Monday, May 31, 2010

For The Soldiers

“Over there, over there,
Send the word, send the word over there...”

As American soldiers packed their duffels to fight on foreign soil in World War I, those who remained behind set to work not only maintaining the country’s economy, but supporting the troops.

A mere three days after America declared war on Germany, the National Jewish Welfare Board (JWB) was formed (April 9, 1917). This organization was a natural development, since numerous American Jewish organizations were already deeply involved in working for the victims of the war.

The JWB was active on many fronts. An article in the New York Tribune, dated November 10, 1918, noted that the JWB was conducting religious services on Friday evenings, on all holidays, and on other special occasions. It distributed prayer books, bibles and other religious supplies, and arranged concerts and other entertainment for the troops overseas. On the home front, the JWB established community centers for the soldiers and sailors and arranged home hospitality for servicemen on leave.

When World War I was over, the JWB merged with the Young Men's Hebrew and Kindred Associations. This organization created a social welfare support system for returning Jewish soldiers, fostered the religious and social well being of young Jewish men and women and developed Jewish community organizations.

During the second World War, and throughout its history, the JWB continued to support Jewish troops as it had during World War I. At the same time, it focused on the further development of Jewish Community Centers. In time, the JWB became the support network for numerous social welfare programs within the Jewish community, and, in 1990, it changed its name to the Jewish Community Centers Association of North America, to more accurately reflect its current mission.

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