Our Vision is Clear
We desire to have a sustainable, engaged, and connected Jewish community that supports one another locally and globally.
In the spirit of K’lal Yisrael (Jewish peoplehood)...
we bring Jews of all backgrounds, affiliations, and observance levels together under one roof.
In the spirit of Chesed (kindness and compassion)...
we bring hope to those most in need among us through our compassionate Jewish Family Services department and Food Pantry.
In the spirit of Tzedakah (charity)...
we support Jews locally and globally through coordinated fundraising initiatives and philanthropic opportunities.
In the spirit of Tikkun Olam (repair the world)...
we act to repair the world through advocacy, outreach, and vocal condemnation of anti-Semitism.
In the spirit of Kahillah (community)...
we connect Jews of all ages through social gatherings, community celebrations, and recreational activities.
In the spirit of Chinuch (education)...
we promote lifelong education and learning through educational opportunities for all age groups.
The Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley is proud to serve as a central resource for our diverse Jewish community. Our service area includes St. Joseph, Elkhart, and surrounding counties in Indiana as well as southwest Michigan’s Berrien and Cass counties. We are composed of volunteers, contributors, and partners, seeking to meet the various human needs of the Jewish people and ensure an inclusive Jewish community for future generations.
We embrace the diversity of our community and welcome individuals and families of all affiliations and different family compositions.
Through various programs we have created numerous opportunities for members of the community to participate in educational and recreational activities as well as engage and support Jews worldwide. We welcome gifts of all sizes as well as the donation of time, and no gift or act of kindness is too small to help.
The creation of the Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley dates to 1945 when South Bend and Mishawaka Jewish leaders established the Jewish Community Council of St. Joseph County. As part of an emerging network of local Jewish federations in the United States and Canada, the Council’s mission was clear; to foster, promote, and coordinate Jewish community activities and improve relationships between all colors, creeds, and nationalities.
Over the following years, the Community Council proved its standing as a valuable resource by aiding Holocaust refugees, responding to incidents of anti-Semitism, promoting religious pluralism in public schools, and supporting youth activities such as Camp Ideal, which is still a vital part of our community. The Community Council also prioritized fundraising to help Israel house and feed the millions of Jews returning to the new Jewish homeland.
In 1978, the Jewish Community Council of St. Joseph County reorganized to form the Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley. Originally established as an association of local Jewish community organizations – religious and secular – the new Federation was now an organization of individuals making annual contributions to the local Jewish Welfare Fund Campaign, which would later become our Annual Campaign. The restructuring also expanded its geographic reach to include, not only South Bend and Mishawaka, but also Elkhart and Niles, all in the valley of the St. Joseph River. In 2007, the Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley welcomed the Jewish communities of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, Michigan under its umbrella. To attract new members and help the Federation grow, board members and participants sought to better unify the Jewish community by developing and providing more visible community relations activities, cultural programs, and services for seniors, young adults, and children. They also continued to provide international aid to Jewish communities, which included the resettlement and aid of more than 200 Russian Jews to our local Jewish community.
In the late 1990's, the Jewish Federation, which had been operating for decades out of several offices in downtown South Bend, celebrated a landmark expansion when Kurt and Tessye Simon donated $1 million to fund the construction of a centralized community center that would function as the official headquarters of the Jewish Community. In the fall of 2000, with the matched community contributions, the Federation opened the newly built Kurt and Tessye Simon Jewish Community Building on a 27-acre wooded campus in South Bend.
Today, the Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley serves as the cultural epicenter for Jewish life in Michiana, reaching more than 1,800 Jewish people in St. Joseph and Elkhart counties and southwest lower Michigan. The Federation continues to engage the Jewish people – locally, in Israel, and throughout the world – through coordinated fund raising, community-wide programming, services, and educational activities.
For more information about the history of the Jewish Federation and our local Jewish community please visit the website of our partner The Michiana Jewish Historical Society at michianajewish.org