National Jewish Welfare Board

Alternative names
Active 1917
Active 1986

History notes:

Army-Navy Division is the branch of the JWB that intercedes for the needs and interests of Jewish military personnel; name officially introduced in 1941.

From the guide to the National Jewish Welfare Board, Army-Navy Division records, undated, 1917-1955, 1969, 1974, (American Jewish Historical Society)

Established 1917 to provide support services for Jewish military personnel, and after 1921 also for YM-YWHAs, Jewish community centers, and Jewish-sponsored camps.

From the description of Records, 1917-1986. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 155528182

Origins of the National Jewish Welfare Board (1913-1919)

Organized in 1917 to meet the needs of Jewish servicemen in the Armed Forces, the National Jewish Welfare Board (JWB) became a national federation of local agencies and social service institutions dedicated to meeting the social, cultural, intellectual, physical and spiritual needs of the American Jewish community.

The roots of JWB can be traced to the founding of the Council of Young Men's Hebrew and Kindred Associations (YMHA-KA) in November 1913. This benevolent organization was established to promote and help coordinate the programs of the various Young Men's Hebrew Associations (YMHAs) and Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) throughout the United States. In 1916 the Council created a special Army and Navy Committee to attend to the religious and welfare needs of Jewish soldiers participating in military activities along the Mexican border. During World War I the Council decided to expand its services and aid rabbis serving near military posts. Unfortunately, the activities of the Council were hampered by its inability to speak for the entire American Jewish community. Furthermore, the absence of a unified coordinating agency led to a duplication of services and a scattering of limited resources.

Hence, in April 1917, representatives of five major Jewish religious bodies (the United Synagogue, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, and the Agudath Ha-Rabbanim) joined with members of the Council to form the Jewish Board for Welfare Work in the United States Army and Navy. This new organization, however, was also deemed unsatisfactory since it relied primarily on the sponsorship of its member organizations. Therefore, in July 1917, the Jewish Board for Welfare Work was reorganized with control centralized in a small committee of three to five members. The close ties of the new Jewish Board to the Council of Young Men's Hebrew and Kindred Associations were severed and field secretaries were chosen to conduct new programs. In September 1917, the Commission on Training Camp Activities recognized the Board as the official agency for Jewish welfare work in military camps. In the summer of 1918, the name of the Board was changed to the Jewish Welfare Board, United States Army and Navy (shortened to Jewish Welfare Board in 1919) and the first by-laws and terms of office and membership were decided at a public meeting. JWB was now prepared to act as the representative agency for American Jewish servicemen in the United States military.

The program activities of JWB during World War I included the enlistment of rabbis to serve as chaplains and the recruitment and training of lay workers. JWB created an abridged prayer book, reconciling the religious views of the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform branches of Judaism, and distributed this to the soldiers. Prayer shawls, mezuzah scrolls, Jewish calendars, and many other items were also distributed. In addition, to meet the dietary needs of Jewish personnel, kosher food was provided in canteens and barracks. Non-religious activities sponsored by JWB included dances, literary clubs, classes in the English language and American history, and musical entertainment. Personal services included home visits to relatives of servicemen and a hospital visiting service to cheer the sick and wounded. In 1918, the programs and services of JWB were extended overseas, as workers were sent to Europe to assist Jewish Servicemen.

By the war's end, JWB had developed a cadre of 638 field representatives, 178 of whom had served overseas. The new agency had an established staff made up of chaplains and lay workers, known as the "Star of David Men," who acted as personal councilors, teachers, spiritual leaders, and directors of religious services. Under the direction of JWB, the American Jewish community had mobilized to support the war effort and during this time, many organizations such as the B'nai B'rith, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the YMHA-KA became JWB affiliates. Thus, the Jewish Welfare Board had firmly established itself as one of the leading Jewish organizations in the United States.

Merger of JWB and the Council of YMHA-KA (1919-1921)

The desire for a common meeting place for American Jews to promote their social, educational, and recreational development was widespread at the end of World War I. Consequently in the spring of 1920, at a special meeting of the JWB Executive Committee, it was determined that besides assisting military personnel, JWB would begin to support, advance, and serve the Jewish Community Center movement. It was further decided that JWB would merge with and assume the functions of the Council of YMHA-KA. By January 1921, a draft constitution was approved by the two organizations and in July 1921, the reorganized JWB was launched.

The Inter-War Years (1921-1940)

The mission of the newly reorganized JWB was threefold. First, the Board hoped to promote the social welfare of American Jewish servicemen by providing them with adequate opportunities for worship, education, devotion, solace and improvement. Second, the religious, intellectual, physical, and social well being of young Jewish men and women was to be supported. Finally, JWB dedicated itself to the development of JCCs, YMHAs, Young Women's Hebrew Associations (YWHAs), and other kindred societies.

Membership in the new JWB consisted of local agencies such as JCCs, YM-YWHAs, regional federations of YMHAs and JCCs, and affiliated national organizations such as B'nai B'rith. As a result of this varied membership, JWB gained the authority to represent all American Jewish organizations.

JWB was organized into two sections - Army and Navy services and Jewish Community Center services. Sixteen full time and part time JWB workers, community volunteers, and soldier representatives provided Army and Navy services. As the officially recognized Jewish religious and welfare agency for Jewish military personnel, these staffers covered 250 military establishments, Veterans hospitals, and naval stations.

Services to JCCs were provided by a national office staff of three-a director and two assistants-and eight field secretaries. These field secretaries made hundreds of annual field visits and provided various consultation services to the JCCs in their sections. In addition, they prepared or supervised the development of Center publications and wrote community surveys and studies, which described and analyzed the local Jewish population, examined the condition of existing JCCs and summer camps, assessed the needs of Jewish students, studied general citywide problems and reviewed the needs for recreational and vocational activities. Finally, the authors drew conclusions and made recommendations that they hoped would improve the JCCs.

