Jews caring for Jews is the mission of the East Bay Federation

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

By the turn of the century, the community had established numerous religious, social and aid organizations that would prove to be bulwarks in the tumultuous times to come.

In response to the disastrous 1906 earthquake and fire, the East Bay's Jewish community sheltered and fed thousands of San Francisco Jews who were suddenly homeless. Fleeing the chaos following World War I, thousands of Jewish refugees arrived in the East Bay. This mass migration overwhelmed the volunteer organizations then in existence.

With the community's help, thousands of refugees made a new start in a new land.

The Jewish federation was born with a mandate to coordinate and fund the various helping activities under one umbrella. Its offices were housed on lower Broadway, in Oakland's old Jewish neighborhood. The first campaign was held that year and families were asked to purchase federation memberships.

By the 1920s, forerunners of United Jewish Appeal were already conducting campaigns to support world Jewry. The East Bay community responded generously, offering to aid Jews in Eastern Europe and to support the growing Jewish presence in Palestine. This pattern continued through the '20s and '30s until the development of tragic events leading to the Holocaust.

As the Nazi horror unfolded, the community responded in a single voice with both public and private efforts to battle fascism and to resettle those Jews who were able to escape Nazi Europe.

The founding of Israel in 1948 signaled a rebirth for world Jewry. New efforts in response to historic events were needed and the community met the challenge. Millions of dollars were raised to help settle the land and gather Jews from all corners of the globe, including the remnants of European Jewry and the oppressed Jews of Arab lands.

The postwar population boom in California changed the state in unprecedented ways. The Jewish community's expansion beyond the old traditional neighborhoods demanded new approaches to community-building and service delivery.

A growing corps of dedicated volunteers created agencies to serve the community's physical, cultural and social needs.

Through the past four decades, the federation has acted as the key link between the Jews of the East Bay and those in other parts of the world. That connection was particularly significant in 1967 and again in 1973, when East Bay Jews responded to the threat of disaster in Israel with an outpouring of public and financial support.

Such ties with the people of Israel have not been limited to emergency periods. In the early '80s, the East Bay federation forged a direct people-to-people partnership with the citizens of Safed, in Israel. Project Renewal, which has become an internationally recognized model for urban development and self help, is a cornerstone of the community's bond with the land and people of Israel.

As the East Bay federation enters its eighth decade, there are new challenges in serving a growing, diverse Jewish population. A demographic study, completed this past year, will help the group define critical issues. With this tool and through the involvement of community leaders and volunteers, the federation will plan for the next century.

The federation has a long tradition of approaching today's challenges through programs that are innovative yet firmly rooted in the traditions and values of the Jewish people. Over the years, it has grown as the community changed from a small outpost of Jewish life into one of the major Jewish centers in North America.

"We will continue to meet our responsibilities to future generations as we have through 70 years of building community," said Nahshon.