For immigrants in the Hill District, the place to be was the Irene Kaufmann Settlement.
From the late 1800s through the first half of the 20th century, the IKS, affectionately called the “ikes,” began as a school where Jewish children could learn to speak English. And when lessons were finished, there was a playground with slides and swings for blowing off steam.
The school grew rapidly and its teachers soon taught immigrant parents about pre-natal nursing and helped them become U.S. citizens. The “ikes” also offered a library, an array of athletic teams, arts programs and clubs for nearly every age group and interest.
By 1929, the settlement house had 60 staff members, 20 of whom lived in the settlement building. Another 100 people served as volunteers. The first resident director was Sidney A. Teller.
Staff members of the IKS found ways to eliminate the spread of influenza and typhus and also led the way in clearing slums and promoting low-cost housing. Other initiatives included a free milk program for children, free kindergarten and scholarships.
Many students of Anna Perlow, who taught music, and Samuel Rosenberg, who taught art, became successful musicians or artists.
In 1957, the IKS was renamed the Anna B. Heldman Community Center, which was demolished in 1964. The Irene Kaufmann auditorium remained and was restored and reopened in 2011 as the Elsie H. Hillman Theater.