History of GPJFF


In 1875, the Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA) was established in Philadelphia in response to the critical need to create a Jewish community center that represented a haven and resource for Jewish immigrants. In 1924, the YMHA merged with the Young Women’s Hebrew Association (YWHA) to become the first organization in the nation designed for men and women’s joint use and purpose. That same year, a brick and mortar home was built at the corner of Broad and Pine Streets in Center City where it remained the primary location of the community center for over 94 years. The organization was a pioneer in recognizing the need to strengthen the roles of both men and women in Jewish life. It created a community of safety, acceptance, camaraderie, and social services and served as a center for education and culture. Through the years, the organization provided cutting-edge programming in the arts, athletic activities, and pre-school education.

Gershman Y (located on S Broad and Pine), the original home of the Gershman Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival.

Chronology of GPJFF (formerly known as the Gershman Y)

  • 1875 | Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA) founded
  • 1885 | Young Women’s Union (YWU) established
  • 1918 | YWU reincorporates as the Neighborhood Centre
  • 1920 | Young Women’s Hebrew Association (YMHA) founded
  • 1924 | YMHA and YWHA merge to form the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association (YM-YWHA)
  • 1924 | YM-YWHA builds and dedicates the building located at 401 S Broad St (corner of Broad and Pine), the first in the country to be designed for the joint use
  • 1965 | Neighborhood Centre merges with YM-YWHA to form the Jewish Ys and Centers (JYC) and Greater Philadelphia
  • 1981 | The first Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival takes place
  • 1984 | JYC reincorporates as the Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Greater Philadelphia
  • 1985 | YM-YWHA brand is rededicated as the Gershman Y
  • 2000 | The University of the Arts purchased the Gershman Y building
  • 2009 | The JCCs legally dissolve and the Gershman Y, Klein JCC, and Kaiserman JCC become separate entities
  • 2018 | The Gershman Y rebrands as the Gershman Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival (GPJFF)