The American Colony in Jerusalem

American Colony. Bertha Vester, on the grounds of the American Colony, reading the names of welfare recipients, 1916 (30g)

The Colony also administered an orphanage to provide refuge for the many children torn from their parents during World War I. The charitable work begun by the Spaffords continues today in the original Colony house abutting the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. The Spafford Children's Center provides medical treatment and outreach programs for Arab children and their families in Jerusalem.

Inner tensions within the American Colony led to the final demise of this utopian Christian community in the 1950s. Since then the second home of the American Colony, outside the city's walls, has functioned as a hotel—one of the most famous and beautiful in the Middle East—where members of all communities in Jerusalem can meet.

The Christian Herald Orphanage

From 1918 to 1922 the American Colony ran an orphanage under the auspices of the newspaper, Christian Herald, to provide material and spiritual succor to Jerusalem's orphans of war. This register includes biographical details of children in the Christian Herald Orphanage and the photographic album documents the daily life of children at the orphanage and includes children's portraits such as those displayed here.

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Appeals for Aid

These notes are two examples of urgent appeals sent to Bertha Vester in war-torn Jerusalem. Here two residential Jerusalem doctors (Dr. Haddad on July 20, 1921, and Dr. Kalbian in July 10, 1918, make a direct plea to Bertha for patients in dire need of assistance from the American Colony.

Written appeals to Bertha Vester, 1918 and 1921. Manuscript notes. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (37a,b)

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The Spafford Children's Center

Created by Bertha Vester in 1925, to honor her mother Anna who died in 1923, the Spafford Children's Center today cares for more than 30,000 children each year. The Center, located within the walls of Jerusalem's Old City in the American Colony's first house, provides for the physical and mental health needs of the disadvantaged children of Jerusalem and the West Bank. The Center's activities include preventive care programs, counseling for children and their families on social and psychological problems, a special education program, and a cultural department that organizes heritage outings and summer camps.

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