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Popularly known as Y.M.H.A. and Y.W.H.A., a recreational and cultural Jewish institution throughout the U.S. The first Y.M.H.A. was established in New York in 1874, modeled after the Young Men’s Christian Association and geared to serve the social and recreational needs of the individual. At the height of Jewish mass immigration into the U.S., the “Y” movement grew swiftly and devoted much of its program to Americanization work. Some of its tendencies were assimilationist during this period.

In 1913, the Y.M.H.A. and kindred organizations united to form one national association. Eight years later, this association merged with the National Jewish Welfare Board, which has guided the work of the movement since then. In the last few decades, the nature of the Y.M.H.A. has changed, becoming dedicated to family rather than the individual. This change is also reflected in the name and program of the affiliated institutions. A large proportion of them are called Jewish Community Centers, and Jewish cultural and educational programs are an integral part of their work. In the U.S. and Canada, 352 such centers are currently affiliated with the National Jewish Welfare Board.

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