Serving Omaha for over 100 years.
1911 – Present

Omaha Jewish Family Service History

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 most numerous Jewish immigrants were from Eastern Europe and the Russian Empire. They arrived in four waves of immigration to the US in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Immigrants were active in working class and socialist politics.

The Jewish Welfare Federation was a relief-giving agency which first offered services in 1911. It 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 covered more areas such as foster home care, care for juvenile delinquency and psychiatric cases confined at state institutions. As the problems of poverty became less serious, great attention was paid to social problems. The agency became affiliated with the Community Chest – a predecessor to United Way of the Midlands – and began receiving additional funds.

In 1931, the Jewish Welfare Federation, the Jewish Community Center and Jewish Philanthropies merged; and these organizations became the basis of our present Federation.

In 1951, the structure of Jewish Family Service became what it is today.

In 1962, the agency’s main purpose was to strengthen and preserve sound family life. It was recognized that family and personal problems needed professional attention. The agency’s aim was to detect problems early so that therapeutic intervention could be applied before serious disturbances occurred. Family Life Education was offered to the community. Other services included referral and information, marriage, parent and individual counseling, adoption and a vocational guidance program.

Today, in the 21st Century, JFS offers a comprehensive therapy program that provides family, group, individual and marital counseling. We work with couples adjusting to changing life events, individuals experiencing depression, anxiety, grief or a multitude of other symptoms and children who are often not as adept as adults at verbalizing their feelings through the use of our Play Therapy program. Our youngest client has been a 3 year old and our oldest client 89.
Our mission has continued throughout the years….to serve the Jewish community with the highest quality staff and services available in the Omaha Metropolitan area. Within our community, JFS is probably best known for our tzedakah services offered though our Assistance Program, Tzedakah Projects (which provide food baskets appropriate for each festival for families in need) and Project Driedel. Family Life Education Programs continue throughout the year and are offered in the form of programs for our special needs population (Yachad), through consistently offered parent education courses and through our Adoption Home Study services, both Domestic and International. Additional Family Life Programs are scheduled in response to community need or requests. The least known and immeasurable service offered to our community on a daily basis is that of “consultant.” We often receive phone calls from program directors of our Federation agencies, local Rabbi’s, Education Directors or Executive Directors of our synagogues, as well as families and individuals asking for our advice and direction and how to navigate the mental health system or to request a referral to a more specific service.

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.