Date of Award

Spring 4-2017

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Caroline Jean Acker


In the decades following World War II, urban American JCCs became more committed to promoting and fostering their members' Jewish identity and, at the same time, opened up their spaces and their programs to Americans of all religions and races; they simultaneously became more particularistic and more universalistic. This bifurcation, I will show, resulted from pragmatic needs as much as from ideological principles. Structural changes like postwar deindustrialization and suburbanization caused urban depopulation, shrinking urban JCC's membership rolls and constraining their access to financial resources. Considerations about equal access and equal opportunity spurred by the Black Freedom Movement raised functional questions about the differences between being a member of an organization and being a participant in its programs. The economic and political instability of the 1970s, including the riots and financial collapse of large cities that characterized the urban crisis, had the combined effect of reducing JCC revenue and creating new federal antipoverty programs that JCCs could use to fund new services—thought it meant that the services, if not the agencies, had to implement nonsectarian enrollment procedures. In responding to all of these structural, functional, and financial changes, the JCC movement gradually opened up their agencies to non-Jews and, correspondingly, intensified their commitment to Jewish particularism.

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