"From a building to a home – from a residence to a neighborhood – from a group to a community." -
Chaim Tzippori, Founder of IACC
"מבניין לבית. משיכון לשכונה. מקהל לקהילה."
The concept behind community centers was developed during the search for new ways to accelerate social processes in developing communities and underserved populations in Israel. The idea began to take shape in 1969 by the Minister of Education and Culture, Zalman Aran. Mr. Aran explored the possibility of implementing such a concept in two ways:
He assigned Dr. Yael Posner, Director of Education at the Ministry of Education and Culture to establish The ‘Posner Commission’ to examine the subject.
He assigned Chaim Tzippori from the Ministry of Education’s Culture Department (responsibilities included reducing illiteracy and bringing cultural opportunities to the public), to survey cultural and social events in development towns.
After the committee determined that community centers are in fact needed, the question arose as to how the centers would function from an organizational perspective.
The committee wanted each community center to develop based on each locality's unique conditions and features, thus offering its constituents an opportunity for local independent management. The encounter between Dr. Posner and Chaim Tzippori gave the needed meaningful push to establish and develop community centers in Israel. Chaim Tzippori was sent to the USA with the sponsorship of the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) for six months in order to observe and learn from the experience of the Jewish Community Center Association (JCCA) movement in North America and the neighborhood settlement houses.
Upon his return and as the director of the Posner Commission, Chaim summed up the commission’s work by proposing a unique concept and structure for the Israeli organization. His proposal was to establish a non-profit, governmental organization, affiliated with the Ministry of Education but independently led by a national board of directors. Its board would be made up of representatives of various sectors of the state and society. The board's role was to define the concepts and policies of the IACC.
In 1969, the IACC (Chevrat HaMatnasim) was founded. Naturally, Dr. Yael Posner was selected as chairman of the board. At the same time the Israeli nickname for Community Centers – “Matnas” – was created. Matnas is an acronym for Merkaz Tarbut Noar and Sport ("The Center for Culture, Youth and Sport"). The name was created in the early days of the organization, when no one was sure what the future held. Over the years, as the institution has evolved and proved itself and Community Centers became worthy of the name. The name “Matnas” quickly took root and became a household phrase.
Accordingly, it was decided that the IACC would operate six geographic districts, which were recently consolidated into five. Each district has a regional director managing the regional team that provides training, supervision and guidance to the local community centers’ directors and management, on a variety of subjects and activities. The district offices are in direct, ongoing contact with the local authorities and organizations in the region.
The IACC's tremendous impact and expanded programs and services have been possible due to the partnership and generous support of many Israeli organizations, governmental agencies, the Joint Distribution Committee, numerous worldwide Jewish Federations, Jewish agencies, Jewish Community Centers, and charitable foundations. A full list of IACC's current partners can be found here.