History of the Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley
From Organizing a Jewish Community Council, Volume 1 by Roger Birdsell
As World War II drew to a close, South Bend and Mishawaka Jewish leaders organized to address various common concerns. The Jewish Community Council was born at a time of death and rebirth for world Jewry. The murder of 6 million European Jews by Nazi Germany during WWII and the imminent birth of the State of Israel as the Jewish National Home.
The Jewish Community Council of St. Joseph County was reorganized in 1978 as the Jewish Federation. Under the Articles of Incorporation dated February 1945, the council was “to consist of all representatives of Jewish organizations” in the county to crystalize Jewish opinion and unify actions on any matter promotive of the community’s welfare.
The first council meeting was in September 1946. This new organization was part of an emerging network of local Jewish federations in the United States and Canada (today, we are one of 146 Federations in the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) network.
Representatives of local Jewish groups serving on the council would articulate the points of view of their organizations. The founding communal leaders thought that this way, the council would be able to act in the name of and on behalf of the Jewish community.
A community survey was conducted in the summer of 1945. The survey identified 446 Jewish households and 1,600 individuals living in South Bend and Mishawaka, estimating a total Jewish population of 1,800 to 2,000. The questionnaire covered various issues relevant to the community, including the “merger” of existing congregations.
In reading this organizational snapshot, it’s instructive to see the roots of our interconnected, interrelated, interdependent Jewish ecosystem were established from the very inception of our Community Council.