The JCC's overall goal was to provide an element of unity, purpose and service to the Jewish community. To achieve this goal, JWB provided a multitude of services to the JCCs and supported and developed numerous programs during the 1930s that stressed the development of Jewish culture and the spirit of Judaism within the overall American context. These included youth programs, which were intended to emphasize the building of character. In addition, program activities focusing on Jewish holiday celebrations, Jewish history and problems, Jewish themes, and Jewish survival were developed. In 1922 JWB's Lecture and Concert Bureau assumed the direct management of selecting lecturers to participate in forums at local JCCs. Plays, pageants, bulletins, and brochures were developed and distributed to celebrate Jewish and civic holidays. Camping services were expanded in the 1930s and training for camp counselors was offered by JWB. JWB staff also organized educational conferences and conventions, prepared Jewish bibliographies and other publications, encouraged group insurance plans for Center workers, and devoted considerable resources to assisting JCCs in finding qualified staff. By these and other means, JWB attempted to develop balanced programs that would meet the cultural, social, intellectual, and physical needs of the Jewish community.

Between 1937 and 1940 JWB staff grew, new regional federations were developed, and the field services division was expanded. Annual meetings were attended by hundreds of delegates and lay committees took an active part in promoting JWB programs. The National Health Advisory Board provided consultation and guidance in the improvement of health programs and standards at JCCs while the National Association of Jewish Center Workers provided JWB with an intimate knowledge of the Center worker field, and the National Finance Council provided a permanent base of financial support for JWB by helping it secure much-needed funds. By the end of 1940, JWB had developed close contact with both Jewish and non-Jewish social work agencies and continued to solidify its role as the Jewish body concerned with Jewish social work.

Dynamic Growth and World War II (1940-1946)

In 1939, as the officially approved agency for Jewish religious and welfare work for Jewish military personnel, JWB began making preparations for a possible American involvement in the war in Europe. At the request of the United States Navy, JWB outlined the service personnel programs that they would be implementing in the event of war. In 1940 a national survey was conducted that reviewed service requirements, personnel needs, and local committee organization. By January 1941, JWB field men were working in the vicinity of training camps while Jewish chaplains were being commissioned into the armed forces in increasing numbers. Lastly, JWB's cooperative relationships with the YMCA, YWCA, National Travelers Aid Association, Salvation Army, and National Catholic Community Service, led to the establishment of the United Service Organization for National Defense, or USO, in 1941.

When America became involved in World War II, JWB was ready to meet the needs of Jewish military personnel. At the beginning of the war fifteen national Jewish organizations were represented by JWB; by war's end that number had increased to thirty-eight.

During the war, many new JWB committees and divisions were created to meet the wartime emergency. The Bureau of War Records was established to gather and preserve the war records of Jewish military personnel. Local war record committees were organized around the country to compile the war records of Jewish soldiers. As a result, a full account describing the activities of the Jewish soldier was published at the end of the war. In 1942, five national women's organizations affiliated with JWB began the Women's Organizations' Division. (The Division later expanded and become known as Women's Organizations' Services.) This division initiated projects to assist military personnel, organized and publicized work related to the war effort, and coordinated the efforts of women in local communities. In addition, the Committee on Personal Service was created to supervise and guide the work of field personnel servicing Jews in the military. By the end of the war, there were 626 Army and Navy Committees organized throughout the United States serving Jewish servicemen.

JWB's war activities also reached around the globe. Chaplains could be found in the West Indies, India, Burma, China, North Africa, the Pacific Islands, Europe and the Middle East. They served on hospital and transport ships, on the ground with the infantry, and were among the first to reach the concentration camps and assist survivors. By the end of the war, a total of 311 JWB chaplains had served in the military.

One of the main activities and tasks of JWB during the war was providing chaplains with the necessary supplies to meet the needs of Jewish soldiers. Enormous amounts of festival accessories, troop comforts, and kosher food were transported around the world and given to chaplains. Similarly, the recreational needs of soldiers were met by JWB at various USO buildings at home and abroad. In 1943, JWB helped organize Jewish Hospitality Committees in Great Britain to aid Jewish servicemen. Religious hospitality centers, containing synagogues, social rooms, snack bars, and kosher kitchens, were set up by field representatives in Europe, Australia, India, and China. JWB also assisted in refugee work by providing religious services, parties, reading materials and textbooks for the displaced of Europe.

The Women's Organizations' Division supplemented the work of the USO and the Jewish Chaplaincy. Through the efforts of Serve-a-Chaplain Committees the ladies helped gather supplies for chaplains. Members of the Serve-a-Hospital and Serve-a-Veterans Hospital Committees visited wounded veterans to help improve their morale. Included among the many items provided to Jewish servicemen by the women's division were games, books, records, toilet articles, holiday equipment, knitted goods, holiday material, and food parcels.

The global war effort demanded a great exertion on the part of JWB to send supplies overseas. By 1946, JWB had distributed 900,000 packages of Matzoth, 30,000 gallons of wine, 50,000 cans of kosher meat, and 50,000 pounds of salami. Tons of fish, macaroons, and other holiday delicacies were provided to servicemen around the world. Moreover, 6 million books and pamphlets were produced and distributed by JWB. Two million holiday leaflets and 8.5 million holiday greeting cards were sent overseas. The circulation of religious accessories such as prayer books reached into the tens of thousands.

With guidance provided by JWB, JCCs and YM-YWHAs also played an important role in the war effort. Many community center buildings became USOs and center workers provided servicemen with recreational programs, dances, parties, and hospitality. Center workers participated in Red Cross blood bank drives and the sale of war bonds. Furthermore, many JCCs began to provide nursery services and expanded educational opportunities for families with men in uniform.

New Directions, Goals, and Organization in the Post-World War II Era (1948-1967)

After World War II JWB began to redefine its programs and objectives to meet the needs of the Jewish community in post-World War II America and recast itself into a national social welfare agency helping to expand and develop the JCC movement. In 1947 JWB adopted a Statement of Principles on Jewish Community Center Purposes that became the credo of Center work and a condition of affiliation with JWB. This new credo made clear that Jewish content was fundamental to the JCC program and that the Centers were to become agencies for Jewish identification and integration. Center programs would encourage the development of Jewish culture, and provide educational and recreational opportunities for members. Furthermore, as a democratic institution, the Centers were to help advance democracy and the integration of the American Jew into American society.

