News and Events...

Barbash Family Donates Brisket and Soup to Those in Need for the Holidays

On September 29, the Jewish High Holiday of Rosh Hashanah will commence at sundown, and while many households across Cincinnati will celebrate by attending services and partaking in family dinners, too many members of the Jewish community won’t have the means to enjoy a traditional, hot meal. Jewish Family Service Barbash Family Vital Support Center has long been committed to providing many of the items typically enjoyed during the holidays. Pam Barbash and her family generously purchased and prepared brisket and matzo ball soup to feed 150 people.  


“All year long, I look forward to getting this brisket!” exclaimed Miriam, as she reflected on the containers of delicious fare that had recently been delivered to her door. In preparation for the holiday, apples and honey were also provided. The food is distributed through the Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry, which is open to the community five times each month. For homebound clients, such as Miriam, door-to-door delivery is also offered.


“It’s very thoughtful of her [Pam] to donate to the food pantry,” noted Cora, another homebound client. “And I’m always glad if there are leftovers, so I get to have more!” she added with a smile. 


2019 is not the first year Pam and her family have been so generous to the community. Indeed, the Barbash family annually makes this monumental effort, and has been doing so for many years. “No one should go hungry at any time of the year,” insists Pam, “and no one should miss out on the traditions of the High Holidays.”


In Hebrew, the word tzedakah literally means “righteousness,” while in Judaism, the term is more frequently translated as “giving back.” It is precisely this value of giving back that Pam hopes to instill in her children and grandchildren. With new generations of the Barbash family poised and ready to carry this tradition forward, Pam hopes they will all continue to learn invaluable lessons about giving back to their community.


Each and every year, Jewish Family Service Barbash Family Vital Support Center successfully provides the members of the Cincinnati Jewish community with the help and support they need. In so doing, they partner with community members, like Pam, to ensure that families in Jewish Cincinnati have their essential needs met during the holidays and throughout the year.

Linda Kean named Vice President of Operations and Youth & Family Programming

CINCINNATI, OH February 14, 2019 -- Jewish Family Service (JFS) is proud to announce the promotion of Linda Kean, former Director of Youth & Family Programming, to Vice President of Operations and Youth & Family Programming. In this role, she will lead agency-wide initiatives that will help improve operations while guiding JFS into a strong, successful future.


Her role as VP of Operations will involve the agency’s strategic planning, talent development and fine-tuning the agency’s business model while still managing youth and family programming, such as Adoption Connection and Bigs & Littles.


“Linda was chosen for this role based on her successful leadership in agency programming,” said Liz Vogel, CEO of Jewish Family Service. “She executes at an extremely high level, thinking through the details of a project and taking total ownership of every aspect of her work. Her proven track record will be a key factor in her ability to continue to steward the mission of Jewish Family Service.”


Linda has led, with incredible success, JFS programs such as Dancing with Our Stars and MOSES while continuing to direct the youth and family programming as well as managing the post-placement needs of Adoption Connection. “I am excited to take on this new role at JFS to help strengthen systems, programs, and new directions,” said Linda.


Jewish Family Service’s mission is to strengthen lives and our community by providing professional social services to families and individuals in times of need, with a vision of leading the way to a Jewish community where everyone lives with dignity, security, and hope.  Through Aging & Caregiver Services, Youth & Family Programming, Vital Services (including the Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry) and their newest addition, StarPoint Home Health Care, JFS is positioned to meet the growing and changing needs of our community.


Jewish Family Service is a nonprofit social service agency serving greater Cincinnati. They receive funding in part from United Way of Greater Cincinnati, the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, and The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati.



From a Little to a Big: an award-winning experience

17-year-old Batiya Roth volunteered to be a Big with the Jewish Family Service Bigs & Littles youth mentoring program because she loved the idea of giving a young person the same kind of positive experience she had as a Little in the program.


Roth, a senior at Walnut Hills High School, is a former Little who participated in the Bigs & Littles community-based program for four years, starting when she was eight years old. As a Big, she has mentored the past two school years at Rockwern Academy, and has agreed to continue again for this school year.


Jewish Family Service recognized Roth for her volunteer service with Bigs & Littles when Steve Halper, a former Big, presented her with the Betty R. Goldberg Community Service Award at its Annual Meeting in June.


