From its earliest decades, Federation supported a Jewish Education function in many of its affiliated agencies. By the 1970s under Joseph Harris, who held positions of increasing responsibility working with Federation’s affiliated Community Centers, Camps and other group activities, Jewish Education became a component of selected programs at each of these institutions.
Joseph Harris remained at Federation through the merger with UJA in 1986. His files end in 1987 when he was Executive Director of Group Services and Jewish Education at UJA-Federation of New York. In going through his last (large – over 50 boxes) group of files, some documents have surfaced that explain some of the major components of Jewish Education work at Federation and UJA-Federation.
Submitted in May 1987 by Joseph Harris and Matthew J. Maryles, Chairman of the Communal Planning Subcommittee on Jewish Education of the UJA-Federation Board of Governors, this document may have served as a summary at the end of Harris’ tenure and as a blueprint for the future. The mission statement includes, “UJA-Federation supports Jewish education through the provision of grants to central agencies which coordinate, enhance and support the Jewish educational system in the greater metropolitan New York area. Services are provided to formal and informal education institutions, as well as to Jewish youth on college campuses.”
There is also an explanation of the financial support given “to the field” through the Fund for Jewish Education, and other funding sources such as the endowment funds established at UJA-Federation “through the generosity of Joseph S. and Caroline Gruss”.
Other documentation gives more detail on some of these funds. A 1986 document, “Guidelines for the Administration of the Caroline and Joseph S. Gruss Life Monument Interest Free Loan Fund” explains that this fund was established “to provide major interest free loans for Jewish educational institutions that will enable them to expand their facilities”. The Hebrew Free Loan Society, “a member agency of Federation, will administer the disbursement … of loan money from the Fund”.
Current information on individual agencies, part of annual submissions for the planning and allocations done by Federation’s Distribution Committee (and after the merger by UJA-Federation’s Distribution Committee) was provided on Agency Fact sheets. For the 1986-87 program year, the first year of the merged organization, the Agency Profile for the Board of Jewish Education (BJE) of Greater New York included some historical background on the BJE:
The Bureau of Jewish Education was created in 1910 “to upgrade Jewish education, to introduce modern texts and teaching materials, graded curriculum, appropriate pedagogic methods, improved preparation and remuneration of teachers, and better supervision and administration of schools.” In 1939 the Jewish Education Committee (JEC) was formed by a merger of the Bureau and the Association of Jewish Education. In 1970 the JEC was renamed the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York.
One last component of the Jewish Education world at Federation was the Fund for Jewish Education (FJE). According to the FJE Summary Report, 1985-86, the Fund “was created in 1978 through the contribution by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph S. Gruss of $1,000,000 per year for a five-year period, matched by the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, and the United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York … FJE’s goals are to help insure the stability of Jewish schools, improve the quality of educational programs, help increase the number of children receiving a Jewish education and encourage and support outreach programs.”
Through these funding sources and the careful allocation of funds, Federation and UJA-Federation’s Jewish Education mission brought tangible results.