.  His message was not received amicably at first.  Eventually he founded the society on the idea that the poor and under-served should be aided by those in a position to do so.

The society is still active and involved in community projects and dialogue that promotes the ethical and humane treatment of humans.  Be it in their work lives, living quarters, or other basic rights through the continued efforts of cooperation over competition.  It is an interesting model that reminds me somewhat of the Occupy Movement which also emphasizes equality, cooperation, and humanist tolerances.

Much of what I learned came from their website: as very little information exists outside their own published materials.

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