"The Bigs & Littles Mentoring program teaches children emotional intelligence and has strong, proven outcomes, including helping kids believe they have a positive future ahead," said Halper. "This award is for someone who actively engages in helping others and improving the community through volunteering." The award was established in 1998 by an anonymous donor, in honor of the many years of service that Betty Goldberg gave to the program. Erin McNew, Manager of Jewish Family Service Bigs & Littles accepted the award on her behalf.


"Batiya is reliable, positive, caring, and a great friend and role model to her Little," said McNew. "Recently, she has volunteered with two other Rockwern mentors to take on more responsibility in next year’s program by taking a role in activity planning for group sessions."


The award included $1,000 to further her education. Roth shared with McNew that she is looking toward college and is interested in going into the field of nursing.


Additional teens are needed to join Roth as mentors at Rockwern Academy for this school year.


In addition to Rockwern Academy, Jewish Family Service Bigs & Littles serves children from Pleasant Ridge Montessori and Cincinnati Hebrew Day School.


Volunteers for this year's school-based mentoring program at Pleasant Ridge Montessori are also needed 5-6:30 pm Wednesdays from September 2018 to May 2019 to help students ages 9-12 who will benefit from the extra support that a consistent, adult friend can provide.


To volunteer as a Big, contact Linda Kean, Director of Youth and Family Services at 513-766-3318 or; or Erin McNew at 513-766-3328 or


Children Helping Children: Feeding the community

by Hannah Gessendorf


13 year-old Bryce Green carefully sorted the kid-friendly food that filled two large barrels into kosher and non-kosher piles.


"Mom, I got this," he said looking at the food donations he collected as his Bar Mitzvah project to support Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry. His mother, Jennifer Green, watched as Bryce taught her how to properly separate the items, just the way he did many times before


He knew what he was doing, as he has been volunteering once a year at the pantry for the past six years.


Bryce was first introduced to the pantry at 7 years-old during summer camp at the Mayerson JCC's Camp at the J.  As part of Jewish Family Service’s CHAI (Cincinnati Hunger Awareness Initiative) education program, campers spend a day volunteering at the Heldman Family Food Pantry sorting kosher and non-kosher foods, stocking the shelves, and learning how the pantry helps people in our community.


Over the years Bryce had become very familiar with the pantry, so when his Torah portion described the importance of helping others in poverty, he decided to collect food donations for Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry as part of his Bar Mitzvah project.


“I wanted to donate foods that kids would like, so I asked guest to bring boxes of granola bars and graham crackers to my Bar Mitzvah,” said Bryce.


“He was really set on helping feed kids in the community,” said Jennifer. “He made a point to choose foods that he felt kids could identify with.”


In addition to collecting food, Bryce also donated 10% of the monetary gifts that he received from his Bar Mitzvah guests.


“He didn’t stop there,” said Jennifer. “It would have been easy to mail a check to the food pantry and drop off the collected food, but Bryce insisted he do more.”



To complete his project and get the full hands-on experience, Bryce and Jennifer went to the food pantry together and stocked the shelves with their newly donated food.


“It was such an enlightening and wonderful experience to watch Bryce in action. He is really proud of what he did, and it showed,” said Jennifer.


Jennifer also shared how Bryce's project touched them on a personal level.


“During Bryce’s Bar Mitzvah reception we had a family friend share with us that when they came to Cincinnati, the JFS food pantry was the reason they were able to survive,” says Jennifer. This now-successful family was one of many who donated food to those currently experiencing financial difficulties.


Bryce's involvement with the pantry did not end with his Bar Mitzvah. Jennifer and Bryce are now advocates for the food pantry and plan to suggest ideas on how others can get involved in the future.


And Bryce plans to continue helping in the food pantry. He even asked about becoming a permanent volunteer.


“My favorite part is stocking the shelves and donating. We are lucky to be able to provide for others,” Bryce shared.


Sandee Golden, Jewish Family Service Volunteer and Food Pantry Manager, shared, “It is very rewarding to know that Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry made a lasting impression on Bryce and now his family and friends.”


Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry is located in Clifton at Jewish Family Service Barbash Family Vital Support Center. It is the source for free kosher and non-kosher food, fresh produce, personal care, and household care items for individuals in the Greater Cincinnati Jewish community experiencing financial difficulties as well as anyone in need living in the Clifton neighborhood. It receives support in part from Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, and United Way of Greater Cincinnati.



