UJA Federation of Greater Toronto

Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of Toronto

For many years prior to 1917 Toronto Jewish community leaders had recognized the need to centralize fund-raising for all local Jewish charities. The 1912 creation of the Associated Hebrew Charities was a partial improvement, but it proved unable to cope with the pre-war rapid growth in immigration, the effects of the 1916 economic recession, and the funding requirements of many still-unaffiliated agencies. The positive experiences of newly established Jewish community federations in several American cities did, however, offer a better example for Toronto, where prominent Jewish leaders Edmund Scheuer, Abraham Cohen and Ida Seigel provided the leadership that finally resulted in the establishment of a Toronto federation.

The Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of Toronto was chartered as a charitable organization under the laws of Ontario in March 1917. Its central goal was to end the frequent, uncontrolled, and competitive fund soliciting by a wide range of individual Toronto Jewish philanthropic and social service institutions, and instead, coordinate a single community-wide fundraising effort. This would ensure adequate and accountable funding for all its affiliated organizations and agencies in Toronto. Original affiliated agencies of the FJPT were: the Ladies Co-operative Board, the Jewish Orphans' Home, the Jewish Girls Club, the Junior Council of Jewish Women, the Hebrew Ladies Maternity Aid and Sewing Circle, the Hebrew Young Ladies Boot and Shoe Society, the Jewish Branch of the Big Brotherhood Movement, the Hebrew Free Loan Society, the Jewish Dispensary, and the Hebrew Burial Society.

The original officers were: President Edmund Scheuer, 1st Vice-President Joseph Singer, 2nd Vice-President Jay J. Allen, 3rd Vice-President Moses Gelber, 4th Vice-President Charles Draimin, Treasurer Eli Pullan, and Honorary Secretary Abraham Cohen. A Board of Trustees consisting of 45 members was also constituted, one-third of whose members were to be replaced each year. Final decision powers of the Federation were originally vested in the Board, which met monthly and was responsible for funds distribution and the nomination of Officers of the Federation. 

A system of committees was also established in order to deal with individual issues such as annual meetings, fund-raising, budgets, day-to-day administration, and policy, and constitutional and regulation changes. By 1924, a new position of Executive Director was added to the list of officers in order to provide better management of the FJPT administration and to head up the Executive Committee. Also, by this time, six further agencies had become affiliated. These were: Mount Sinai Hospital, the Jewish Boys' and Girls' Camps, Jewish Big Sisters, the Family Welfare Bureau, the Federation Health Clinic and the Federation Employment Bureau. The first office of the FJPT was at 206 Beverly St., but by 1924 it was headquartered at 218 Simcoe St. and by 1928 it had moved to 179 Beverley St., which was renamed "Scheuer House" after the FJPT's first president.

In 1918, ten separate agencies were funded by the FJPT. By 1937, 14 agencies were funded. The 1929 onset of the Great Depression created unprecedented and ever-growing service and monetary demands on the FJPT that continued well into the 1930s. The development of several newer Jewish aid, education and medical care organizations created both increased need for resources and growing competition for ever-more scarce dollars. Within a very few years this funding crisis forced a major review of the organization. 

United Jewish Welfare Fund

During 1936 a series of special meetings of leading individuals were held to examine the income and expenditures of all Toronto Jewish agencies and also to speculate about the need for a new Toronto Jewish "Community Chest" as the sole fund-raising organization for a federation of all Jewish agencies including the FJPT. In 1938, the new United Jewish Welfare Fund was formally constituted and the FJPT was thus absorbed into this larger organization with an expanded mission and reorganized fund-raising operations.  Added to the FJPT's previous list of Toronto client agencies in 1938 were: the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Hebrew National Association (Folks Farein), the Jewish Immigrant Aid Association, the Mizrachi Society, the Toronto Free Loan Association, the Geverkshaften, and Old Folks Home, and the United Palestine Appeal, raising the total number of agencies to 22.

The United Jewish Welfare Fund continued to function as the sole community-wide fundraising organization, providing financial support and leadership to its affliated agencies.

United Jewish Appeal and Beyond

When the State of Israel was established in 1948, the UJWF's annual fundraising campaign was combined with the CJC's United Palestine Appeal to form a new, combined campaign named the United Jewish Appeal (UJA). In 1967, the UJA name was legally changed to the United Jewish Appeal of Metropolitan Toronto. In mid-1976, the United Jewish Welfare Fund changed absorbed some of the Canadian Jewish Congress' local functions and changed its public name to the Toronto Jewish Congress. Although initially thought of as a merger between the UJWF and the CJC, the actual result was the expansion of the UJWF responsibilities to include local education and welfare services previously shared with the Canadian Jewish Congress, Central Region. The UJWF, however, remained the legal senior entity and the body responsible for distributing the funds raised through the UJA annual campaign for ongoing programming in the community, or for one-time  special projects.

Since 1991, the public name of the organizaton has changed several times to reflect its changing structure and responsibilities from the Toronto Jewish Congress to the Jewish Federation of Greater Toronto to the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. Yet, the United Jewish Appeal campaign has remained constant, representing the organization's first mission to provide a unified philanthropic organziation for the benefit of the growing Jewish community of Toronto. The organization has expended its reach in the past several decades to include funding for education, an annual community Walk With Israel that attracts thousands of participants, as well as camping initiatives and outreach services to the Israeli and Russian-speaking population. However, its focus has remained on fundraising, volunteer and professional leadership development, and community building, which continues to benefit thousands of individual lives at home and abroad.

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