For more than 50 years, Jewish Family Service of the Lehigh Valley has played an integral role in caring for the local Jewish community and the community at large. Begun as a committee of the Jewish Federation of Allentown, JFS has grown and expanded into a thriving, independent agency.
Select a year below to read more information about JFS.
1972 – JFS IS BORN
Jewish Family Service originates as the Family Study Committee of the Jewish Federation of Allentown. Soon after, a part-time case worker, Mary Beck, and a group of volunteers set up an office in the Jewish Community Center.
JFS IS BORN
1974 – TRIAL PERIOD
The Jewish Family Service Agency is given a three-year trial period with a budget of about $20,000 for each of the three years and a directive to seek out a professional social service worker to be the full-time director. Bert Goldberg is hired to fill the role.
1977 – PASSING THE BAR
After the three-year trial period, the Allentown Jewish Federation votes unanimously to continue Jewish Family Service as an agency supported by the Jewish Federation and the Federation’s Endowment Fund.
PASSING THE BAR
1979 – RUSSIAN RESETTLEMENT
JFS becomes involved in a great, historical movement: the emigration of Soviet Jews in the 1980s and into the 1990s. Through the Resettlement Program, JFS staff and volunteers help many of these newcomers resettle in the Lehigh Valley.
1982 – BETH TIKVAH
With a growing need for housing for Jewish older adults, JFS works with Leader Nursing and Rehabilitation Center to open the Beth Tikvah Jewish Community Wing in Bethlehem, designed to attend to the religious and rehabilitative needs of its residents. The wing features a full kosher kitchen.
1984 – INDEPENDENT AGENCY
JFS becomes incorporated as an independent agency, and the name is changed from Jewish Family Service of the Jewish Federation of Allentown to Jewish Family Service of the Lehigh Valley. The agency starts to recruit volunteers to help with the work.
1990 – NATIONAL RECOGNITION
JFS is recognized by the National Association of Jewish Family & Children’s Agencies (now known as Jewish Family and Children’s Services) as one of three small agencies that provided outstanding programming.
1993 – TIKVAH HOUSE
Working closely with a group of local parents, JFS aids in the opening of Tikvah House, a group residence for mentally disabled Jewish adults in the Lehigh Valley. JFS staff and volunteers continue to provide support for residents today.
1997 – GROWING NEEDS
To meet the expanding needs of the community, JFS moves to a new location at 1136 Hamilton Street. The new space allows for maximum client confidentiality, convenient street parking, and is handicapped accessible.
2000 – A NEW HOME
JFS moves from rented quarters into its own purchased building at 2004 West Allen Street, where it currently resides. The agency’s spacious new home provides ample room for the first kosher food pantry.
A NEW HOME
2001 – FOOD PANTRY OPENS
The JFS Kosher Food Pantry opens its doors. The pantry is located in the basement and supplies non-perishable kosher food, toiletries, and personal care products to homebound Jewish seniors as well as other individuals who might need the assistance. JFS launches the program with the help of Second Harvest, which furnishes most of the food.
FOOD PANTRY OPENS
2006 – BENEFITS CHECKUP
In partnership with two other agencies, JFS pilots Benefits CheckUp. Through this program, staff members screen and help older adults and people with disabilities discover and apply for state, local and federal benefits they may not have known they were eligible for. The program at JFS runs for 10 years.
2007 – FAREWELL BETH TIKVAH
The last program called “Honored and Remembered,” was held at Beth Tikvah, the Jewish unit in ManorCare Health Services (previously Leader Nursing and Rehabilitation Center).
FAIRWELL BETH TIKVAH
2016 – VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES EXPAND
The newly enhanced program trains volunteers so they are ready to go when needed for activities such as providing rides, making friendly phone calls, and leading holiday programs.
VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES EXPANDED
2020 – COVID PANDEMIC
JFS quickly adjusts its operations to continue caring for its clients through this trying time. Staff members seek out new avenues of income to support clients’ increasing needs.
2022 – CELEBRATING 50 YEARS
JFS marks its 50th anniversary by interviewing many of the people who built the agency and contributed to its success. A virtual celebration is held.
CELEBRATING 50 YEARS