Anyone interested in the many volunteer opportunities should contact Sandee at 513-766-3352 or

Acts of charity come full circle for the community



Thanks to a very determined and dedicated 13 year-old girl, what had started with Jewish Family Service recognizing a need in the community is ending with the opportunity for the social service agency to do even more.


Eliana Goldner spent countless hours decorating hand-made cards in hopes of raising funds for Jewish Family Service, an agency she learned of after a terrible tragedy at an overnight camp she was attending this past summer.


Eliana and her 10 cabin-mates were asleep at Camp Livingston during a severe thunderstorm when a healthy tree was struck by lightning, landing on their cabin and taking the life of a fellow camper and new-found friend.


Through the challenging next few weeks, Eliana found comfort in the support that she received from Jewish Family Service, a social service agency that takes pride in “always being there” for the community.


Jewish Family Service immediately mobilized an emotional response team of 16 staff, and continued through the end of the first camp session to send teams of its experienced professionals who regularly help JFS clients manage grief and life crises. To help the campers’ parents, the agency also coordinated resources about trauma and how to talk to their kids about what happened.


“After the accident Jewish Family Service came to help. They brought stuffed animals and notepads so that we could write down our feelings, which really helped. They sat with our cabin, ate with us, drew with us, and talked to us. JFS made it easier for us to deal with what happened and they made us all comfortable enough to finish out the rest of the camp session,” said Eliana.


Months after the accident Eliana found the perfect opportunity to give back to the agency that helped bring her comfort in her time of need. For her Bat Mitzvah project she decided to raise funds for Jewish Family Service (JFS) so that they could “help more people like her.”


“Ellie made it a point to tell us how much she appreciated Jewish Family Service’s help and ability to bring back some normalcy after such a tragic event,” says Louis Goldner, Eliana’s father.


Rather than ask for donations, Eliana wanted to put effort in to something bigger. She handmade cards with her own personal designs and then emailed family and friends asking if they would like to buy a set for $5. The response she received was overwhelming.


“Everyone knew what happened at Camp Livingston, but when Ellie told the story and how JFS helped, they were so happy to support her and her JFS project,” said Louis.


Eliana received so many orders that she spent most of her nights leading up to her Bat Mitzvah creating nearly 500 cards. People were so compelled to give that they also included donations in their gifts.


On December 22, 2016, Eliana presented Jewish Family Service with a $1,000 donation.


“I was deeply touched by Eliana’s story,” said Beth Schwartz, CEO Jewish Family Service. “It is a sacred and honored privilege to have been there to help these girls and all the campers. I also want to highlight the strength of Camp Livingston who welcomed us with open arms so we could support them and ensure that the campers had a positive summer experience for the rest of their session.”


Said Eliana’s father, “What happened at Camp Livingston was a terrible, terrible tragedy. But to see how everyone came together was amazing to witness. This tragedy could have ended a different way for these children, but they ended up feeling closer after it happened.”


Eliana’s Bat Mitzvah is proof of the close friendship that these girls now share, as all of her nine cabinmates traveled from many states to stand by her side and recite the Kiddush. 

Ann Sutton Burke honored as Outstanding Leader in the Field of Aging


Jewish Family Service Director of Aging and Caregiver Services Ann Sutton Burke, MPA, CMC was honored as Outstanding Leader in the Field of Aging 2016 by Association for Professionals in Aging (APA) during an Awards and Holiday Luncheon December 8, 2016.


“Ann has been an exemplary leader in the field of aging services in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region for more than 36 years. She represents the field with immense leadership, utmost professionalism, tireless advocacy, and fierce passion for serving the unique needs of elders,” said Beth Schwartz, Jewish Family Service CEO, who nominated Burke. “We are proud that APA honored her with this award.”


APA is dedicated to increasing the ability of professionals from a broad range of disciplines to better meet the needs of older adults in the Tri-State area.


“Ann is widely respected among her peers, innovative in her approach to aging services, skilled in her ability to manage programs and people, and has devoted her entire career to elevating the lives of older people in our area and across the nation,” said Beth.


