Welcome to the world of the Jewish Federation of Omaha, where the values of compassion, generosity, and responsibility inspire us to improve the quality of life for people in Omaha, in Israel, and in over 70 countries. Together, we are doing a world of good.
The Jewish Federation of Omaha is a full-service organization serving the Jewish and Omaha communities. We provide services and programs for all ages from early childhood education to a long-term, skilled care nursing home. We also have the finest fitness center in Omaha that features indoor and outdoor aquatic centers, youth programming, a newly-renovated theater and learning commons, a public art gallery, a weekly newspaper, meals on wheels, counseling services, and community advocacy.
Our core values of Judaism, collective responsibility, community, education, health and well-being, integrity, leadership, and stewardship inspire us to, as a community, develop innovative responses to critical issues.
The JFO is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and greatly appreciates individual and corporate donations. Your donation will benefit people in Omaha, in Israel and around the world.
The Jewish Federation of Omaha Board of Directors serves as the governance body of our mission-driven institution and is charged with ensuring the preservation of our history, its financial stability and the success of our programs and services, now and in the future.
Nancy Schlessinger, President
Bob Goldberg, CEO
Mike Siegel, Past President
There are approximately 6,000 Jews in the Omaha area.
Friedel Jewish Academy is a state-approved elementary school for Jewish children in grades K-6. Friedel’s general studies curriculum is taught by state-certified teachers and Jewish studies curriculum is taught by qualified Jewish educators and respects the beliefs of all branches of Judaism. Friedel is a community day-school organized to teach an appreciation of both Jewish and American cultures.
The Vaad Hakashrut of the Jewish Federation of Omaha is committed to ensuring the availability of kosher establishments for the Omaha Jewish community.
Supervision currently includes:
Many of the services and programs sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Omaha are housed on our 28-acre campus, located three blocks south of Dodge on 132nd Street.
Newly renovated in 1999, the Jewish Community Center boasts a state-of-the-art fitness center, indoor and outdoor Olympic size swimming pools, dance programs, health spa, child care and activities for every member of the family.
When you see what we have to offer, you’ll understand why it serves as the “Jewish neighborhood” for Omaha!
For more information and a tour, please contact the JCC Member Services Department at 402-334-6426 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jewish history in Nebraska dates back to 1856 – a year after Congress authorized establishment of the new territory. From 1856 to 1863, Jews arrived in Nebraska from Germany, Austria and Bohemia; refugees from the political and economic crises in Europe.
Many began as peddlers traveling from farm to farm, later settling in small towns and establishing themselves in business and trades. Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Cahn and Meyer Hellman were the first Jews to arrive in Nebraska, crossing the river on September 7, 1856. With Omaha serving as the last point on the Oregon Trail for travelers headed across the plains, Cahn and Hellman opened a clothing business. At Hellman’s death in 1892, their store was known as the oldest clothing establishment west of the Missouri river.
In 1868, a group of German Jews in Omaha formed the “Congregation of Israel” – the first Jewish congregation (Reform) in Nebraska. Land was purchased for a cemetery in 1872 and in 1884 it dedicated the first Jewish house of worship built in the state, at 23rd & Harney Streets in Omaha. Years later (1945), the congregation changed its name to “Temple Israel”.
A second wave of Jewish arrivals began in 1882, following massacres and pogroms occurring throughout Russia and Eastern Europe. In Omaha, these immigrants found work in packing houses, smelters, ‘junk’ yards (metal recycling) and railroad production. The new orthodox synagogue opened above the first Jewish butcher shop and next door was a dye works where one of its vats was used for the mikveh.
Between 1901 and 1913 over 2000 Jews arrived with the help of the Jewish Agricultural Industrial Aid Society and the Jewish Colonization Office. During the first quarter of the new century community spirit and activism led to the establishment of a number of important organizations. Wise Memorial Hospital was instituted in 1899 with a capacity of 60 beds. Omaha founded some of the first chapters of the National Council of Jewish Women, Hadassah, B’nai B’rith and the founding of Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA) a national brotherhood for Jewish high school youth. The Mother Chapter, AZA # 1, convenes to this day at the Jewish Community Center.
In 1903, the Association Charities was formed, one of the first three in the United States. This organization was later named ‘The Jewish Welfare Fund’ and eventually the ‘Jewish Federation of Omaha’.
From its beginning, the Omaha Jewish community has proudly cared for its families, children, elderly and those at risk. It all began with the dreams and vision of Omaha’s Jewish founders and continued to flourish through the generations before us.
As a result, today we enjoy a vibrant and active Jewish community with the Jewish Federation of Omaha, its agencies, synagogues and numerous Jewish organizations dedicated to every aspect of Jewish life in our community.