Over the next few years, JWB reorganized itself to meet its new responsibilities and as the Cold War began in 1948, JWB was ready to engage in a worldwide service to build and maintain the spiritual and morale life of Jewish GIs and dependents, and to assist Jewish chaplains and Jewish civilian communities.

JWB services to Jewish Community Centers (1948-1967)

JWB developed and provided a multitude of program services for JCCs during the 1950s and 1960s. It offered budgeting and building management advice, training services for center staff and executives, assistance in the purchasing of equipment and supplies, consultation in developing public relations programs, and aid in the establishment of health insurance coverage and retirement plans for center workers.

Young people were an important part of the JCC, and JWB sponsored programs and activities designed to awaken their Jewish heritage. Additionally, JWB sponsored inter-city leadership training conferences, cultural workshops and seminars, study tours of Europe and Israel, exchange visits with families overseas, international Jewish youth assemblies and, in 1965, a national training institute for youth.

During the 1960s both senior citizens and women became increasingly involved with the Center movement. To alleviate the isolation that came with old age, JWB encouraged special cultural, social, and recreational services to seniors. Women also turned to the JCCs for programming aid and leadership, and both regional and national leadership institutes were offered to Jewish women.

JWB continued to provide a great number of services to JCCs. The camping service program was designed to strengthen Jewish identification and community as well as to provide an appreciation for Jewish life. Day and suburban camp participants included children, families, the elderly and the physically handicapped. The evaluation of camping sites, the development of camping programs, and the training and recruitment of staff were tasks that JWB performed for the Centers. The health and physical well being of JCC members also became a concern of JWB. Professional staff assisted center workers in the programming and planning of health activities. Additionally, JWB sponsored basketball, volleyball, golf, handball, and swimming tournaments around the country. It also helped to establish permanent athletic links between American Centers and Jewish youth organizations in Israel and other countries. By the mid-1960s, one million people were participating in the health and physical education programs sponsored by JWB and community centers.

The promotion of Jewish culture also continued to be an integral part of the JWB program. Rich cultural programs were brought to hundreds of JCCs by the Lecture Bureau, exposing Center members to Jewish speakers, artists, thinkers, and exponents of the Jewish way of life. The Jewish Book Council supported and promoted an appreciation for Jewish literature in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish while the Jewish Music Council supported Jewish culture through music. Publications promoting Jewish culture were distributed by JWB to JCCs, synagogues, youth agencies, women's groups, and fraternal organizations.

JWB services to GIs (1948-1967)

In conjunction with the development of the JCC movement during the 1950s and 1960s, JWB continued offering services to American Jewish GIs. Chaplains provided religious literature and services, conducted educational programs, gave pastoral counseling to servicemen, and visited soldiers in hospitals around the world. They were assisted in these tasks by the newly created Military Sisterhoods, organized by Jewish servicemen's wives. These groups planned programs and obtained supplies for GI congregations. The USO also continued its leadership role and helped mobilize local Jewish community resources. Finally, the Women's Organizations' Services established a mail order service that sent items to chaplains and other volunteers serving Jewish servicemen abroad. Books, records, magazines, films, children's texts, classroom supplies, holiday decorations, and arts-and-crafts-materials were some of the items sent by the WOS to military posts around the world.

Jewish Links Abroad (1948-1967)

One of the major goals of JWB after World War II was the establishment of the JCC movement abroad. During the 1950s, JWB program materials were translated into French, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew and Yiddish. Foreign youth councils were assisted and the introduction of Jewish Book and Music Councils overseas was begun. JWB also helped sponsor several international conferences hoping to strengthen the ties of Jews around the world. Among these were the Jewish Community Center World Fellowship Project (1955), the Conference of European and American Center Leaders (1964), the Standing Conference on European Jewish Community Services (1965) and the Commission on Centers and Camps (1965). In 1947 the World Federation of YMHAs and JCCs was created to aid in the revival of Jewish life around the world. (The Jerusalem Y became a major responsibility of the World Federation when it opened in 1950.) Finally, a dual exchange program was established with Israeli social workers that gave both Israeli and American Jews the opportunity to experience each other's Jewish cultures.

Change and Growth in the Post-World War II Era

In the Post-World War II Era, JWB moved away from giving direct program services to the JCCs and instead, became more of a coordinating and consulting agency that provided resources, program materials, and technical guidance to JCCs to make Jewish values and traditions relevant to contemporary life in the United States.

During the 1950s and 1960s JWB was successful in encouraging JCCs to become more family oriented to strengthen Jewish family life in a time of social and economic change. The Centers were recognized as serving important Jewish communal purposes, and became symbols and rallying points for Jewish living. With JWB guidance, JCCs helped to preserve, nourish, and give meaning in America to Jewish heritage and life.

Celebrations, Civil Rights and War (1967-1969)

In 1967, JWB marked its 50 th anniversary by sponsoring new Jewish musical compositions and plays. The Jewish Book Council celebrated its 25 th anniversary by publishing a 448-page volume dedicated to American Jewish authors. Meanwhile, the Commission on Jewish Chaplaincy (originally founded in 1917 as the Chaplain's Committee) observed its silver jubilee by initiating new programs to provide religious and cultural materials and training to an expanding corps of lay leaders. Finally, the Women's Organizations Services re-dedicated itself on its 25 th anniversary by developing innovative programs to help assist military families.

The building of new centers continued at a rapid pace. Between 1945 and 1969, 120 new JCCs were built. These new buildings reflected the changing needs and interests of the local Jewish community. Some of the more modern facilities included homes for the aged, day care centers, fixed seat theatres, practice music rooms, creative art rooms, jogging tracks, and therapy pools for the physically handicapped.

To meet the demand for qualified staff to work in the expanding JCCs, JWB created the Bureau of Careers in Jewish Service to recruit Jewish civil servants and social workers. JWB offered national training services to the JCCs and provided open job listings of all professional vacancies, to encourage workers to stay in the social work field. Twenty-five different training projects were carried out by JWB's Training Services Department to orient new Center workers and to up-grade the skills of those already in the field. By 1969, the recruitment of Center workers had become a function of local Jewish communities with guidance provided by JWB's Personnel Services Department.

