One hundred years strong! This is the beginning of our JCC Movement Centennial Celebration!
We first came together in 1917 to meet the needs of young men heading off to war. Young men, many of whom were new immigrants or first generation Americans, ready to do their duty and serve a country that had given them, as Jews, unprecedented freedom and opportunity. To meet those needs—to make sure there were rabbis at military posts and that Jewish concerns were heard—a loose coalition of Young Men’s Hebrew and Kindred Associations came together.
Individual JCCs already existed, but Jewish leadership quickly realized that if they wanted to be effective, we were stronger together.
In 1917 they formed the Jewish Welfare Board and it proved so successful that the coalition held together even after the war ended. JWB expanded to serve the armed forces and went on to become the National Association of Jewish Community Centers and YM-YWHAs. JWB stressed unity in the Jewish community for a largely urban population. Focusing on Jewish summer camps, youth programs and cultural and recreational aspirations of an assimilating tribe, they created a lecture and concert bureau, trained camp counselors and helped JCCs find qualified staff, and brought staff and lay leadership together at conferences.
Sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
We are still doing that today. We’ve grown, but we have never lost sight of what drives us. Even as Jews moved to the suburbs and became more “American,” and more recently, have moved back into the cities, we are still seeking ways to engage them, assist them in finding purpose and meaning, and connect them to their Jewish selves and to others much like them. We put the J back into the JCC, and we put Israel, always in our hearts and on our minds, high on the agenda and in our programming with support from our JCC Israel Center. Nor have we forgotten our initial mission: We provide ongoing support to the chaplains who provide Jewish connection and community to those Jews who serve our country, at home and abroad.
Yet here we are today looking at another sea change! We have a generation that holds the answers to everything, quite literally, in the palms of their hands. We have to work even harder to connect them to the here and now, because they are always connected to a screen online. But we will figure it out.
We always have, whether serving Jews who serve, or building Jewish life in North America.
Every JCC and its community has played a part in this 100 year history, whether it predates the movement, or has only been around for a few decades—or less! It’s exciting being part of this story, one that continues to unfold, and grow and change each and every day, as we head into our next 100 years.
Be part of the celebration!