BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) (Source: JCC) — The Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County is celebrating 40 years since its incorporation in November 1979. Considered the hub of the Jewish community for Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Highland Beach, today the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County engages donors, supporters and community partners in addressing and planning for current and future needs of the Jewish community and the Jewish people. The Federation brings together Jewish and human service organizations, synagogues, schools, and individuals to provide and support critical services and programs for recipients in the community, Israel and around the world. Some of its funded organizations, which are also located on the Federation’s 100-acre campus in West Boca, include: Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services, JARC FL, Adolph & Rose Levis Jewish Community Center, Donna Klein Jewish Academy, Katz Hillel Day School, Katz Yeshiva High School, HUD apartment buildings and more.
“Celebrating 40 years is not simply an anniversary, but rather a commemoration of how far we have come,” said Matt Levin, President & CEO of Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County. “We are a Jewish community that has matured and evolved into a multi-generational community where boards are populated by young and old, residents live east and west, and children who grew up here are raising their own families!”
Al Gortz, who is one of the founders of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County and later became a Chair of the Federation Board, describes how, in the beginning when the Federation first separated from the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, it had two employees and a two-room office in East Boca Raton. The founders, including Gortz, however, saw that the population was quickly growing in the south part of the County, and that there was a need and want for senior and social services, a day school, a summer camp, and much more.
“At that time, we were laser-focused on serving the needs of our local community and creating agencies, departments and services as the needs arose,” added Gortz. “We were able to grow so quickly because of the influx in population of all ages, with concomitant needs that needed to be provided for. Led by Jimmy Baer, we quickly found a significant number of local leaders who wanted to join addressing urgent current needs and planning for future needs.”
Some of the milestones that followed include:
- 1979: The South Palm Beach County Jewish Federation incorporates as a separate entity to serve the area’s rapidly growing Jewish population – numbering 15,000. Jewish Family Service (now known as Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services) and a Jewish Day School (now known as Donna Klein Jewish Academy) begin operating in South Palm Beach County.
- 1984: Purchased and moved to first campus on Spanish River Boulevard, taking over space left by church that was relocating. Jewish population for area rises to 62,000.
- 1984: Established the Jewish Community Foundation to develop permanent resources to address current and future local and overseas needs through planned giving.
- 1991: Moved to West Boca Raton campus (where the Federation is located today) after initial 20 acres of land was donated by Roy Flack, Stanley Katz and Richard Siemens. Eight more acres were donated in following years; Federation later purchases 77 acres in 1995 to grow campus to 100 acres it is today. Local population reaches 90,000.
- 1996: Results of a Federation-commissioned study confirm a burgeoning Jewish population of 116,000, with a particularly rapid rising growth rate among seniors.
- 2001: New buildings on the North Campus open, including Adolph & Rose Levis Alzheimer and Adult Day Care Center, Phyllis & Harvey Sandler Center for Jewish Life Enhancement, and JARC’s Melvin & Elaine Stein Living & Learning Center.
- 2003: Jewish Federation of South PBC is named one of the top 15 Jewish Federations in the United States by the prestigious Chronicle of Philanthropy newspaper.
- 2005: Results from the area’s first major Jewish population study in a decade shows a population of over 131,000 Jews (doubling its size in 20 years) in South Palm Beach County. Albeit with tremendous growth in the number of young families, this Jewish community is shown to be the oldest in the nation by age of its residents.
- 2016: Sinai Residences of Boca Raton opens on 22 acres of previously unused land on the Federation’s north campus with 650,000 square feet of state-of-the-art senior living. The Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) opens with all Independent Living residences reserved, followed by assisted living, memory and nursing care.
- 2018: A new demographic study finds the Jewish population of South Palm Beach County at nearly 135,000, with a dramatic rise in young people.
Today, the South Palm Beach County Jewish community is home to dozens of synagogues, Jewish day schools, agencies, and organizations that benefit thousands of people locally, in Israel and around the world. And the Federation is at the hub of it all. It supports over 70 local and overseas beneficiaries, engaging more than 6,500 donors and brings together a vibrant, diverse Jewish community of nearly 135,000 residents.
The Federation’s greatest goal is to raise funds for the local Jewish community and the global Jewish family. While there is always more need than what is available, the Federation’s priorities include: food, clothing, mental health care, housing and other safety net needs; Jewish education, youth and young adult programming; special needs; and urgent needs as they arise, such as hurricanes or a crisis in Israel.
“We have built an organization and a campus for our youngest to our oldest,” said Levin. “We truly provide for anything and everything: from pre-school to day-school, to high school, to aging in place and social services, to special needs and mental health, etc. We touch upon every factor of Jewish life.”
And in this time of rising anti-Semitism around the country and the world, the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County continues to prepare its own campus and develop safety and security strategies with nearby synagogue and agency community partners. “These are times that Federations are built for,” says Levin.