The Emanu-El Sisterhood for Personal Service was founded in 1894 as a neighborhood center and settlement house. Within a year it offered employment assistance, relief, sewing classes, a Working Girls' Club, a boys'club, and bible classes for the Eastern European Jewish community in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood. Its first officers included Bella Lilienthal, Mrs. J. Voorsanger, Mrs. M.S. Eisner, Hanna Gerstle, Georgie Davis, and Victoria Lilienthal. Matilda Esberg was also among the founders. Incorporated in 1902, its mission was "to develop and secure personal service on the part of its members in all human enterprises and in elevating the moral standard of the people, improving the condition of their homes, teaching them self-reliance and self-respect, promoting their moral and mental education, and developing technical skill among the young of both sexes." In 1903, the Sisterhood opened a medical clinic that eventually merged with Mt. Zion Hospital. The 1906 earthquake and fire devastated the South of Market area and many Jews relocated to the Fillmore-McAllister district; a new Emanu-El settlement house opened on Golden Gate Avenue. In 1910, Emanu-El Sisterhood President Matilda Esberg conceived the idea of opening a boarding house for single women who did not have families in the area due to death or migration. Ethel Feineman was director from 1915 to 1937. Within a decade demand for such housing was so great that the Sisterhood decided to build a residence club that could house 60 to 70 young working women and students. Designed by Julia Morgan and Dorothy Wormser, the edifice was built at Page and Steiner streets. At the same time that the Sisterhood decided to focus on housing needs, other organizations, such as the YM/WHA, were increasingly capable of fulfilling the social and recreational needs of the Jewish community. As the Sisterhood transitioned into residential services it discontinued its settlement house programs. From 1923 until it was sold in 1969 to the Zen Center, Emanu-El Residence was home to thousands of young women. While about three-quarters of its population in the '20s spoke Yiddish, by the 1960s many non-Jews were living at the Residence. Mary Michels was director from 1945 to 1969.
The collection consists of eleven series: Board of Directors; Executive Director Correspondence; Resident Girls Application Cards; Residents Financial Statements; Resident Correspondence; Resident, Other; Building; Program, General; Scrapbooks; Photographs; and Financial.