Ann has a Bachelor’s degree from Miami University in Sociology with a concentration on Gerontology, a Masters of Public Administration from Xavier University, and is Care Manager Certified. She is a Past President of Association for Professionals in Aging, a Board Member of the Midwest Chapter of the Aging Life Care Association (ALCA), the publisher of the ALCA Midwest Chapter newsletter, a member of the Planning Committees for both the Forum on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association Annual Symposium. Before joining Jewish Family Service, she worked for Senior Services of Northern Kentucky, Visiting Nurse Association, Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services, and Cincinnati Area Senior Services.


Her expertise in helping senior adults live independently in their own homes was nationally recognized when she gave testimony at a United States Senate hearing in 2006. Ann was honored in 2012 by the Council on Aging of Southwest Ohio as the Outstanding Professional in Aging.


“Ann is diligent in her efforts to dispel stereotypes and bias against aging,” said Beth. “She guards against common ageist commentary and portrayal, instead promoting a celebration of aging.”


Ann shares the philosophy on respecting older adults in her email signature byline, which reads, “My belief and commitment is that we are more than our age, and that stereotypes and discrimination based on age need to be challenged.” 

Jewish Family Service Bigs & Littles Brings Positivity to Local Student Lives


By: Chandler Bonn, Scripps Howard Foundation marketing intern


The Littles sat with their Bigs, laughing and smiling excitedly, as they watched a slideshow, reminiscing on all the events and activities they did together. They were celebrating their last Bigs & Littles program meeting of the school year on Tuesday, May 10, when mentors (Bigs) met with students (their mentees or Littles) at the Academy of World Languages for arts, crafts and warm goodbyes.


Prior to the slideshow, Bigs sat with their Littles at classroom desks to personalize their own picture frames with paint, glitter and markers. When finished, they traded frames with a parting wish written inside the boarder.


Jewish Family Service Bigs & Littles promotes the development of youth in the community through quality mentoring relationships. The Bigs & Littles program has been serving the children and families of Cincinnati since 1910.  This after school Bigs & Littles program pairs at risk students age 7-17 with caring, adult mentors to be positive influences in their lives on a weekly basis. It is currently offered at the Academy of World Languages and Pleasant Ridge Montessori, with plans to include Rockwern Academy next school year. 


“The benefit of this program is showing a child that an adult cares about them in their lives, that they can have an opinion, they’re valued and to learn about healthy relationship skills,” said Karen Chinchilla, Match Support Specialist for Bigs & Littles.


Chinchilla described instances of growth in Littles throughout the program. One mentor helped her mentee overcome insecurity throughout the semester due to her small stature. “She really helped her understand that you may be a tiny person physically, but you’re not a tiny person inside,” said Chinchilla. “At first she was hesitant to speak with her mentor and then by the last day she was in tears and hugging her mentor because she really made an impact on her life.”


Although made to improve the lives of the Littles, Bigs have found the program to be an awarding experience as well. Some former principals, and some dance instructors, every Big comes from a different background but has the same opportunity to encourage the healthy development of a child.


“To me, working with kids, you get so much back from them and it’s been a real pleasure to watch all of the girls, not just the young lady I work with, mature throughout the process,” said Meryl Gruber, an East Walnut Hills resident and mentor to a sixth grader. “It’s a nice mixture of different nationalities and home lives. It’s been a nice group in terms of they’ve all been very respectful of one another.”

Connie Bergstein Dow, a Hyde Park resident and Bigs & Littles mentor, was initially skeptical of the program’s impact because the experience was new for her, but is now glad she volunteered.


“I really look forward to seeing my mentee every week and my heart goes out to her because I know she’s having issues at home but she comes here and she’s happy and she’s engaged,” said Bergstein Dow. “It makes me really happy that she has that safe hour to have fun.”


Bigs & Littles emphasizes social-emotional learning by teaching life skills to students, they might not otherwise learn, such as conflict resolution, anger management and self-confidence. While focus is put on the student’s experience, mentors have found benefit from participating as well. 


“Knowing how to connect with a child, interact, share their, time, talent, care, concern with that mentee is great for the mentor. It’s a win-win situation for the match,” said Chinchilla. “You don’t have to change yourself to change a life of a child. Sometimes extraordinary people are those who just go the extra step. Just offering your life experiences, care, concern and friendship to a child could be the greatest gift.”


For information about becoming Bigs & Littles mentor, contact Erin Phillips at 513-766-3319 or

Groundbreaking Holocaust Survivor Care Grant

March 21, 2016  Cincinnati’s Jewish Holocaust survivors will receive groundbreaking care to reduce isolation thanks to a $60,000 grant Jewish Family Service Cincinnati received from the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). When combined with matching funds, this award will enable $80,000 in new programming for survivors. 


