"Aunt Minnie” Goldsmith (1871-1971)
A Life of Service
Daughter of department store owner Gustav Lansburgh, Minnie Lansburgh Goldsmith became synonymous with Jewish philanthropy in Washington. She organized her first fundraising event at age 18—an evening of entertainment to raise money for the victims of the 1889 flood in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Ever the hands-on activist, she entertained that evening by playing the banjo and zither.
In 1906, Goldsmith served as president of the United Hebrew Charities, working to improve the lives of impoverished families. As president of the local section of the
National Council of Jewish Women in 1909, she oversaw the establishment of children’s clubs. She led fundraising efforts for the Jewish Foster Home and the Hebrew Home for the Aged. In 1929, she helped create Washington’s Community Chest, predecessor to the United Way. When the children at the Foster Home began to call her “Aunt Minnie,” the name stuck.
I met this charming, gracious lady when I was a little fellow at The Friendly Inn [first location of the Foster Home] in 1909. Four or five times a week Aunt Minnie and her friends would come. They sewed buttons on our clothes, mended our socks, and fixed the rips in our britches.
Samuel Cohen Oral History, 1984