Jewish Federations of North America

  • Religion
  • 1939

With the need for financial aid to European Jews becoming urgent in the late 1930s, three of the most prominent Jewish charities came together to form the United Jewish Appeal for Refugees and Overseas Needs (UJA). By joining forces, the three groups were able to raise nearly $2 billion between UJA’s founding in 1939 and 1967.

Right after World War II, UJA focused its efforts on evacuating Holocaust survivors; in 1947 alone, 25,000 refugees were resettled in the United States. With the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, endangered Jews were more often brought to Israel, along with funding to strengthen the fledgling nation. When the Six Day War threatened Israel, UJA raised $308 million for relief. Six years later, with the onset of the Yom Kippur War, the organization mustered $100 million before the first week of hostilities concluded. And when the Soviet Union crumbled in the late 1980s, the group removed Russian Jews to Israel, raising $900 million in 1990 alone to provide 800,000 Jews with safe passage.

In 1999 another merger of Jewish charities folded the UJA into what is now the Jewish Federations of North America. The JFNA provides money and organizational assistance to the more than 150 local Jewish Federation chapters spread across the United States and Canada. These local federations have raised and disbursed funds since 1895, when the first chapter was organized in Boston. Collectively, these partners raise more than $3 billion every year and distribute it for social welfare, education, and religious services.