The national United Jewish Appeal (UJA) began in 1939 to provide aid to the Jews of Palestine. History indicates that Stamford Jewry participated from the very early days. By the 1950’s there was a very successful annual UJA campaign here. A handful of leaders gathered early in the spring, chose a campaign chair and distributed pledge cards. The campaign was off and running.
During the late 50’s and 60’s local Jewish leaders began to realize that the simple campaigns of the earlier days when all the funds raised went to the UJA were no longer appropriate. Local requests were coming in from Bi-Cultural, the JCC which was no longer self supporting, and a group planning a home for the elderly. In addition, some of the women involved with UJA – notably Vivian Feldman, Marion Pinsley, Jackie Eder and Sharon Winkelman – saw the possibility of turning the small women’s campaign into a year round organization, not only for fundraising but for education as well. It was clear something had to be done to bring our community into the new world of tzedakah.
Over a period of several years we explored, with leaders from the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds (later changed to the Council of Jewish Federations), the idea of “federating” our community. In time we realized there were excellent reasons to form a federation so that local needs could be met through our fundraising, while still meeting international needs. In addition, a federation could provide a vehicle for the community to plan together. Finally, federation would provide a means to reach all the Jews in the community and foster a sense of Stamford Jewish identification.
Many meetings were held with the lay and professional leadership of our synagogues and service agencies; some people were eager for the change and others were opposed. Finally, by 1972, there was general agreement among the leadership that there was no real alternative to forming a federation.