Qualified rabbis were also in short supply during the 1960s. As opposition to the war in Vietnam increased, the Commission on Jewish Chaplaincy (CJC) intensified its recruitment efforts and continued to recruit lay leaders to carry on religious and educational programs for Jewish servicemen. To help alleviate the shortage of chaplains, in 1966, JWB developed a retention plan that encouraged rabbis to make the military chaplaincy a career. In 1969 the CJC began recruiting chaplains among rabbis holding civilian positions. JWB also helped organize regional conferences of Jewish chaplains, community leaders, JCC staff, and regional consultants to help develop a better understanding of the needs of servicemen.

At the close of the 1960s JWB offered an energetic program that detected new social work needs, charted new directions, and pioneered new advances in social work practice. JWB's Service to Small Communities program began offering services to small and isolated Jewish communities throughout the country. It developed new programs to serve Jewish college youth and learn more about the attitudes, needs, and interests of the college generation. More intensive programming in Jewish music, drama, graphic arts, theatre, and dance were encouraged. And finally, displays of American Jewish history were developed and viewed by thousands in the Centers.

Many of the programs and policies of JWB were shaped to a large degree by the increasing racial confrontation and social and political turmoil of the 1960s. Rising anti-Semitism in the black community led to an examination of how JCCs could contribute to an improvement in black-white relationships. As a result, the Centers began many social, recreational, and cultural programs in urban areas. These programs included tutorial and remedial reading classes, Center day and resident camps for the poor, head start programs, and child-care centers. Although most of these programs were offered to disadvantaged blacks, Puerto Ricans, Mexican-Americans, and impoverished Jews also participated. Center activities on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised reflected the belief of the majority of the Jewish community that Jews had a moral and economic interest in eliminating the causes of racial disorder and poverty.

The development of links overseas continued to grow, particularly after the Six-Day War in 1967. The fate of Israel found a place in the hearts and minds of the Jewish people and the JCCs were infused with a new energy. They helped organize, direct, and motivate Jewish support for the state of Israel. JWB expertise was used to train staff in Israeli centers.

Overseas links to Europe and other areas around the world were nurtured by JWB's international consultation program. JWB and Center professionals contributed to the planning and workshops of the International Conference of Jewish Communal Service in Jerusalem. Finally, JWB helped support outdoor Center demonstrations in support of Soviet Jewry.

The JCCs respond to a changing Society

Like most of America, the JWB and JCC movement was swept up in the societal changes of the 1970s and 1980s. The Jewish community faced a rise in alternative household arrangements that had little connection to the synagogue or JCC movement. Many Jews were single or divorced with children and a growing number were over the age of fifty. Moreover, the trend of intermarriage, assimilation, and lower births threatened the long-term survival of the Jewish community. As a result of these changes, JWB began to develop new cultural and educational programs to strengthen the Jewish community.

Various counseling, single parent support groups, and recreational activities were started by JWB in response to the changing family environment. Programs were also developed for the homebound elderly, Jewish children unaffiliated with Jewish organizations, and older adults. Children, adults, and families were encouraged to explore their Jewish heritage and culture and to join synagogues and temples.

As the 1980s progressed, fathering programs were designed to assist men as they took on additional parenting responsibilities at home. New day care programs for the elderly and horticultural therapy were offered to senior citizens. A Shalom Newcomers Network was begun to help Jewish families and individuals put down Jewish roots in new communities. By the end of the decade, the JCCs had developed a wide array of programs to deal with such everyday concerns as heart disease prevention, child abuse, and AIDS prevention.

JWB reinforced its long-term commitment to Jewish education during the 1980s. To help the JCCs reach their full educational potential, in 1983 the Commission on Maximizing Jewish Education in Jewish Community Centers was given the task of studying Jewish educational programming. As a result of this study, new programs designed to stimulate Jewish awareness, knowledge, and identification were introduced into the JCCs. A wide range of educational activities for young and old, men and women, were established throughout the JCCs to enrich Jewish life and deepen their sense of Jewish identity and commitment.

Foreign contacts continued and expanded with Jews in Venezuela, Canada, France, Israel, and in the Soviet Union. The JCCs celebrated the 30 th anniversary of Israeli's founding with special expos, walk-a-thons, music and dance programs, presentations, and athletic events. By 1979, there were ninety-one community centers in the Jewish State. JWB recognized the importance of its Israel connection when, in 1980, it helped sponsor the Israel Desk Program. This program was developed to encourage North American Jews to go to Israel to work, study, perform voluntary services, or perhaps to settle. It was aimed at making Israel more accessible to American Jewry.

The influx of Russian Jews into the United States propelled the development of special JWB programs to ease the pains of readjustment. New programs in housing, healthcare, and legal rights were developed to help assimilate the new immigrants, and special classes in the reading and writing of English were also offered.

New Directions and Programs

In 1990 JWB, in order to more accurately reflect the organization's mission and goals, and its connection with the Jewish Community Center movement, changed its name to the Jewish Community Centers Association of North America (JCC Association). The JCC Association resolved to become more proactive in anticipating the needs of the Jewish community and in providing the mechanisms and resources to meet those needs.

The 1990s witnessed the introduction of new programs and relationships overseas. A summer teen experience in Israel was launched, which emphasized education and leadership skills. In addition, executive training for Israeli staff was expanded and included graduate level courses focusing on Jewish issues within the context of Israel. An Israeli Fellowship Program and leadership training seminars were also offered. In 1999, the JCC Association began the Birthright Israel program, which sponsored first-time visits to Israel for American Jews. In the same year, the JCC Maccabi Xperience was started for high school and college students and for young professionals up to the age of 33. Maccabi programs included visits to cultural, historical, and geographical sites throughout Israel.

The JCC Association also began to help rebuild Jewish communities in the former Soviet Union. Since most Russian Jews had little or no exposure to the Jewish religion, the JCC movement primarily concentrated on building connections to Jewish communities. JCC programs stressed the promotion of Jewish culture, education, and Jewish life. By 1997 thirty-eight JCCs were in operation in Russia.