Jewish Family Service Cincinnati is one of only 23 organizations to receive this funding through the JFNA’s Center for Advancing Holocaust Survivor Care, which was recently launched following an award from the United States Department of Health and Human Services for up to $12 million over 5 years to advance innovations in person-centered, trauma-informed services for Holocaust survivors in the United States.


These grants mark the first time in history that the United States federal government has provided direct funding for Holocaust survivor services. Of the more than 100,000 Holocaust survivors in the United States, nearly one quarter are aged eighty-five or older, and one in four lives in poverty. Many live alone and are at risk for social isolation, depression, and other physical and mental health conditions stemming from periods of starvation, disease and torture in their youth.


Person-centered, trauma-informed services (PCTI) care is a holistic approach to service provision that promotes the dignity, strength, and empowerment of trauma victims by incorporating knowledge about the role of trauma in victims' lives into agency programs, policies and procedures.


Jewish Family Service Cincinnati will use the grant to teach Russian- and English-speaking Holocaust survivors, many of whom live below 150% of the federal poverty line, how to use a variety of tablet-based programs to stay connected to friends and family.


“Jewish Family Service will draw on its knowledge and history of providing PCTI care to pilot and implement its program, Tablets and Technology: Alleviating Isolation in Holocaust Survivors,” says Gail Ziegler, LISW-S, Senior Manager of Jewish Family Service’s Center for Holocaust Survivors. “Our trauma-informed program will ensure that survivors stay connected to the community, while also respecting their need for independence by teaching them how to communicate and interact with the world electronically.”


The Center for Advancing Holocaust Survivor Care promotes these innovative service delivery models together with the expertise of partner organizations including the Association of Jewish Family & Children's Agencies and the Claims Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.  The grant money is a combination of federal dollars and philanthropic dollars raised by Jewish Federations as part of JFNA's National Holocaust Survivor Initiative, which seeks to raise $45 million to support the Survivor community.


Jewish Family Service programs and services for Holocaust survivors and older adults receive additional funding from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, The Jewish Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, United Way of Greater Cincinnati, and Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio. It is a member agency of the Association of Jewish Family & Children’s Agencies.


For more information, contact Jewish Family Service at 513-469-1188.

Students from 5 states volunteer at our food pantry

More than 80 teens with NFTY-OV (North American Federation of Temple Youth - Ohio Valley Region) visited Jewish Family Service Barbash Family Vital Support Center to learn about our agency and our Heldman Family Food Pantry.


The middle- and high-school age students are from Reform congregations in parts of Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia. They were on the Cincinnati Clifton campus of Hebrew Union College (where our Vital Support Center is located) the second weekend of January for Study Kallah.


They stocked shelves, made blankets for our clients, and participated in a role playing activity on food insecurity by planning a week of meals for a family of 3 based on food received in the our food pantry.


Student groups are encouraged to visit and volunteer at Jewish Family Service Barbash Family Vital Support Center. Please contact Sandee Golden  at 513-766-3352.



Food pantry filled with fresh garden veggies

Cincinnati July 10, 2015 Jewish Family Service celebrated National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month in June with the planting of the new raised garden beds at Hebrew Union College (HUC). HUC generously donated materials, space, and the assistance of a master gardener volunteer to raise fresh homegrown vegetables. This produce will stock the shelves of the Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry. The joint efforts of HUC faculty, staff, and students, as well as Jewish Family Service staff, activity participants, and volunteers will help feed families in need in Cincinnati’s Jewish community and the Clifton area.


The project began in April, when volunteers constructed nine wooden beds for placement in the open green space on HUC’s campus. The garden beds were soon filled with fresh soil, and the planting began. Volunteers planted a variety of vegetables, including green onions, kale, bush beans, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, sweet peppers, several types of herbs, and more.


During the planning stage, a planting schedule was created that would allow a consistent yield through the summer and fall. This schedule will keep the shelves of the Food Pantry stocked with fresh vegetables, so clients can enjoy a healthy, balanced diet.


In 2014, the Heldman Family Food Pantry provided clients with food for 35,278 meals and helped promote food security and healthy eating throughout the year. The addition of fresh vegetables will increase the variety of foods available to clients, making it easier for families to prepare nutritious, well-balanced meals.


