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A History of the Federation

As the preeminent resource for all donor and provider services in philanthropy, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh is at the heart of Jewish giving. Since 1912, Federation has served as a centralized fundraising and convening body for the Jewish community and its beneficiary agencies, coordinating a wide range of programs and working in concert with its partner agencies locally, in Israel and around the world to address Jewish needs in the areas of health, education and social welfare. Federation's efforts have touched—and continue to touch—the lives of countless Jews in every stage of life at home and overseas.

Prior to the Great Depression, local Jewish community leaders created the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies (FJP), which, in turn, was responsible for the merger of five family welfare programs into what is today's Jewish Family & Children's Service. With increased fund-raising and service demands due to the Great Depression, FJP joined the Community Chest (the forerunner of the United Way) in 1932.

In 1936 the United Jewish Fund was created to raise funds for distribution via the National United Jewish Appeal to aid and rescue European Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany - and, later, to aid in the establishment of the State of Israel. In 1955, FJP and the United Jewish Fund were consolidated into the current Federation.

The 2002 Jewish Community Study identified a critical need to develop programs and services that strengthen Jewish continuity in the community. As a result, outreach programs were established by the Jewish Federation along with the creation of the Centennial Fund for a Jewish Future through the Jewish Community Foundation.

For over half a century, international events also garnered the attention of Federation. The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, in turn, marshaled financial and human resources to tend to Jewish needs worldwide. From the late 1970s, when the door to the Soviet Union swung open to allow massive emigration, through the 1980s, when it slammed shut, and into the 1990s, when a massive exodus occurred once again, Federation has been involved in efforts that ultimately freed more than a million Soviet Jews.

For those Jews in vulnerable communities remaining behind, estimated at more than one and a half million people, Federation-supported programs have opened a world of opportunity for Jewish learning and expression. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) receives funding from Federation and is the largest international Jewish humanitarian assistance organization in the world. The JDC has played a critical, often life-saving role in most important events in 20th century and 21st century Jewish history and has established hundreds of programs—from kindergartens and Jewish learning centers for young adults to Hesed Centers providing food, health services and programming for the elderly and others. JDC serves needy Jews in 57 countries across the globe.

The Pittsburgh Jewish community has established a special connection with the country of Moldova and its capital city Kishinev, in the Former Soviet Union. Members of our own community have seen firsthand - and participated in - the miraculous rebirth of these Jewish communities through such programs as the "Passover in the FSU" project, a collaborative effort whereby local university students work with their FSU Hillel counterparts in the planning and implementation of Passover seders. Federation leaders also have been involved in Spectrum, an exciting program that guides members of the Moldovan Jewish community through the process of strategic planning for their community - and gives them the tools they need to continue this process in the future.

Over the years, dramatic and generous responses to Israel's wars - in 1967, 1973 and 1982, 2008 and 2014 - have forged a bond between our community and the Jewish nation. And, in times of peace, Federation, working with its Israel and overseas partner, the Jewish Agency for Israel, critical and innovative programs have been developed  like Project Renewal, which enabled Pittsburgh Jews to join in a nationwide effort on behalf of Diaspora Jews and make a profound impact on growth in the disadvantaged community of Tirat HaCarmel two decades ago. Most recently, as Israel has faced horrific terrorism and difficult economic times, the Federation responded with emergency appeals in 2004, 2008 and 2014.

Starting in 1995, our community joined the dynamic Partnership2Gether program (formerly Partnership2000 or the Jewish Peoplehood Project), which solidifies and nurtures a new Israel/Diaspora relationship. Designed to build people-to-people connections and enhance the economic development of our partners in Israel's Karmiel and Misgav region, Partnership2Gether fosters the ongoing exchange of knowledge, ideas and experiences - and the exchange of teachers, summer camp counselors and business professionals.

Beyond our support for Israel and Jewish communities around the world, the Federation has been deeply committed to responding to emergency national and international humanitarian needs, particularly during periods of natural disasters. The Federation quickly responded to provide support for the victims of such tragedies as the Southeast Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, the disaster in Haiti, the security crisis in France in the Jewish community following the Charlie Hebdo shootings and the recent earthquake in Nepal.

Each day volunteers and professional at the Federation continue life-saving work to raise and allocate funds and build a foundation that will position the community to address the needs of the future. Join us.

Some Recent Accomplishments

•In 2014, The Annual Campaign reached its goal of $13.5 million, reaching 4,540 generous donors — including 775 new donors—to allocate to Jewish community causes in Jewish learning, overseas assistance, aging and human needs, Jewish community life, community programs and teen programming and overseas experiences. 

•Continued funding for AgeWell Pittsburgh, created as a program of three beneficiary agencies, the Jewish Association on Aging, the Jewish Community Center and Jewish Family & Children’s Service, developed to serve Pittsburgh’s aging as effectively and efficiently as possible. In 2013- 2014, AgeWell launched four new programs (three of which are evidenced-based): HomeMeds™, AgeWell Rides, Walk with Ease, and UCLA’s Longevity Center Memory Training Program.

•Assisted the Pittsburgh Jewish community in becoming a truly inclusive and welcoming community for some 3,000 people with disabilities — about one in every six local Jewish households. 

•Funded Classrooms Without Borders to expand its program of diverse learning through travel experiences and special events. CWB focuses on “educating the educators” by providing professional development, travel opportunities, and intensive learning seminars to public, private, and charter schools.

•Federation’s Community Relations Council engaged in diverse activities to educate and advocate for change, locally, nationally and internationally — from a Mission to Washington, DC, to the work of CRC’s Delegate Assembly, which focused on legislation promoting Pennsylvania trade with Israel, Holocaust Education and food security. Israel advocacy ranged from work to counter the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), to efforts to establish a Pittsburgh-Israel Chamber of Commerce, starting with an economic summit of Israeli and Pittsburgh political and business leaders.

•The Jewish Federation Volunteer Center launched several new initiatives in 2014, including VOOM (Volunteer Opportunity of the Month), which enables volunteers to “try out” something new and learn about a variety of organizations, and I-Volunteer, a partnership with Friendship Circle that engages their alumni in meaningful service opportunities with young adult groups in the community.

Partnership2Gether (P2G) initiated participation in the Holocaust Center’s Waldman International Holocaust Arts and Writing Competition, which brought Israeli teens to Pittsburgh, where they spoke to students in five local schools and participated in Yom HaShoa programming, and a Robotics Delegation, bringing students from Karmiel-Misgav to meet with peers in local schools and connect with hi-tech professionals at institutions ranging from CMU to Google. 

•The Jewish Community Foundation of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh distributions funded such diverse projects as The Jewish Community Legacy Project (which is assisting 20 dwindling congregations in Western Pennsylvania in responsible planning, enabling them to leave meaningful legacies), support for Moishe House Pittsburgh in providing meaningful home-based Jewish experiences to young adults in their twenties, and community-wide programs to address behavioral and family health issues in a joint project of Temple David of Monroeville and Jewish Family & Children’s Service.

Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh
234 McKee Place, Pittsburgh PA, 15213  412-681-8000
www.jfedpgh.org I info@jfedpgh.org  
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