Baltimore is a better place for all its citizens because of the strong sense of obligation to one's fellows and neighbors that has for 75 years informed the organization now known as The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.
The Associated celebrated this anniversary by announcing a record annual fund drive of $23.2 million from nearly 20,000 individual donors. This will be disbursed 40 percent to Jewish needs throughout the world and 60 percent in metropolitan Baltimore, mostly through 17 member social, health and education agencies.
The Associated serves not only to take care of needs within the Baltimore Jewish community, and not only as a model to others making similar efforts, but also directly to the larger community. It is a founding affiliate member of United Way of Central Maryland, and deferred some of its fund-raising approaches in favor of that group more than two decades ago. Many of its leaders and donors have also been pillars of United Way fund drives.
The history of Jewish charities in Baltimore goes back to the United Hebrew Benevolent Society in 1834. Federated Jewish Charities was established in 1906 and United Hebrew Charities in 1907. Those two merged in 1920 achieving a united Jewish philanthropic community. That entity, long known as Associated Jewish Charities, was open for business on New Year's Day 1921. That merger is commemorated as the 75th anniversary.
The strength of The Associated is welcome at a time when government leaders are consigning more of society's needs to private-sector philanthropies. Charities such as the United Way are struggling with declining employment in big firms and weakness in the regional economy, developments that simultaneously raise demand for services and reduce available resources.
The Associated's own burdens have included services to about 1,000 new Americans a year this decade, the rising population of elderly often outliving their financial independence, the increasing geographic dispersal of the community being served, an observable rise in anti-Semitism in a society growing meaner, and cutbacks in federal social and health programs. The Associated's member agencies have moved aggressively to deal with all of these, shifting focus where needed.
Congratulations are due The Associated and its leaders for this campaign, offered in confidence that they will rise to the greater needs ahead.