The History of the Jewish Federation
of Greater Washington
Federations have been part of American
Jewish community life for over a century. As early as the 1880s,
Jewish communities realized that one organization could raise funds
more efficiently than dozens of agencies competing for community support.
Organized fundraising in the Washington Jewish community
began in 1925, when the Jewish Welfare Association was founded. Before
then, many agencies had been raising funds and providing services to
Jewish Washington on their own. The Jewish Welfare Association drew
these agencies into an organized group, the precursor of today's federated
The national United Jewish Appeal was born in 1939
as a merger of the United Palestine Appeal and the fundraising arm of
the Joint Distribution Committee, which in the aftermath of World War
I, had been meeting many of the social service needs of European Jewry.
The Jewish Welfare Association became the Washington arm of the United
Jewish Appeal. The new organization focused primarily on the needs of
Jews in Europe and in what was then Palestine. Only a small portion
of the money raised supported local agencies.
As Washington Jewry grew, so did the needs of the community,
and more agencies opened to meet those needs. By 1976, it was obvious
that the time had come for an organized fundraising effort to support
local agencies. Our local United Jewish Appeal expanded its mandate
and became UJA Federation of Greater Washington, the formal coordinator
of a community-wide campaign for local beneficiary agencies as well
as for Israel and overseas.
In 1999, UJA Federation became The Jewish Federation
of Greater Washington. Our new name more accurately reflects the broad
range of commitments we make worldwide as well as our function as the
central fundraising agency of the Greater Washington Jewish community.
Today, Federation provides funds for 37 local beneficiary
agencies, schools, youth groups, and community service programs serving
more than 180,000 Jews throughout a 1,500-square-mile area that includes
Northern Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. In addition,
Federation supports 22 national and international partners-the Jewish
Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
among them-that provide rescue, relief and resettlement to Jews anywhere
in the world.
The Federation is one of 189 similar volunteer-driven
organizations in the United States and Canada committed to the renaissance
of the Jewish people in North America, in Israel, and throughout the
Jewish Federation of Greater Washington