The Center of It All

Washington’s new Jewish Community Center provided activities for youth, adults, and the elderly.

In 1911, a group of Jewish men in their early twenties formed the Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA). The Young Women’s Hebrew Association (YWHA) followed in 1913. The organizations hosted musicales, dances, picnics, and athletic events for the hundreds of Jewish youth in the city. Together, the YMHA and YWHA also served the thousands of Jewish servicemen posted in Washington during World War I.

After the war, the need for a larger community center in the capital city was evident. A five-year campaign led to the opening of the Jewish Community Center (JCC) at 16th and Q Streets, NW, in 1926. The JCC also served as the meeting place for many Jewish organizations.

This edifice…is a fine example for other communities. It speaks a purpose to uphold an ancient and noble philosophy and to assure that such philosophy shall always be adapted to the requirements of changing times.

President Calvin Coolidge, May 3, 1925

YWHA photo

1914: The first anniversary dance of the Young Women’s Hebrew Association takes place.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Janet Kirshner. 1981.03

YMHA Building

1918: The Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA) moved to this building at 11th and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. During World War I, the YMHA expanded its programs to accommodate Jewish servicemen in the American and Allied armed forces.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington. 2002.11

Design for new JCC

The national Jewish Welfare Board provided an initial $50,000 for the Center. Developer Morris Cafritz and local Jewish leader Joseph Wilner led the $500,000 building campaign.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington. 2002.11

laying of cornerstore photo

1925: President Calvin Coolidge spoke during the cornerstone laying ceremony of the 16th and Q Street building on May 3, 1925.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington. 2002.11

JCC women on roof

1920s: Berte and Sylvia Luber enjoy the view from the roof of the new JCC.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington. 2002.11

Dance recital

1930s: Aspiring ballerinas take a bow after a dance recital at the JCC.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington. 2002.11

Basketball team

1932: Sports activities drew many young people to the JCC. The basketball team shown here played in the city’s athletic leagues. Coach Irving Tash stands in the back row on the left.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington. 2002.11

kids on steps

1937: Children run down the front steps of the JCC en route to a two-week trip to the JCC-sponsored Center Camp in Prince William County, Virginia.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington. 2002.11

YWHA photo
YMHA Building
Design for new JCC
laying of cornerstore photo
JCC women on roof
Dance recital
Basketball team
kids on steps