Cincinnati's Jewish Federation holds the distinction of being the longest continually operating Federation in North America. Founded in 1896 as the United Jewish Charities, it set up a combined city-wide campaign for funds, bringing eight agencies under one central administration with the objective of “helping the poor respect themselves and become self-sustaining through employment.”
Boston and Cincinnati debate over which was the first Jewish Federation. While Boston’s was incorporated in 1895, six months before Cincinnati’s, it later closed down and had to be resurrected, making Cincinnati’s the oldest continuously operating Federation.
In 1910, $117,312—the equivalent of $2.86 million in 2013 dollars—was raised by the Federation, the highest per capita rate of giving of any major Jewish community in the United States. The Federation has grown tremendously over the years, from the first fundraising goal of $10,000 in 1896 to $9.5 million raised in 2013.
During the dark days leading to the Holocaust, alarmed by the rising political power of Adolf Hitler, a group of five Jewish men in Cincinnati organized an opposition group. Those men were Dr. J. Louis Ransohoff, Rabbi Abraham Franzblau, attorney Julius Holzberg, Dr. Jacob Rader Marcus, and Henry C. Segal. The men opened an office and planted the seeds for the eventual formation of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), which is now the public affairs arm of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, tasked with combating antisemitism, educating the non-Jewish community, and advocating for Israel.
In 1967, the Associated Jewish Agencies (as UJC was then called) and the Jewish Welfare Fund decided to form today’s Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, a process that was completed in 1972. The city soon became known nationwide as a leader in the field of Jewish philanthropy. The Community Chest, today’s United Way, was modeled in large part on the Federation concept.