Charles E. Smith, a builder and philanthropist, believed the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center of the mid-1960s was obsolete. Racial tensions were repelling Jews from going there, and large populations of Jews had already moved to the Maryland suburbs.
Smith thought the Center should be relocated to the Maryland suburbs—alongside a Hebrew Home and Jewish Social Service Agency in a unified campus-like setting. Although much of the community did not think the millions of dollars needed to construct such a complex could be raised, Smith did. He taught a community without a philanthropic profile how to raise money, to give generously, and to pass that philosophy onto the succeeding generations.