At home, the JCC Association continued the development of various programs to meet the needs of the Jewish community. Early childhood programs were promoted in the Centers, Young Judaea Clubs were started, and teen leadership summits, exploring such issues as respect, tolerance, and conflict resolution, were begun. The JCCs continued to stress the development of educational opportunities for its members. Programs to better educate and train lay leaders were started; scholarship and fellowship programs for teenagers were introduced; and an endowment was funded to bring world-class Jewish scholars to JCC conferences. Finally, continental standards to help measure JCC performances in meeting the goals of the movement were developed, covering everything from Jewish education programs to the safe storage of supplies.

With the beginning of the new century, the JCC Association had gone high tech. It launched an online resource for Jewish early childhood educators and created an Internet service so that JCC professionals could interact with each other more efficiently. In addition, the JCC Association continued to develop innovative programming for the Jewish community. For instance, programs were established to educate and train JCC staff in integrating disabled youth into center activities. The JCC Association and the National Foundation of Jewish Culture helped create the Jewish Council for the Arts to promote Jewish art and culture. To reflect the growing needs of adults over fifty years old, a JCC task force began the development of new and modern adult programming. Additionally, a JCC North America Kallah program was begun to provide focused, high profile, and exciting adult Jewish programming. In the year 2000, the JCC Association Center for Jewish Education was started with the goal of providing on-going training and development for JCC professionals. This new educational association serves as a resource for Jewish educators and provides them with guidance in the development of Center education initiatives.

The new century finds the JCC Association continuing to adapt, innovate, and refine its vision of the future. Like its predecessors, the goal of the JCC Association is to strengthen the bonds of the Jewish community. Thus, the theme of the 2000 Biennial was "Building Meaningful Jewish Community" and it found over 1000 lay leaders, board members, presidents and executives from JCCs across North America examining their past, debating plans for the future, and demonstrating the commitment of the JCC movement to American Jewry.

Bibliography Bernstein, Philip S. Rabbis at War: The CANRA Story. Waltham, Massachusetts: The American Historical Society, 1971. Dobkowski, Michael N., ed. Jewish American Voluntary Organizations. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, Inc., 1986. Janowsky, Oscar I., Louis Kraft and Bernard Postal. Change and Challenge: A History of 50 Years of the JWB. New York: National Jewish Welfare Board, 1966. Janowsky, Oscar I. The JWB Survey. New York: The Dial Press, 1948. Kaufman, Isidor. American Jews in World War II: The Story of 550,000 Fighters for Freedom. New York: Dial Press, 1947. Korn, Bertram W. Centennial of the Jewish Chaplaincy in the United States, 1862-1962. New York: The American Jewish Historical Society, 1962. Kraft, Louis. A Century of the Jewish Community Center Movement. New York: National Jewish Welfare Board, 1953. Jewish Community Centers Association of North America, Annual Reports: 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000. New York: JCC Association, 1996-1997, 1999-2001 JCC Circle, Fall 2000 - Summer 2001. Jewish Community Centers Association website: JWB Circle, November 1979-Summer 1986.

Unfortunately, there are no full-length contemporary studies of the Jewish Welfare Board or the Jewish Community Center movement, and the Board does not seem to have published any annual reports from 1970 to the mid-1990s. Therefore, researchers should consult the JCC Association's website ( ) and the serial publications The JWB Circle and The JCC Circle for more current information about the Jewish Community Center movement.

