skip navigation and jump to page content The Library of CongressThe American Folklife Center 
Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
Collage of Local Legacies
JCC "Mishpocah"
Aynmishpocha, a JCC group that helps Russian immigrants with conversational English Photo courtesy of JCC Newman Center

The JCC's David G. Neuman Senior Center Family: Into the 21st Century

The history of the Senior Center and its community is chronicled through photographs and a video montage. Originally a neighborhood community center in 1955, it became a senior center in 1974 to accommodate the changing needs of the northeast Philadelphia community, now primarily older men and women of eastern European Jewish heritage.

The Neighborhood Center had a long and honorable history of community service. It began in 1855 when 30 young women from affluent families in the Philadelphia Jewish community formed the Young Women's Union (YWU) to help Americanize the children of East European immigrants who were settling in South Philadelphia in great numbers. In 1901 the YWU came under the umbrella of the newly formed Federation of Jewish Charities, and in 1918 the YWU was reorganized as the Neighborhood Centre, and modified its official purpose to be the improvement of local conditions in South Philadelphia and the offering of free services to all, regardless of race, creed or national origin.

A population study was done in 1950 by the Jewish Welfare Board showing that 50% of the membership of the Neighborhood Centre did not live in South Philadelphia and that 75% of its membership was Jewish. Although committed to serving all the people in the community, the Neighborhood Centre, in the aftermath of WWII, began to think more about issues of Jewish identity and the continuity of Jewish culture. The Centre found that many of the members, as well as their adult children, had moved to the Oxford Circle-Bustleton area of northeast Philadelphia, and, in 1955, moved to a newly opened facility in that neighborhood, having a full range of programs for young children, teenagers, parents and grandparents, and a membership that varied between 2,000-3,000. The facility offered a nursery school, kindergarten, athletic and scouting programs, a drama club and arts and crafts. Friendship Circle, a club for older members was begun with a membership of more than 200 retirees, and remains a central part of the current senior center.

In the 1960s, it was discovered that there was a great similarity between the programs of the Neighborhood Centre and the YM-YWHA (Young Men's - Young Women's Hebrew Association). Both, though committed to serving the Jewish community, served all religious and ethnic groups in the neighborhoods in which they were located; both had athletic facilities; both served children, adults, and the elderly; and both received funding from the United Way and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. In 1965, they merged; in 1985 the name was officially changed to the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Philadelphia (JCCs).

During the 70s, the community of the JCC changed character, as neighborhood shopping was weakened by the flight of stores to new shopping centers on the outskirts of the city, and families moved to the newer northern suburbs to raise their children. The Oxford Circle-Bustleton neighborhood was becoming an area with a high percentage of senior citizens. In 1977 the JCC building was renamed the David G. Neuman Senior Center of the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Philadelphia, in recognition of a grant from the Neuman family that assisted in maintaining the building for the older adult community. Working with funds that had become available through passage of the Elderly Nutrition Programs in the Older Americans Act of 1972, the JCCs provided leadership in organizing neighborhood organizations serving the elderly in Philadelphia to apply for these funds. In addition, the JCC received federal and state funding through the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, the county Area Agency on Aging, as well as supplemental funding from the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia for a myriad of services for older adults.

In the year 2000, the JCCs David G. Neuman Senior Center continues to adapt to the changing neighborhood. It still serves as a focal point for services for seniors in the Oxford-Bustleton area of northeast Philadelphia, providing cultural, recreational, and educational offerings for healthy adults 60 years or older; in-home support services, care coordination, and home-delivered meals to the more frail population that wishes to continue living independently. It also has a hot-lunch program; counseling and benefit services; a nurse-practitioner; preventive health and fitness programs; support groups and volunteer opportunities; a Russian language counselor, and English language and citizenship classes for recent immigrants.

As it enters the new Millennium, the Neuman Center has come full circle. With the passing of the older Jewish population, and the influx of new immigrants from the Soviet Union, Korea, Vietnam, China, India, Pakistan, and Latin America, it is again reaching out to the new immigrant population with social services to meet an array of needs and provide assistance as they integrate themselves into American life.

Originally submitted by: Robert A. Borski, Representative (3rd District).

link to www.loc.govMore Local Legacies...

The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

disclaimer for external linksLearn More About It...
  The Library of Congress 
The American Folklife Center
Contact Us
AFC Icon