Our History
The Fort Wayne Jewish Community

Beginning in the late 1700's, Jewish fur traders lived in the Fort Wayne area. The first known Jewish resident was John Jacob Hayes, appointed by President James Monroe to serve as Indian Agent. He lived in Fort Wayne from 1820-1823.

Jewish immigrants from Germany began to arrive in Fort Wayne around 1830. They worked as peddlers, merchants and craftsmen. By 1848, there was a sufficient number of Jews to form the first Jewish congregation in Indiana, The Society for Visiting the Sick and Burying the Dead. In 1861, the congregation changed its name to the Synagogue of Unity and Peace (Congregation Achduth Vesholom), affiliating with the Reform Movement in May 1874.

As the city grew, the Jews prospered and, by 1880 lived in comfortable homes on the near west side of the city close to the Temple. During the 1890's, Jews immigrated to Fort Wayne from Russia, Poland, Romania, and other Eastern European countries. These Eastern European Jews formed the B'nai Israel Congregation. This group lived on the east side of the city near their synagogue. In 1912, Jews who had continued to flee the pogroms in their European homelands organized B’nai Jacob Synagogue. When B'nai Israel disbanded in 1936, some members affiliated with Congregation Achduth Vesholom and others joined the B'nai Jacob Synagogue, which became a Conservative congregation.

As in many other early Jewish communities, relations between the German Jews and Eastern European Jews was sometimes less than harmonious. With the formation of the Fort Wayne Jewish Federation, all community members had a conduit to work together for the betterment of the local and world-wide Jewish community.

Jews live throughout Fort Wayne, although the largest number live primarily in the Aboite township zip codes. Current population is approximately 450 family units.
  Our Mission
The Jewish Federation of Fort Wayne works to perpetuate and sustain Jewish life through programs and services to the Jewish community and takes whatever steps necessary to ensure a thriving Jewish community in the future.

Since 1921, the Jewish Federation of Fort Wayne has served as the central address of the Jewish community for Northeastern Indiana acting as the central social planning, budgeting, cultural, and human services agency.

How do we fulfill this mission?
  • We identify common concerns and bring various segments of our community together to seek solutions.
  • We recruit and orient potential leaders and plan for the future needs of a changing Jewish community. We raise and allocate funds for the operation of our local Jewish Federation, agencies that offer social and community services nationally, and needs of Jews in over 60 countries around the world.
  • We work diligently to promote a climate of public opinion favorable to Jewish needs, issues, and interests.
  • We seek to strengthen the sense of Klal Yisrael (Jewish peoplehood), through our sponsorship of communal gatherings and through our publications.
  • We act as a voice for our local Jewish community by our public statements and private diplomacy on issues of concern.
  • We provide resource, whether financial, technical, or human, to help other Jewish organizations and/or individuals function most effectively.
  • We do all we can to build a cohesive community, bringing people together to identify what we need to do to be a better community.
  • Thoughtful Thursdays

     As part of the Temple's commitment to tikkun olam (repairing the world), we are actively working to assist 72 children who are enrolled in the Brightpoint Head Start program in our building through our award-winning Thoughtful Thursdays program which provides twice-monthly bags with nutritious foods, personal hygiene items, cleaning products and educational activities. During the school year, the bags are sent home with the students on a Thursday to be returned the following Monday to be refilled.

    In partnership with the Jewish Federation of Fort Wayne and Congregation B'nai Jacob, we as a Jewish community are committed to assisting these children and their families, all of whom have incomes below the federal poverty level. The program began in October 2010. We also appreciate the support of the Dr. Harry W. Salon Foundation.

    While you’re shopping, please remember donations of canned tuna, canned chicken, and canned fruit in its own juice, toilet paper, tissues and paper towels always are needed. Monetary donations also are welcome. Thank you.

    Please contact the Temple office for more information at 744-4245 or Thoughtful Thursdays Chair Jamie Berger.

  Upcoming Events


Western Galilee and
Central Region News





(Major Jewish Holidays
& Religious Observances



Rifkin Campus at 5200
Created from stone and bronze by Sculptor Cary Shafer, the sign on Old Mill Road highlights the 
Rifkin Campus at 5200 Partners: 
  • Congregation Achduth Vesholom
  • Jewish Federation of Fort Wayne
  • Fort Wayne Jewish Cemetery Association
  • Madge Rothschild Resource Center
  • Brightpoint Head Start




Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

Jewish Federation
of Fort Wayne
5200 Old Mill Road
Fort Wayne, IN 46807
Phone:  260-456-0400
Fax:  260-456-0500

Jewish Federation
of North America


    Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council

Thoughtful Thursdays 

Be Part Of Our Team As We Begin 7th Year

The Jewish community's Thoughtful Thursdays volunteers are beginning a 7th year helping the 72 children who attend Brightpoint Head Start at the Temple. Under the leadership of Jamie Berger, our team will assemble bags on the dates listed below. All are welcome to assist.

Dates for assembling bags: 
  • Wednesday, December 7
  • Wednesday, January 18
  • Wednesday, February 1
  • Wednesday, March 1
  • Wednesday, April 12
  • Wednesday, May 3 (Final Bag)


Copyright Jewish Federation of Fort Wayne
Privacy Policy ~ Terms of Use