  • 1917: JWB organized in New York City, April 9, to serve religious and welfare needs of Jewish military personnel in World War I. The conference convened by National Council of YMHAs and Kindred Associations names Dr. Cyrus Adler President.
  • 1917: United States Government Commission on Training Camp Activities names JWB as Jewish community's instrument for serving military. JWB begins recruiting Rabbis as Chaplains and hundreds of field workers.
  • 1917: Commissioning of Jewish chaplains authorized by Congress at JWB's behest.
  • 1917: Colonel Harry Cutler succeeds Dr. Adler as JWB President.
  • 1918: JWB opens servicemen's Centers for Jewish soldiers at domestic and overseas posts, making extensive use of YM-YWHA buildings.
  • 1918: JWB becomes part of United War Work Campaign.
  • 1918: 200 Jewish communities organized for war service.
  • 1918: National Association of Jewish Center Workers founded, with Aaron Robison as first President.
  • 1919: Registration and identification of Jewish war graves overseas undertaken by JWB.
  • 1919: Welfare needs of demobilized servicemen handled by JWB.
  • 1920: War Department asks JWB to continue morale services for peacetime military.
  • 1921: Merger with National Council of YMHAs and Kindred Associations, founded in 1913, makes JWB national association of Ys and JCCs and agency for serving Jews in military as of July 1.
  • 1921: New England, New Jersey, New York State and Pennsylvania Federations of YM-YWHAs and Metropolitan New York League of Jewish Community Associations, all antedating JWB, become part of new organization.
  • 1921: Judge Irving Lehman elected President.
  • 1921: Community studies and building fund campaign undertaken for new JCCs.
  • 1921: First training course for JCC workers established.
  • 1922: JWB begins intensive programming services to JCCs. Lecture Bureau organized and Jewish Center Quarterly Launched.
  • 1922: Building Bureau established for JCCs.
  • 1922: Welfare and religious services extended to Canal Zone.
  • 1923: Jewish Welfare Trust created from surplus of World War I funds.
  • 1925: President Coolidge joins JWB leaders in laying cornerstone of Washington, D.C., Center.
  • 1925: Veterans' Administration recognizes JWB as agency to present claims of Jewish veterans.
  • 1925: 47 new JCC buildings opened since end of war, bringing total to 120.
  • 1925: JWB helps create Graduate School for Jewish Social Work in New York.
  • 1926: Religious and welfare services extended to citizen military training camps.
  • 1926: JWB cooperates with American Battle Monuments Commission in marking Jewish war graves.
  • 1927: JWB convenes first training institute for JCC workers.
  • 1928: JWB joins Amateur Athletic Union and U.S. Olympic Committee as representative of Jewish Community in amateur sports.
  • 1929: JCCs become rallying points for protests against Arab riots in Palestine.
  • 1929: Stock Market crash brings halt to decades of new JCC building construction.
  • 1930: JWB helps form National Conference on Jewish Employment.
  • 1931: JWB Salon in Pershing World War I Memorial Hall in Paris dedicated.
  • 1932: Day Camp programming for JCCs launched by JWB.
  • 1932: First National Center Basketball Tournament and Air Mail Track Meet held.
  • 1932: JWB joins President Hoover's Welfare and Relief Mobilization.
  • 1932: JWB organizes American team for first Maccabiad in Palestine.
  • 1933: JWB helps launch mobilization for human needs under National Recovery Administration.
  • 1934: Department of Health Education and Camping established. JWB holds first camp counselors training course.
  • 1935: JWB and Centers organize American team for Palestine Maccabiad.
  • 1936: JWB leads fight to keep United States out of Nazi-controlled Berlin Olympic Games.
  • 1936: Personnel Department is organized.
  • 1936: Eleven societies on the West Coast organize the Pacific Coast Federation of JCCs, which is admitted into JWB two years later.
  • 1937: Expanding Center movement pays tribute to JWB on 20th anniversary at annual convention.
  • 1938: JWB spurs Centers to aid in assistance of refugees from Hitlerism.
  • 1938: JWB helps organize National Jewish Committee on Scouting.
  • 1939: Adoption of Mobilization Day Plan prepares JWB for wartime role.
  • 1940: War Department reaffirms JWB role as official representative of Jewish Community in serving military.
  • 1940: Expanded Committee on Army and Navy Religious Activities begins recruiting Jewish chaplains to meet mounting needs of Armed Forces.
  • 1940: Jewish Community Center Program Aids launched.
  • 1940: Frank L. Weil elected President.
  • 1941: JWB becomes a founding member of USO.
  • 1941: Hundreds of Jewish Communities mobilize for war service under JWB Banner.
  • 1941: JWB given responsibility for compiling record of Jewish military participation.
  • 1942: Organization of Jewish Community Center Division spurs service to Center field.
  • 1942: President Roosevelt lauds JWB on 25th anniversary for service to nation and communities.
  • 1942: Women's Organizations' Division created for war service.
  • 1942: JWB begins overseas operations for Armed Forces.
  • 1942: JWB helps establish Associated Youth Organizations, alliance of six national agencies, to map joint action on youth needs.
  • 1943: JWB serves military on five continents through chaplains, field workers, community groups, and USO.
  • 1943: JWB becomes constituent of Greater New York United Jewish Appeal.
  • 1944: Jewish Chaplains at side of GIs as European invasion begins.
  • 1944: Overseas Army and Navy Committees established.
  • 1944: JWB becomes sponsor of Jewish Book Council of America.
  • 1944: Southern Section of JWB is organized.
  • 1944: USO-JWB programs for military help generate Jewish activities in small Jewish communities.
  • 1945: War's end finds JWB serving in 588 communities and at 203 USO operations; 311 Jewish chaplains on duty.
  • 1945: JWB organizes National Jewish Music Council and launches Jewish Music Festival.
  • 1945: Independent survey of JWB to guide postwar programming and service initiated, with Dr. Salo W. Baron as head of survey commission and Dr. Oscar I. Janowsky as survey Director.
  • 1945: Jewish chaplains aid liberated concentration camp survivors.
  • 1946: President Truman pays tribute to JWB's wartime services.
  • 1946: JWB takes initiative in creating World Federation of YMHAs.
  • 1946: Women's Organizations' Division launches Serve-a-Hospital Program.
  • 1946: JWB Circle is born as Jewish Center Quarterly suspends publication.
  • 1947: JWB Survey calls for stressing Jewish goals and programs of Centers. Adoption of survey recommendations ushers in new era for Center movement.
  • 1947: "Americans in World War II," story of Jewish wartime heroism, by Dr. Samuel C. Kohs and I. Kaufman, published by JWB.
  • 1947: JWB joins in creating Training Bureau for Jewish communal service.
  • 1947: Jewish Music Council sponsors international competition for new compositions.
  • 1948: JWB becomes sponsor of American Jewish Historical Society.
  • 1948: Louis Kraft goes to Israel during Arab siege to set up Jerusalem YMHA.
  • 1948: JWB takes part in reconstituted USO, as new selective Service Act becomes law.
  • 1948: National Jewish Youth Conference founded under JWB auspices.
  • 1948: Centers become focal points of community celebrations hailing birth of State of Israel.
  • 1949: Center and Synagogue relationships explored by JWB and Synagogue Council of America.
  • 1949: First Jewish History Week is observed.
  • 1949: JWB joins Veterans Administration Voluntary Service Program.
