Our History

A Timeline of Our Federation's Milestones

In the early 1970s -when the entire South Palm Beach County Jewish population numbered only 1,200 households with just one synagogue - a small, impassioned and committed group of Jewish residents came together to begin laying the foundation of what would soon blossom into a community with one of the largest per capita Jewish populations outside of Israel.

Today, our 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 at its hub is our Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County. Situated on its beautiful 100-acre campus – the largest in the nation, Federation supports more than 50 beneficiaries, engaging more than 6,500 donors and bringing together a vibrant, diverse Jewish community of more than 130,000 residents.

See how our Jewish community and Federation have grown through the years:

1976: A small satellite office of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County opens near downtown Boca Raton with one part-time employee.

1979: The South Palm Beach County Jewish Federation incorporates as a separate entity to serve the area’s rapidly growing Jewish population – now numbering 15,000.

1980: The first independent “South County” campaign raises more than $900,000, as the burgeoning Jewish population rises to 37,000.

Jewish Family Service becomes our Federation’s first beneficiary agency.

1981: Roy Flack, Stanley Katz and Richard Siemens donate 20 acres of land west of Boca Raton to the Federation (an additional three acres are added in 1983 and five more are added in 1986.)

1982: Lion of Judah Women’s program begins in South Palm Beach County.

A Jewish day school becomes the Federation’s second agency.

1983: The Adolph & Rose Levis Jewish Community Center is established as the third agency of the Federation.

1984: The Federation moves to its first free-standing “home,” the new, six-acre Baer Campus on Spanish River Boulevard in Boca Raton, as the Jewish population rises to 62,000.

The Jewish Community Foundation is established to develop permanent resources to address current and future local and overseas needs through planned giving.

1987: JARC (Jewish Association for Residential Care) becomes the fourth Federation agency and opens its first group home for adults with developmental disabilities — the Barry Clayman House.

The Jewish Day School is renamed Donna Klein Jewish Academy (DKJA) by Sam Klein in honor of his late wife.

1989: Jewish Family Service is dedicated as Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service by Norman Rales in honor of his late wife.

The Shirley H. Gould House, the Federation’s first government-subsidized HUD housing facility for low-income seniors opens on the campus.

1991: With more than 15,000 visitors at its official opening, the 28-acre Richard & Carole Siemens Campus becomes the new home of the Federation and its agencies: Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service, Levis Jewish Community Center (JCC), Donna Klein Jewish Academy and Jewish Association for Residential Care (JARC) – soon after the local Jewish population reaches 90,000.

1994: The Lion of Judah Endowment Program is created to recognize women who have established a minimum endowment of $100,000. (Our Federation has long counted the largest number of Lion of Judah Endowments in the nation.)

1995: The Federation acquires 55 additional acres of land to the north of the existing Siemens Campus.

1996: Results of a Federation-commissioned study confirm a burgeoning Jewish population of 116,000, with a particularly rapid rising growth rate among seniors.

Federation establishes a department to coordinate Jewish learning opportunities.

1998: Groundbreaking takes place on the new North Campus. The entrance boulevard extending from 95th Avenue South opens.

Weinberg House, the Federation’s second government subsidized HUD apartment building on campus welcomes residents to the first Federation building completed on the new acreage.

Hillel Day School of Boca Raton, a Federation beneficiary agency, moves into their newly built facility on the Federation campus. Hillel’s 15-acre campus is later named the Milton B. Katz Campus.

DKJA expands to include the High School at Donna Klein Jewish Academy.

2001: Completed and in operation on the North Campus are the 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 (which includes the Mel & Edith Clayman Training and Resource Center and the Adolph & Rose Levis Apartment Complex).

The Jewish population increases to 129,000.

2002: On very short notice, 3,500 people pack Federation’s Israel Solidarity Rally on campus.

2003: JFSPBC is named one of the top 15 Jewish Federations in the United States by the prestigious Chronicle of Philanthropy newspaper.

The Federation wins the coveted Sapir Award for Annual Campaign strength, innovation and success from United Jewish Communities.

Partnership 2000 (later renamed Partnership 2Gether) begins to build relationships with Sister City Kiryat Bialik, a growing community north of Haifa, through educational, professional, teen and women’s exchanges.

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.

The Jewish Women’s Foundation, an initiative of the Jewish Community Foundation, is launched.

More than 5,000 people celebrate Israel’s independence together at Federation’s first annual Israel Under the Stars event at Mizner Park in East Boca, the first of many such huge (and continuing) community celebrations.

2006: Hurricane Wilma causes $1 million in damages to the Federation campus and results in greatly increased needs within the community. Gloria and Lee Baker donate $1 million to help.

Federation launches its Chai Life publication, which becomes a widely distributed, glossy color magazine.

2007: Toby Weinman Palchik names the Federation's Center for Jewish Philanthropy with a $1 million gift.

Wexner Heritage Program begins its 2-year program at Federation to develop and strengthen the community’s top young Jewish communal leaders. Leadership development continues to be a JFSPBC priority for the future of the community.

2008: Dorothy Seaman names our Federation’s Women's Philanthropy Department with a $1 million gift. Federation’s Annual Campaign reaches its highest total at $20.8 million, more than 23 times that first campaign.

