A Brief History of the United Jewish Federation of Utah

In 1923, Jack Findley, Dan Alexander, and other friends put up the cash to buy the Enos Wall Mansion at 411 East South Temple, and renamed it “The Covenant House.” It was a social center for all Jewish community meetings other than those in the synagogue and held banquets, dances, USO hospitality functions for Jewish military, Jewish youth activities, and other events around Jewish life.

On November 10, 1938, the Nazis orchestrated Kristallnacht, a night of terror against the Jewish communities of Germany and Austria. Two months later, on January 10, 1939, the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) came into existence and raised funds for relief in Europe, to aid immigrants and resettle those fleeing to Israel and the United States. In the 1940s, UJA helped the new nation of Israel, mostly by donating money.

The Salt Lake Jewish Welfare Fund (JWF) became a reality in 1943, when a group of dedicated humanitarians sought to continue and build on the work of the United Jewish Appeal.  Some of those involved families included Simon Shapiro, Joseph Dupler, Abe Cohne, Abe and Herman Bernstein, Max Pepper, Ben Lutzker, Harry Smith, Hermon Finkelstein, Sam Axelrad, and the Movitz, Block, Auerbach, Wagner and Grelick families.

At the end of 1978, JWF Board President, Ralph Tannenbaum, oversaw the official name change to United Jewish Council of Utah (UJC). The Council members represented every Jewish organization in Utah and was made up of the Presidents, Vice presidents, and Treasurers of the constituent organizations.

On May 13, 1992, Council President Lawrence K. Goldsmith (Larry) changed the Council's name to United Jewish Federation of Utah (UJF), an affiliate of the North American United Jewish Federations (NAUJF).  In the early 1990s the Council recognized that the NAUJF could provide much needed services. Roberta Grunauer was hired as the UJF Executive Director.

During Roberta's administration the UFA/Federation Annual Campaign raised funds for the Jewish Community Center, Jewish Family Service, Scholarships, Shorashenu, Kol Ami Religious School, Shalom, Utah Valley College Center for Jewish Studies, B'nai B'rith Youth, Middle East Center at the University of Utah, USY and Kadima Youth, Hillel at the University of Utah. Federation connected the UJF of Utah with many national agencies and also funded the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

In 2022, UJF is lead by Alex Shapiro, Executive Director, and Jodie Sobel, Board Chair. UJF of Utah protects and enhances the well-being of Jews in Utah and around the world. UJF of Utah serves as our community's coordinating body for fundraising, planning, and communal services. UJF supports BBYO, Birthright, Brith Shalom of Ogden, Chabad, Har Shalom, Hillel for Utah, Holocaust Education, Joint Distribution Committee, Kol Ami, McGillis School, ORT, PJ Library, and the Jewish Endowment Trust of Utah (UJET).