JF&CS News Winter 2014

Rimma ZelfandA friend of mine recently told me that he is researching his family history on several "ancestral" websites. So far, he has traced one branch of his family tree back 11 generations to Lithuania in the late 1600's. As he described his findings to me, I started to think about how many generations JF&CS has helped since it began 150 years ago this month.

As we get ready to celebrate the 150th anniversary of JF&CS this year, I wonder if we might have helped anyone in the family trees of some of our clients today. Could the adorable baby being welcomed through our Welcome Baby! program have had a great-great grandmother who was helped with a loan from our predecessor agency when she arrived in America from Eastern Europe in 1910? Did she have a great-grandfather who was placed into a loving family upon coming to America as an orphaned "displaced person" after World War II? Has her grandmother been helped by our Visiting Nurse Association or by one of our programs for people with Parkinson's disease? Do her parents receive food from JF&CS Family Table, New England's largest kosher food pantry?

Through the years, we have evolved to help people in many challenging situations, but our mission - our soul - stays the same throughout: We help vulnerable populations. In 1908, we assisted thousands of recent Jewish immigrants who were left homeless by the Great Chelsea Fire. Exactly 100 years later, during the economic crisis of 2008, we paid rent for at-risk families through Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing grants. Although the causes of these crises might have been different, the effects, the outcomes, and our mission stayed the same.

Over time, JF&CS has adapted to new situations and the needs of the community. One of our unique talents is the ability to determine who in the community needs us most, and then to come up with a plan of action, emphasizing self-sufficiency and empowering our clients. In the 1890's, our predecessor organization did more than hand out money and clothing to needy immigrants. Disadvantaged women in the Hebrew Ladies Sewing Society were taught how to sew and earned wages, making and repairing clothing for those even less fortunate than themselves. Today, we teach young adults with developmental disabilities job and life skills so that they can live and work independently.

Last year, JF&CS helped more than 17,000 people, with nearly 40 programs in more than 100 communities - and that was merely one year in our 150-year history! When we consider that multiple lives are touched by helping a single person, we estimate that JF&CS has improved the quality of life for more than five million people throughout our 150-year history! Please look out for our special 150th Anniversary website section coming in early 2014. It will contain a fabulous timeline of our history, as well as numerous stories demonstrating how we have touched the lives of so many people, young and old.

We look forward to another 150 years of helping, strengthening, and empowering our communities when they are at their most vulnerable, and adapting to whatever situations might arise in the future.

For more information, call 781-647-JFCS (5327) or email your questions via our contact us page.