  • 1950: Rabbis vote self-imposed draft to recruit military chaplains.
  • 1950: JWB helps form Associated Services for Armed Forces as USO deactivates.
  • 1950: Jerusalem YM-YWHA opened as first center in Israel.
  • 1950: Irving Edison elected President as Frank L. Weil retires.
  • 1950: JWB creates Frank L. Weil Awards in three areas of service.
  • 1951: President Truman tells JWB "Morale is your job, Keep it up!"
  • 1951: USO called back into service with JWB representing Jewish community.
  • 1951: Center Programs for aged expand under JWB impetus.
  • 1952: First JWB Year Book is issued.
  • 1952: New GI Haggadah published by Chaplaincy Commission.
  • 1952: JWB helps create council on Social Work Education.
  • 1952: American Jewish Historical Society again becomes independent society.
  • 1953: JWB sponsors observance of Jewish Community Center Centennial.
  • 1953: Nationwide drive to recruit Center workers launched by JWB.
  • 1953: JWB Servicemen's Club opens in Tokyo.
  • 1953: Ford Foundation grant helps train European Center workers in United States.
  • 1954: JWB program resources used in American Jewish Tercentenary Celebration.
  • 1954: President Eisenhower urges JWB to maintain morale services to military.
  • 1954: First book on Center practice published by NAJCW and JWB.
  • 1954: Commission on Center-Federation Relationships created.
  • 1954: Charles Aaron elected President.
  • 1955: Religious school curriculum for GI's children published by Chaplaincy Commission.
  • 1956: President Eisenhower hails JWB role in building good citizenship.
  • 1956: JWB Associates is launched.
  • 1957: Personnel at newly opened missile bases get JWB morale services.
  • 1957: Scholarship program expanded for qualified young people seeking careers in Center work.
  • 1957: National Jewish Writers Conference sponsored by Jewish Book Council.
  • 1958: Sabbath Programming Policy for Centers is adopted.
  • 1958: Jewish Chaplains on scene as Middle East crisis erupts.
  • 1958: Code to promote Center-Federation ties approved.
  • 1958: Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel elected President.
  • 1959: Jewish values in Center programming appraised at JWB conference.
  • 1959: Chaplaincy Commission prepares Jewish section in Tri-Faith Hymnal.
  • 1959: First National Training Institute held for Center women leaders.
  • 1959: Solomon Litt elected President on death of Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel.
  • 1960: Centers assume role in JWB financing with the adoption of Fair Share Plan at JWB Biennial.
  • 1960: JWB joins Council of Cultural Agencies.
  • 1960: JWB takes active role in White House Conference on Children and Youth.
  • 1961: Broad reappraisal of JWB structure and services is launched.
  • 1961: Findings of JWB Study on Teenagers is published.
  • 1961: New military buildup spurs call for more Jewish chaplains and JWB service.
  • 1961: National Public Affairs Committee established.
  • 1961: JWB participates in White House Conference on Aging.
  • 1961: JWB Year Book reports that 83 new Centers erected since end of war have cost $80,000,000.
  • 1961: S.D. Gershovitz Memorial Young Adult Research Project started.
  • 1962: Major JWB structural and service changes begin as reappraisal report is adopted.
  • 1962: Centennial of Jewish Military Chaplaincy.
  • 1962: Cuban crisis brings swift JWB mobilization.
  • 1962: JWB aids Canadian Ys to form National Council.
  • 1962: National Conference on Center Programming in the Arts convened.
  • 1963: JWB Research Center established in cooperation with NAJCW.
  • 1963: Domestic Peace Corps and U.S. Cultural Arts Program endorsed by JWB.
  • 1963: Dedication of Air Force Academy Chapel equipped through JWB efforts.
  • 1963: JWB enunciates supportive position on Civil Rights and urges Centers to follow suit.
  • 1963: Consolidation of regional center and Armed Services work begins.
  • 1963: JWB joins in observance of 20th anniversary of Warsaw Ghetto Revolt.
  • 1964: Soviet Anti-Semitism protested by JWB.
  • 1964: Findings of JWB Young Adult Study made public.
  • 1964: JWB Canal Zone Center aids refugees from Panama riots.
  • 1964: Jewish chaplain and JWB supplies reach Vietnam.
  • 1964: President Johnson says JWB and JCCs enrich American life.
  • 1964: Ground broken for new Jerusalem YM-YWHA building.
  • 1964: Florence G. Heller elected first woman President of JWB.
  • 1965: JWB, Hillel and Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds join forces in Conference on Jewish Young Adults.
  • 1965: JWB launches two way exchange program between U.S. and Israeli social workers as 23 American JCC workers attend training seminar in Israel and Israeli workers are placed in American Centers.
  • 1965: Jewish chaplain aids wounded as crisis erupts in Dominican Republic.
  • 1965: JWB leaders participate in meetings with European Center leaders.
  • 1965: Two more Jewish Chaplains reach Vietnam as JWB takes steps to meet increased needs of military personnel.
  • 1965: First National Teenage Training Institute convened by JWB.
  • 1966: Louis Stern elected President on death of Mrs. Florence G. Heller.
  • 1966: Lavanburg-Corner House (New York City) renews grant to spur recruitment of JCC workers.
  • 1966: Year long celebration of JWB's 50th anniversary launched at Golden Jubilee Biennial Convention.
  • 1967: JWB mobilizes support for Israel during the six-day war.
  • 1967: The Women's Organizations' Services celebrates its 25th anniversary.
  • 1967: The Montreal YM-YWHA opens the Saidye Bronfman Center as the first Center branch entirely devoted to Jewish education programming and activities.
  • 1967: Top priority is given to solving the critical manpower shortage in the Center field.
  • 1967: New Jerusalem YM-YWHA building opened.
  • 1968: JWB helps JCCs develop social, recreational and cultural projects for the disadvantaged poor as part of an overall Jewish strategy to cope with the crisis in the cities and to help end poverty.
  • 1968: Florence G. Heller Award for distinguished contributions to JWB's fields of work established.
  • 1968: JWB begins its Service to Small Communities program.
  • 1968: JCCs take part in mass demonstrations of solidarity with Soviet Jewry.
  • 1968: JWB becomes a full-fledged member in the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
  • 1968: Israelis' are employed in American Centers as part of a cultural exchange program.
  • 1968: JWB Study Committee recommends that the JWB shift its emphasis away from responding to existing problems to detecting new needs, charting new directions, and pioneering advances in social work practice.
  • 1970: JWB is joint sponsor of International Israel Youth Festival, which is attended by 100 15-17 year old American boys and girls and 500 youths from South Africa, South America, and Israel.
  • 1970: JWB convention focuses on major concerns of American society and Jewish community: drug addiction, student rebellion on college campuses, inner city problems, and needs of the aged.
  • 1970: Morton Mandel elected President.
  • 1971: CJC announces draft boards will give "favorable consideration" to requests for postponement of physical examination for induction into Armed Forces during Passover.
  • 1971: JWB Year Book reports peak JCC memberships of more than 782,000 and total of 34,506,000 participants in activities, reflecting growing role of JCCs and Ys.
  • 1971: JWB, in partnership with Israel's Ministry of Education, announces it will send 100 American teen-agers to participate with Jewish youth from other countries in summer pilgrimage to Israel.
