Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

100 Years of Jewish Federation Movement Reviewed by C. J. F. W. F. Leader

December 9, 1965
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A survey covering 100 years of the Jewish federation movement — 70 years since Boston established the first such communal organization in 1895 and a forward look at the next three decades — was presented at the 62nd annual dinner meeting of The Jewish Community Federation here by Philip Bernstein, executive director of the Council of Jewish Federation and Welfare Funds, a former Clevelander, the featured speaker.

From that beginning 70 years ago, Mr. Bernstein pointed out, the movement has taken hold and grown to 220 such organizations that serve 800 communities and raise some $200,000,000 annually. The Jewish federation movement, he declared, was the model for the United Fund and Community Chest movement that followed about a generation later and now totals 2,200 funds providing $500,000,000 annually for health and welfare purposes.

He termed the federation idea “one of the greatest Jewish contributions to America.” This concept, he added, has proved its value and validity in practice by the fact that more funds are raised together than separately and at smaller costs, and this approach frees agencies for services instead of fund-raising. “We distribute funds on the basis of need,” Bernstein declared, “and we see needs and set goals in the perspective of the total community.”

Mr. Bernstein mentioned the impact of rapidly shifting conditions upon the services of federations and their agencies which have had to meet the needs created by the changing character of Jewish life in the United States and abroad. He stressed major changes in the service of hospitals, medical care, in the field of the aged, and declared that “for the first time, we have two generations over 65, with many persons living for as much as a quarter of a century beyond retirement.”

He touched on other aspects of communal services, such as the needs of emotionally disturbed children, the role of family counseling agencies in preserving and strengthening the Jewish family as “the core of the Jewish way of life.” He pleaded for greater attention to Jewish education in order to improve its quality.


The speaker also reminded the group of the continuing responsibilities overseas, particularly the situation in Israel, where 200,000 immigrants are still on relief roles there and need continued aid to help them move toward self-support. He credited Jewish federations with a record of leadership in such “major moral issues of our day” as civil rights and civil liberties, church-state separation, and the anti-poverty program.

Mr. Bernstein predicted that while the Federation would adhere to its basic concept, it would develop new approaches to meet the new kind of community it serves. He termed that community largely “a university-educated community, a predominately economic middle class community,” and added that it can no longer live on its European heritage. With its native born population, it must build an indigenous American Jewish culture, he asserted.

The annual meeting marked the culmination of a series of events associated with the Federation’s new building, the gift of a group of donors. J. M. Berne, former Federation president and chairman of the building committee, presented metal plaques to the 14 donors. Presiding at the meeting was David N. Myers, president, completing his first year in office. William C. Treuhaft, treasurer, reported that the Federation allocated $7,261,182, the greatest total in its history, to its local, national and overseas agencies for the fiscal year that began on July 1, 1965.

A highlight of the meeting was the presentation of the annual Charles Eisenman Award for distinguished community service to Myron E, Glass, a former president of the Jewish Community Federation, Mt. Sinai Hospital, and Park Synagogue. He was cited for his numerous communal leadership posts in the Jewish and general community, and for his continuing participation in the work of organizations long after his terms of office had expired.

The award, granted annually on a non-sectarian basis to a greater Clevelander in recognition of distinguished community service, honors the memory of a founder and the first president of the Federation from 1903 until his death in 1923. It consists of a framed testimonial and a $500 check. Mr. Glass announced that he was returning the check and would add a much larger one of his own to establish a fund for in-service training for professional staffs of Federation and its agencies. Mr. Glass and Max Freedman, a former president of Federation and recipient of the Charles Eisenman Award, and currently president of Mt. Sinai Hospital, were elected Trustees-for-Life. The meeting also elected 39 representative trustees to one-year terms and 15 trustees-at-large to three year terms each. Henry L. Zucker is executive vice-president of the Federation.

Recommended from JTA