This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Jewish Federation of Oklahoma City. Second only to the United Way, this umbrella organization is a one-stop philanthropy network whose mission is to enhance and connect the Jewish community, locally and around the world, to preserve and strengthen Israel, to ensure Jewish continuity and to repair the world through acts of justice and compassion.
Jewish philanthropy is premised on the centrality of communal responsibility. In Hebrew it is referred to as “tzedakah” — righteousness, a moral obligation that binds one human to another. The Jewish Federation has partnered with more than 120 agencies and foundations to maximize community resources, as well as to provide annual allocations to local nonprofits like Infant Crisis Center, Positive Tomorrows and Respect Diversity Foundation, to name just a few.
The history of the federation movement spans three distinct eras. The first, characterized by survival and strength, began during World War II and the Holocaust, through the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, and the wars that followed. Jewish community councils around the country rallied their membership to raise major funds to strengthen and support Israel.
In the 1980s and '90s, the Oklahoma City Jewish community channeled a large portion of its financial resources to the rescue and redemption of Jews in 70 countries through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). Thousands of Ethiopians were airlifted from the famine in Sudan to freedom in Israel. In the former Soviet Union, federation agencies supported a rebirth of Jewish life and institutions, and for the first time since the communist revolution of 1917, Jewish families began to emigrate to Israel and the United States.