provides essential services to the Jewish community and the Omaha community at large. Despite the challenges presented by working remotely for over a year due to COVID-19, JFS was able to not only continue to serve its clients, but also to expand its services to increase its mental health outreach. JFS was also at the forefront in providing crucial financial assistance to those in our community adversely affected by the pandemic. The support and respect from our community was evident in the record breaking 2021 Friends Campaign, with over $42,000 raised to further the high-quality services JFS can provide today and in the future. JFS remains well-positioned to serve those in the community who are most in need.
Jeff Kirshenbaum and Toba Cohen-Dunning, Jewish Social Services Co-Presidents 2016-2022
With the best professional and licensed staff, JFS is wholly focused on providing the services individuals, couples and families require when facing challenges in their lives. Financial assistance, Counseling, Project Tzedakah, Project Dreidel and Family Life Education; these are among the ways that JFS restores dignity, hope and meaning when it seems like life’s struggles appear insurmountable.
For over a century, the Jewish community in Omaha, Nebraska has made significant cultural, economic and social contributions to the city. The first Jewish settlers came to the city shortly after it was founded in 1856. The majority of Jewish Immigrants were from Eastern Europe and the Russian Empire. They arrived in four waves of immigration to the U.S., in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Immigrants were active in working-class and social politics.
The Jewish Welfare Federation was a relief-giving agency who first offered services in 1911. The agency provided assistance to families, to the unemployed, and to transients. As the Jewish community changed, so did the agency’s responsibilities. In 1927, the agency professionals recognized that social work needed to address more community issues, such as foster home care, care for juvenile delinquents, and care for psychiatric patients confined in the state’s institutions. As poverty became less of an issue, more attention was paid to other social problems. The agency became affiliated with the Community Chest, a predecessor of the United Way of the Midlands, and began receiving additional funds to carry out its work.
In 1931, the Jewish Welfare Federation, the Jewish Community Center and Jewish Philanthropies merged to form the basis of our present Federation. In 1951, the structure of Jewish Family Service became what it is today. By 1962, the agency’s main purpose was to strengthen and preserve sound family life, as it was recognized that personal and family problems often required professional intervention. The agency’s intent was to detect problems early so that therapeutic services could be implemented before serious disturbances arose. Family Life Education was offered to the community, along with other services such as information and referrals; individual, marital, and family counseling; adoption; and a vocational guidance program.
Today, in the 21st Century, JFS continues in its mission- “To serve the Jewish community and the community at large…” with some of the highest quality staff and services available in the Omaha Metropolitan area. Our agency offers many programs to carry out that mission:
In 2011, Jewish Family Service celebrated its 100th Anniversary in Omaha. We are proud of the services we offer and plan to continue serving our community for the next 100 years!