Young Men's and Young Women's Hebrew Associations (YMHA, YWHA), organizations that promote health, social activities, recreation, acculturation of new Jewish Americans, and Jewish culture among Jews of all ages. The first YMHA was founded in Baltimore in 1854. A YWHA was organized as an auxiliary of the New York City YMHA in 1888, and the first independent YWHA was formed in 1902. During World War I, the organizations were instrumental in organizing support for Jewish servicemen overseas by enlisting rabbis for service at military posts. Out of this effort, the Jewish Welfare Board (JWB) was formally established in 1917, subsuming the YWHAs and YMHAs. After the war, the JWB broadened its range of services in the United States and abroad, and was eventually renamed the Jewish Community Centers of North America. JCCs serve some 1 million members (1999). Despite the name changes, some local branches retain the designation YMHA or YWHA.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.