2009: JFSPBC’s comprehensive Senior Study documents considerable unmet needs of local seniors, and recommends ways to address to address gaps in services.

JARC opens the Rales campus with four new group homes, for a total of ten.

DKJA’s grades 9-12 move onto the south campus adjacent to their other building, thanks to generous funding arranged by Linda R. Kaminow, President of the Claire and Emanuel G. Rosenblatt Foundation. The school is named the Claire and Emanuel G. Rosenblatt High School at DKJA in memory of Ms. Kaminow’s parents.

2010: The Ketubah Society is launched to recognize the generosity of those whose cumulative gifts to the Federation total $1 million or more.

The Pomegranate giving level is launched for women contributing $1,800 to $4,999 to the Annual Campaign.

JFS opens the Shirley and Barton Weisman Delray Community Center, housing a wealth of older adult activities and services, on Atlantic Avenue west of Delray Beach.

2011: With a gift from the Pechter Family Foundation, Jack and Marilyn Pechter name our Federation's Local Safety Net Services Giving Center in honor of Jack's parents Sarah and Max.

The Jacobson Jewish Community Foundation (JJCF) is named with Anne and Norman Jacobson’s generous gift.

Federation’s new Adopt-a-Project initiative provides opportunities for country clubs, communities and divisions to raise supplemental dollars for projects above and beyond the annual campaign.

2012: Jewish Community Foundation's new Create a Jewish Legacy campaign quickly engages 15 inaugural local synagogues, schools and agency partners to strengthen the future of our Jewish community.

Federation’s most prestigious annual fundraising event is named for Phyllis and Harvey Sandler and their family, the largest donors in the history of the Federation’s Annual Campaign.

2013: The Business & Professional (B&P) Division is reestablished, quickly becoming the place to be for premium learning and networking among residents in a wide array of fields.

PJ Library® in South Palm Beach County begins engaging families with free Jewish books and music delivered monthly to homes of Jewish children ages 6 months to 8 years, and family activities throughout the community.

Emerging Jewish Philanthropists (EJP), a new initiative for younger major donors, takes off with educational, social and philanthropic activities including a mission to Cuba.

Federation’s first annual Birthright Community Bus travels to Israel with a cadre of local Jewish young adults.

2014: Building begins on Sinai Residences of Boca Raton, a state-of-the-art Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) on 22 acres of previously unused Federation land. Nearly all units are reserved just a few months after the groundbreaking ceremony in late January.

Federation launches its new Men’s Division with high-interest events, camaraderie and travel for men of all ages who care about the community and the Jewish people.

JFS is renamed Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services following a substantial multi-year gift from the Rales family to create the “Center for Families and Children”

As Israel reels from the tragic kidnapping and murder of three students and endures more than 4,500 rocket attacks, Federation and JCRC bring thousands from throughout the community to stand together at two rallies; as Federation’s Israel Emergency Campaign raises more than $550,000 in only two weeks.

Federation’s new Jewish Community Leadership Institute kicks off as 22 Emerging Leaders from our Federation and community partner organizations embark on JCLI’s first intensive series of expert-led programming.

2015: The Ted and Barbara Wolk Spa and Fitness Center at Sinai Residences of Boca Raton is named with the Wolks’ $1 million gift.

The Deborah and Larry D. Silver Center for Jewish Engagement (CJE) is launched at JFSPBC to reach farther and wider into Jewish South Palm Beach County to connect Jewish residents to Jewish life and each other.

The Business & Professional Division’s Lewis Katz Industry Icon Series is named in memory of this consummate icon of business and philanthropy.

Federation brings on board its first Director of Community Engagement.

Nineteen rabbis from all denominations throughout the community come together to appear on the cover of Federation’s Chai Life magazine.

PJ Our Way, the next chapter of PJ Library®, is implemented locally, as a national pilot project for children ages 9-11.

2016: Sinai Residences of Boca Raton opens 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.

The Irving Eckhardt Mitzvah Society and Pavilion are named in memory of the donor of the largest unrestricted bequest ever made to the Federation through the Jacobson Jewish Community Foundation (JJCF).

Led by our JJCF, Create a Jewish Legacy’s first year in partnership with Harold Grinspoon Foundation’s LIFE & LEGACYTM initiative results in 15 local synagogues, schools, agencies and organizations obtaining 293 commitments from 236 donors to sustain our community, with an estimated value of $33.2 million – and growing.

Katz Yeshiva High School of South Florida breaks ground on the Federation campus for their new facility, and takes a new name to recognize the generosity of Daniel and Caroline Katz. When the school opens early in 2017, SPBC will be the only community with pre-K through 12th grade in one location.

Katz Hillel Day School is renamed to recognize the generosity of Daniel & Caroline Katz.

Federation implements a transformative, even more broad-based and strategic process of planning and determining both local and overseas allocations.

Nearly 2,000 people from across the entire Jewish community gather for the Center for Jewish Engagement’s Jewish Unity Day at FAU.

Federation embarks on a comprehensive community planning process to assess current special needs services, address gaps and develop collaboration opportunities.