At the outset of World War II, American Jews were asked by numerous international organizations for funds to support the victims of Nazism. In response, the leaders of the Baltimore Jewish community created the Jewish Welfare Fund (JWF), which was charged with raising money for national and overseas agencies involved with saving and assisting the victims of the Nazi regime.
“Never was there a time when unity was so badly needed in Jewish life in America,” said its first executive director, Harry Greenstein. “Our very survival is at stake.”
Charities JWF supported ranged from the Joint Distribution Committee to local agencies of the AJC, such as the Baltimore Jewish Council, created in 1939, to combat the rising tide of antisemitism.
The JWF was a separate organization from AJC yet was housed in the same building on Monument Street. Both organizations held their campaigns in alternate years so they would not be in competition for funds. But by the end of the 1940s, with conditions worsening in Europe, the AJC hadn’t held a campaign in three years and could no longer balance its budget. The decision to hold a joint campaign in 1950 was unanimous. Organizers launched a campaign at the Southern Hotel, with an ambitious goal of nearly $5 million.
By the late 1960s, leaders of both organizations realized it made sense to unite, just as the Federated Jewish Charities and United Hebrew Charities had done more than 40 years before.
“Unification of the two organizations will not only mean greater efficiency, it will also enable us to look at community problems as part of a total picture, better establish priorities and go about the business of meeting the problems more quickly,” said Albert D. Hutzler, president of the AJC and Calman J. Zamoiski, president of the JWF in a joint statement.
The organization would have a single set of officers, a board of directors and a new president, Irving Blum. It would also have a new name, The Associated Jewish Charities of Baltimore—a name that would hold until 1990 when it would finally change to The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. In its original mission statement, leaders outlined the organization’s responsibility to preserve and enhance Jewish life, “while addressing charitable, educational, religious, humanitarian, health, cultural and social service needs of the Jewish community, locally, nationally, in Israel and throughout the world.”
The merger was tangible proof of the Baltimore community’s desire for unity and dedication to a singular goal: the betterment and enhancement of Jewish life at home and abroad.
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