  • 1971: JWB establishes National Commissions on Jewish Communal Camping and Jewish Cultural Programming.
  • 1971: JWB arranges two-week fact-finding mission to Europe for North American center presidents to study problems of Jewish communities in large European cities.
  • 1972: JWB receives $100,000 grant earmarked for helping JCCs deal with social change.
  • 1972: JWB announces State of Israel 25th Anniversary as theme of Jewish Book Month. Annual Prize for most distinguished book on Jewish History established.
  • 1972: JWB issues Voter Registration for Youth, containing suggestions for organizing campaigns for young voters.
  • 1972: JWB asks President Nixon to urge freedom for Jewish prisoners of conscience and for right of Jews to immigrate to country of their choice.
  • 1972: JCCs hold memorial services for Jewish athletes murdered at Munich Olympics.
  • 1973: JWB, Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, National Council of Jewish Women, Synagogue Council of America, and Central Conference of American Rabbis all urge Nixon administration not to abandon social programs aiding the poor, the ill, minorities, and children.
  • 1973: Number of participants in JCC and Y activities increases to 41,025,933.
  • 1974: Daniel Rose elected President.
  • 1974: JWB sends U.S. and Canadian Jewish center leaders to Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Panama, and Mexico to study problems and programs of major Jewish communities; Argentinean and Mexican Jewish leaders subsequently visit U.S., to strengthen their connection to JWB and JCC leaders.
  • 1975: Rabbi Bertram Korn, member of CJC, is promoted to rank of Rear Admiral, Chaplain Corps, U.S. Naval Reserve, and becomes first Jewish Chaplain to achieve star rank in any branch of military service.
  • 1976: JWB sponsors a wide variety of bicentennial events.
  • 1977: JWB ushers in 60th year of service, with pledges to continue cooperation between America and Israel, and to take on new social-welfare challenges.
  • 1977: JWB research center awards $19,600 grant to Y of Washington Heights in New York City, for evaluation of outreach program for homebound elderly.
  • 1977: JWB convention adopts resolution opposing sale of weapons to "countries in confrontation with Israel."
  • 1977: Jewish Federations and JCCs throughout North America participate in National Walk-a-Thon for Israel, sponsored by United Jewish Appeal.
  • 1978: JWB participates in First World Conference of Jewish Community Centers held in Israel.
  • 1978: First JWB Communications Award competition held.
  • 1979: Robert Adler elected President.
  • 1982: JWB initiates Commission on Maximizing Jewish Educational Effectiveness (COMJEE).
  • 1983: Esther Leah Ritz becomes JWB President.
  • 1984: COMJEE report released in September.
  • 1986: Leonard Rochwarger assumes JWB Presidency.
  • 1987: Donald Mintz becomes JWB president.
  • 1990: JWB is renamed Jewish Community Centers Association of North America (JCC Association.)
  • 1990: Lester Pollack assumes JCC Association Presidency.
  • 1995: COMJEE II report released.
  • 1995: Ann P. Kaufman assumes JCC Association Presidency.
  • 1996: JCC Association establishes a Strategic Planning Commission to chart a course for the future.
  • 1997: Over 4,200 teens participate in JCC Maccabi Games, a weeklong athletic competition.
  • 1997: Allan Finkelstein, JCC Association Executive Vice-President, visits St. Petersburg and Moscow to advise and assist JCC staff and lay leaders in effort to rebuild Jewish community.
  • 1998: Beyond 2000, JCC Association's strategic plan containing steps to maintain the vitality of the JCC movement, is unveiled.
  • 1999: JCC Maccabi Xperience Israel Program, formed by merger of JCC Association's Israel Teen Connection with Massada Maccabi Israel Summer program, is founded.
  • 1999: Jerome B. Makowsky becomes JCC Association President.
  • 2000: JCC Association and National Foundation of Jewish Culture jointly create Jewish Councils for the Arts throughout the country.
  • 2000: JCC Association receives annual renewable grant of $500,000 from the Mandel Foundation, for the establishment of the JCC Association Center for Jewish Education.
  • 2000: Allen Finkelstein assumes JCC Association Presidency.
  • 2000: Implementation of "You Belong Here" program to promote the JCC movement throughout North America.
  • 2000: JCC Association web site launched.
  • 2001: Theme of JCC Association Leadership Retreat is "Building Partnerships: The Road to Meaningful 21st Century Jewish Community." Over 200 leaders from JCCs and American Jewish institutions attend.
  • 2003: Jewish chaplains participate in memorial service at NASA headquarters for seven victims of Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
  • 2003: JCC Maccabi Games receive nomination for best multi-sport or multi-discipline event in the amateur events category of the 2003 SportsTravel Readers' Choice Awards
  • 2004: In an effort to improve service to young Jewish adults relocating after college, JCC Association formed a strategic alliance with GesherCity, an initiative which connects young men and women to the Jewish communities in Boston, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, New Jersey, and Baltimore.
Bibliography Postal, Bernard. "A JWB Chronology: 50 Years of Headlines." In Jewish Welfare Board Year Book, 55-65. New York: National Jewish Welfare Board, 1966. National Jewish Welfare Board, Annual Reports, 1967-1969. New York: National Jewish Welfare Board, 1967-1969 Jewish Community Centers Association of North America, Annual Reports: 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000. New York: JCC Association, 1996-1997, 1999-2001 JCC Circle, Fall 2000-Summer 2001. "JWB Highlights: 1943-1976," undated, I-337, NJWB, American Jewish Historical Society American Jewish Year Book 1971-1979. Prepared by the American Jewish Committee. Morris Fine & Milton Himmelfarb, eds. New York: American Jewish Committee; Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1971-1978 Jewish Community Centers Association website: JWB Circle, November 1979-Summer 1986.

From the guide to the National Jewish Welfare Board, Records, undated, 1889-1995 (bulk 1917-1990), (American Jewish Historical Society)


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  • Sabbath
  • Statistics
  • Blueprints
  • Veterans' hospitals
  • Korean War, 1950-1953
  • High Holidays
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Civil rights
  • World War, 1914-1918
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Older people
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  • Passover
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  • Children
  • Recreation
  • War reparations
  • Federations, Financial (Social service)
  • Physical education and training
  • Jewish camps
  • Jewish film festivals
  • Judaism and culture
  • Shavuot
  • Book industries and trade
  • Holidays
  • Hanukkah
  • Dietary laws
  • Nursery schools
  • Women--Societies and clubs
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  • Soldiers, Jews
  • Music
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  • Camps--United States
  • Synagogues
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  • Chaplains, Military
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  • Jews, Soviet
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  • Veterans
  • Obituaries
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  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975
  • Jews--Societies, etc


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