In 1892, 70 local Jewish women laid the groundwork for today’s Jewish Family Service. Headed by mother and daughter Esther Levy and Lizzie Cooper, they reached out to assist the hundreds of European and Mediterranean Jews arriving in the American West.
Their concerns were homelessness, hunger and unemployment in our Jewish community. In all their wisdom, they never envisioned dealing with the myriad of other social service issues that are front and center today: domestic violence, substance abuse, parents being isolated, children being neglected, marriages maybe not so happily-ever-after.
When you look through the volumes written about Seattle’s Jewish history, on nearly every page you’ll find Jewish Family Service or one of our predecessors:
- Ladies’ Hebrew Benevolent Society (1892 – 1917)
- Hebrew Benevolent Society (1917 – 1929)
- Jewish Welfare Society (1929 – 1947)
- Jewish Family & Child Service (1947 – 1978)
- Jewish Family Service (1978 – present)
Booths in the Pike Place Market were started with seed money from the Agency. The Bon Marche (today’s Macy’s) had its roots in a Jewish business that was owned by two families instrumental in founding the Agency. The Agency was a founding member of the Seattle Community Fund, known today as United Way of King County. The Agency created the Washington Relief Administration, forerunner of the State Department of Public Welfare. The Kline Galland Home was started with the assistance of a committee of the Agency. All told, there are enough stories about JFS to fill a book. That’s because the history of the Pacific Northwest’s oldest Jewish social service Agency is the history of Jewish Seattle.
For over 121 years, Jewish Family Service has been the thread of continuity in our ever-changing community. From the birth of a baby to the passing of an elder, an enormously complex and challenging variety of issues are met with compassion, sensitivity and tenacity by the staff and volunteers of JFS.
Today, people from a variety of backgrounds walk through our doors year-round. Last year alone, JFS served nearly 13,500 clients. The young, the old, parents and grandparents, refugees from a myriad of foreign lands, people with disabilities, the poor, the privileged, the young and the young at heart — they all come to JFS for professional, passionate and compassionate assistance in meeting their needs or the chance to help others. JFS is the only Jewish social service organization in the Northwest providing
- services enhancing “quality of life"
- by skilled professionals
- through the cycle of life
- to those with needs
The circle continues to move forward, as it has for more than a century, with Jewish Family Service at its center.