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 Marché (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.