The JEWISH FEDERATION OF CLEVELAND, (formerly Jewish Community Federation) established as the Federation for Jewish Charities in 1903, is the central policymaking and fundraising agency for the Cleveland Jewish community. It was founded to centralize charitable fundraising by Jewish welfare organizations, allowing the agencies to concentrate on service. The founders, among them EDWARD M. BAKER, CHARLES EISENMAN, Julius Feiss, EMIL JOSEPH, and MARTIN A. MARKS, were merchants, manufacturers, and professionals, Jewish GERMANS and HUNGARIANS. The federation collected and apportioned contributions and donations among constituent organizations. No affiliates that conducted their own fundraising could receive allocations, they had to campaign among their members during the federation fund drives and only "mature" charities with proven fiscal track records could affiliate. Organizations receiving initial federation funds included the Jewish Orphan Home (see the ORTHODOX JEWISH CHILDRENS HOME), the MONTEFIORE HOME, the Council Educational Alliance, the Infant Orphan Mothers' Society, the NATIONAL COUNCIL OF JEWISH WOMEN, CLEVELAND SECTION, the Mt. Sinai Hospital (see MT. SINAI MEDICAL CENTER), and the Hebrew Relief Assn. Each organization assisted newly arrived East European immigrants but was run and operated primarily by established German and Hungarian Jews.
The federation sought efficiency and accountability, which, coupled with its German-Jewish dominance, put it at odds with the largely working-class, often Orthodox, East European immigrants. The latter group attempted to establish 2 similar organizations, but both the UNION OF JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS (1906) and the Cleveland KEHILLAH (1913) failed. In 1913 the federation helped establish the Welfare Federation of Cleveland, and in 1919 it became a charter member and constituent agency of the Community Fund. Seeking greater cooperation with the Orthodox community, in 1926 Rabbi ABBA HILLEL SILVER recommended including Orthodox organizations in the federation; in subsequent years the federation funded the Jewish Orthodox Home for the Aged (see MENORAH PARK), the Orthodox Jewish Childrens Home, YESHIVATH ADATH B'NAI ISRAEL, and the Hebrew School (Talmud Torah), among others.
In 1926 the federation changed its name to the Jewish Welfare Federation and created a fundraising arm. Two years before, the federation established the Bureau of Jewish Education (see JEWISH EDUCATION CENTER OF CLEVELAND) under the presidency of Rabbi Silver, with A. H. FRIEDLAND as its director. The Jewish Welfare Fund was created in 1930 and reorganized after 5 rocky years, co-chaired by Rabbis Silver and BARNETT BRICKNER. Ten years later, the fund raised its first $1 million; by 1995 the Jewish Welfare Fund Appeal raised over $24 million annually. In 1935 the federation helped establish the Jewish Community Council, to speak for the community, to reconcile internal conflicts, and to combat anti-Semitism and Nazism. In 1936 the federation affiliated with the council, which soon represented over 80 local Jewish organizations. Fifteen years later, in 1951, the council and the federation merged into the Jewish Community Federation. Since the merger, the council has operated under the aegis of the Federation's Community Relations Committee, with its agenda focused on intergroup relations, endangered Jewish communities, neighborhood stabilization, fund raising, support for the state of Israel, and engagement of church-state issues in America. In 1965, as a symbolic commitment to the future of downtown Cleveland, although most Jews lived outside the city limits, the federation erected an office building at E. 18th St. and EUCLID AVE. Among Jewish Community Federation's presidents, have been SAMUEL GOLDHAMER (1907-48), Henry L. Zucker (1949-75), Stanley Horowitz (1975-83), and Stephen H. Hoffman (1983-2003), Joel Fox (2000-03), Stephen H. Hoffman (2003-2018), and Erika B. Rudin-Luria (2019-).
In 2008, the JCF's trustees voted to move its headquarters from PLAYHOUSE SQUARE in Cleveland, to BEACHWOOD. In 2010, the Jewish Community Federation changed its name to the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.