Building Brick by Brick
Jewish settlement began in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area the 1850s without any formal organization until the establishment of its first synagogue in 1913. The community remained fairly small until the period following WWII. Until 1961, the primary organizations serving the community were Beth Israel Congregation (est. 1913), University of Michigan Hillel (est. 1926), and a thriving Hadassah chapter (chartered in 1938).
In the 1940’s, Hillel coordinated fundraising efforts through the United Jewish Appeal to provide aid to world Jewry, including the Jewish community in Palestine and Israel after its establishment. In 1961, a local United Jewish Appeal chapter was formally organized to coordinate philanthropy for the benefit of global Jewish needs.
As the community grew, it was determined that an umbrella body was needed coordinate functions, to articulate and defend Jewish interests and to address common concerns of the local Jewish organizations. In 1967, the Jewish Community Council was founded to attend to local issues and needs.
As the result of a community planning process, the Jewish Community Council and the United Jewish Appeal merged in 1986 to become the Jewish Community Association/United Jewish Appeal (UJA) of Washtenaw County with Carol Amster as its Executive Director.
In 1988, Jewish Community Center Director Nancy Margolis was hired to serve as director of the Federation in addition to her JCC duties. Our organization joined the national organization, Council of Jewish Federations and changed its name to the Jewish Federation of Washtenaw County/United Jewish Appeal in 1992. The 1990’s were a time of growth. During this time, Federation established the Washtenaw Jewish Community Endowment Fund, later renamed the Jewish Community Foundation, and Jewish Family Services which focused on immigrant resettlement and social service efforts. JFS became its own organization in 2004.
In 1999, the JCC and Federation boards decided to separate the executive director function, and Jeff Levin was hired as the Federation’s first full-time executive director in 2000.
David Shtulman served as Executive Director from 2008-2017, and the Federation was renamed the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor.
Eileen Freed has served as Executive Director since 2017.