For almost 50 years, Washington’s first Jewish Community Center was a central gathering place for Jews of all ages and backgrounds.
Young Jews had founded the YMHA and the YWHA during the 1910s. In downtown clubhouses, they sponsored dances, lectures, and World War I USO canteens.
By the 1920s, Washington’s Jewish community needed a larger place for athletic, cultural, and social activities. The Jewish Community Center’s first home was a prominent 16th Street building in view of the White House.
To serve a growing suburban population, Jewish leaders built a new Rockville campus for several major Jewish organizations. In 1969, the JCC moved to the Rockville campus. The D.C. government bought the aging downtown building.
Today, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington in Rockville and the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia serve the Washington metropolitan area.
Jewish residents who had stayed in or returned to the city formed a new downtown JCC in the late 1970s. They met in rented sites until purchasing the original 16th Street building. After a major restoration, the Washington DC JCC reopened in 1997, bringing a panoply of activities back to the historic Jewish site.