Ben Shemen Youth Village: images from Gerda Philipsborn’s photo album

A supplement to the article “A Physicist’s Lost Love: Leo Szilard and Gerda Philipsborn,” by Gene Dannen.
This supplement published January 6, 2019. Copyright © 2019 Gene Dannen.
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Gerda Philipsborn’s photo album of the Ben Shemen Youth Village in Palestine shows its earliest years. She probably used the album in her fundraising efforts.

The undated personal album, titled Das Kinder und Jugenddorf Ben-Schemen, contains a dozen small photos, each on a separate page. The title and captions are handwritten in German. The photos probably date from 1927-1929. In those optimistic early times, the album emphasized Jewish-Arab friendship.

Ben Shemen was founded by Siegfried Lehmann in 1927, as a new home for Jewish children from his orphanage in Lithuania. Through her fundraising, Gerda contributed to its success.

Today, the Ben Shemen Youth Village is home to about 400 students, and has been declared an Israeli national heritage site. Alumni of the school include Shimon Peres, who became President and Prime Minister of Israel.

All photos are courtesy Gerry Brent. Image scans by William J. O'Toole.

Tents in Ben Shemen
Youth Village, circa 1927-1929
Nach der Ankunft der ersten Gruppe in Palästine. Im ersten Halbjahr lebt man in Zelten.
After the arrival of the first group in Palestine. In the first half-year they lived in tents.

in Ben Shemen Youth Village, circa 1927-1929.
Another photo of tents at Ben Shemen.

Friendship with
Arab neighbor children at Ben Shemen, circa 1927-1929.
Freundschaft mit arabischen Nachbarkindern.
Friendship with Arab neighbor children.

Kindergarten children at Ben Shemen Youth Village,
circa 1927-1929.
Die Kinder des ‘Kinderdorfes’ und die Kinder der benachbarten Bauern besuchen gemeinsam der Kindergarten.
The children of the Children’s Village and the children of the neighbor farms attend the kindergarten together.

Other photos in the album show two youths plowing a field with a horse, a youth riding a donkey to a building site, youths cooking in the provisional kitchen, old stalls converted to living spaces, a chicken coop, young plants protected under glass, and an architect’s design for the main building.

The photo from this album in A Physicist’s Lost Love: Leo Szilard and Gerda Philipsborn is captioned Rückkehr von der Arbeit. Ein ältern Junge mach jetzt seine chauffeurprüfung. (Return from work. An older boy is doing his chauffeur exam.)

For more information about the Ben Shemen Youth Village, and its history, see:

I’m grateful to Mrs. Lehmann-Schlair for conversations about her father and Ben Shemen.