Jewish Federation

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A Jewish Federation is a confederation of various Jewish social agencies, volunteer programs, educational bodies, and related organizations, found within most cities in North America that host a viable Jewish community. Their broad purpose is to provide "human services", generally, but not exclusively, to the local Jewish community.[1] The Jewish Federations of North America represents 157 Jewish Federations and over 300 Network communities, which raise and distribute more than $3 billion annually.


The first Jewish federation was founded in Boston in 1895.[1] Federations were soon formed in Cincinnati, then in many other cities.[1][2]


Each federation is autonomous from federations of other cities and they tend to focus on local concerns.[1] The federations typically have elected boards or trustees that are accountable to the community, paid staff, and volunteer leadership.[1]

Fundraising and spending[edit]

Federations raise money for central "community chests" that support the organizations of the entire local Jewish community.[1] Between 30 and 50 percent of Jewish households in the United States typically contribute to their local federation.[1]

They engage in centralized planning for the needs of the local community, and may provide centralized administrative services for their constituent agencies.[1] Federation spending and efforts have adapted as the need for particular social services has changed—for example, from Jewish orphanage work in the early twentieth century to retirement homes in the late twentieth century.[1]

More than half of all funds raised by federations are earmarked for various local Jewish social service agencies, with the largest single allocation to Jewish education, typically constituting 25 percent.[1] After education, Jewish community centers, family and child services, homes for the aged, and campus Hillels are the next largest drawers of financial support.[1]

As an example, in 2008, the Overnight Camp Incentive Program provided grant money to 18 campers to attend Pinemere Camp. The program is a joint project of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the Foundation for Jewish Camp, and the Neubauer Family Foundation.[3][4][5] The program provided grants of $750 to $1,250.[3] The majority of the Pinemere campers who received grants chose to return the following summer.[3]

Role in community[edit]

Jewish federations can wield a sizable degree of influence in the Jewish communities in which they are located.[6] Many of the local federations hold annual fundraising drives that are expected to raise most of the next year's budgeting for many community programs.[6] In return, in many communities the agencies which receive funding from the federation agree not to engage in major fundraising for themselves for a number of months often called the "primacy period" when the local federation's fundraising has primacy. Decisions made by the local federations can have a great impact on the community,[1] including the opening or closing of programs, staff hirings and firings, and land purchases and sales.

A significant feature of the annual federation campaign is "Super Sunday", a day designated for community-wide phone banking, seeking contributions from members of the community.[7]

National umbrella organization[edit]

The original umbrella organization for the federations was the National Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds.[7][8] "National" was dropped from the name in 1935 and "Welfare Funds" was removed in 1979.[8]

In 1999, the CJF merged with the United Jewish Appeal to become the United Jewish Communities.[8] In October 2009, the UJC was renamed the Jewish Federations of North America.[9]

After the 2009 launch of the new logo for The Jewish Federations of North America, increasing numbers of local Federations are switching to some variant of that logo. An example is the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.[10]

Four hundred smaller Jewish communities in North America are members of the Network of Independent Communities,[11] which are administered via the JFNA.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Feldstein, Donald (1998). "The Jewish Federation: The First Hundred Years". In Linzer, Norman. A portrait of the American Jewish community. David J. Schnall & Jerome A. Chanes. Praeger Publishers. ISBN 978-0-275-96022-3. Retrieved June 13, 2011. 
  2. ^ Memories of the Jewish Midwest. Nebraska Jewish Historical Society. 1985. p. 1. Retrieved June 13, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c Jason Collins (March 26, 2009). "Camp Incentive Program: Building Identity Along With Those Campfires". Jewish Exponent. Retrieved May 5, 2013. 
  4. ^ "One Happy Camper of Greater Philadelphia; Summer 2013". Jewish Philly. Retrieved May 5, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Think Camp: Grants Enable Jewish Overnight Programs". Jewish Exponent. December 28, 2011. Retrieved May 5, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Marcus, Jacob Rader (1993). United States Jewry, 1776–1985 1. Wayne Station University Press. p. 797. ISBN 978-0-8143-2186-7. Retrieved June 13, 2011. The Jewish Community Center receives a very substantial part of its funding from the local Jewish social-welfar foundation, which controls practically all relief and welfare agencies in every Jewish community. All told, there are about 200 such federations[...]. Because of its financial support for many of the community's basic services and institutions, the federation was very influential everywhere. 
  7. ^ a b Elazar, Daniel Judah (1995) [1976]. Community and polity:the organizational dynamics of American Jewry. Jewish Publication Society. p. 413. ISBN 978-0-8276-0565-7. Retrieved June 14, 2011. This new phenomenon was incorporated into campaign strategy, particularly through "Super Sunday," a day-long happening featuring marches on behalf of some special financial need and massive telephoning of potential donors in a more exciting carnival-like atmosphere. 
  8. ^ a b c Karesh, Sara E.; Hurvitz, Mitchell M. (2006). "United Jewish Communities". In Melton, J. Gordon. Encyclopedia of Judaism. Infobase Publishing. pp. 534–535. ISBN 978-0-8160-5457-2. Retrieved June 14, 2011. In 1932 the National Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds (NCJFWF) united the Jewish federations across the country. In 1935 the organization changed its name to the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds (CJFWF), and in 1979 the name became the Council of Jewish Federations (CJF). [...] In 1999, the United Jewish Appeal and the Council of Jewish Federations merged to become the United Jewish Communities. 
  9. ^ Elliott, Stuart (May 17, 2010). "You Don’t Have to Be Jewish to Love This Campaign". New York Times. Retrieved June 14, 2011. ...the Jewish Federations, which changed its name in October from the United Jewish Communities. 
  10. ^ "Jewish Federation of Greater Washington adaptation of JFNA logo". The Jewish Federations of North America. Retrieved January 5, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Network of Independent Communities". The Jewish Federations of North America. January 5, 2010. Retrieved January 5, 2010. 

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