The Food Pantry is located in the Barbash Family Vital Support Center, which also offers a variety of wellness activities for those struggling with mental illness and other challenges. These group activities include exercise, support groups, art projects, cooking lessons, Hebrew instruction, and more. The dedicated Jewish Family Service staff also offers a series of classes to teach vital life skills, from money management to resume writing.


Jewish Family Service, which strengthens lives in our community through adoption, education & mentoring, vital support services, and aging & caregiver services, provides support for food pantry clients through support it receives in part from the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, United Way of Greater Cincinnati, and Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati.


The Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry receives funding from Jewish Federation and donations from many individual contributors, congregations, B’nai Mitzvah families (through our Centerpiece for Tzedakah program), and food retailers including Remke Market, Meijer, and Marx Bagels. Jewish Family Service Food Pantry is also supported, in part, by the generosity and support of individuals and businesses that give annually to the Freestore Foodbank.

Beth is a WE CELEBRATE Woman of the Year Finalist!

Congratulations to Beth Schwartz, Executive Director of JFS, who has been selected by Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber as one of five finalists for the 2014 Woman of the Year in the nonprofit category.


WE Celebrate honors women and women-owned businesses for their achievement, innovation, social responsibility, and mentoring as they inspire women leaders in Cincinnati USA.

JFS joins MAZON initiative to help alleviate senior hunger

Jewish Family Service (JFS) of Cincinnati has joined an initiative with 12 other JFS agencies across seven states to alleviate food insecurity among low-income senior adults and ensure they receive nutrition assistance help through the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).


The initiative, Solutions to Senior HungerTM, is sponsored by MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger in partnership with the Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies (AJFCA) and is funded by the Walmart Foundation. The program is designed to reach seniors who are either unaware of their eligibility for SNAP benefits or are resistant to applying.


To help local Ohio seniors, Jewish Family Service will conduct SNAP outreach and education, and help eligible clients with the SNAP application.


Download the informational brochure about SNAP


JFS opens Vital Support Center with Grand Opening Celebration


CINCINNATI What started ten years ago as a dream to provide a holistic approach to promoting wellness and recovery for families in need became a reality when Jewish Family Service recently opened its Barbash Family Vital Support Center.


"Today we take a big step forward-all of us together-as we begin a journey that will touch lives and change lives every day. Today we take a big step toward fulfilling Jewish Family Service's vision of leading our community to a place where everyone lives with hope, stability, and dignity," said Beth Schwartz, Executive Director of Jewish Family Service.

Schwartz's comments were made October 27, 2013 at the community-wide grand opening celebration of the Jewish Family Service Barbash Family Vital Support Center, located on the Clifton campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. With the support of funders and private individual donors, an unused campus building that had housed a swimming pool and lockers was fully renovated into the warm and inviting Vital Support Center.


“In a remarkable transition of space, the building now contains a beautiful reception area, private rooms for client assessments and meetings, a large activity room and kitchen, and a state of the art food pantry. In this Center, Jewish Family Service will serve hungry people, facilitate wellness and recovery programming to people living with chronic mental health issues, and provide case management services to people striving toward self-sustainability,” said Lee Sherman CEO of the Association of Jewish Family and Children's Agencies (AJFCA). AJFCA, which is headquartered in Baltimore, represents 125 Jewish Family Service agencies across North America.


The transition was more than that of a building; it was also a transformation of an agency. Over time, as more families in need were coming to Jewish Family Service for assistance, its staff recognized that a bag of food or a rent check was not enough to maintain stability. The new Barbash Family Vital Support Center is Jewish Family Service’s realization of the dream to address the full spectrum of hardships that accompany hunger and poverty- homelessness, fear, isolation, stress, and despair.


"Ten years ago we opened a food pantry in the basement of Golf Manor Synagogue. We are forever indebted to Rabbi Chanan Balk and Golf Manor for providing rent-free space for so many years. It was in this basement pantry that Vital Services Department Director Fran Gafvert began dreaming of a more holistic approach to battling food insecurity, poverty, and mental illness," said Schwartz.

Roxanne Qualls, Fran Gafvert
Roxanne Qualls, Fran Gafvert

Cincinnati Vice-Mayor Roxanne Qualls recognized the important role the Center will fill in our community and thanked everyone who made the Barbash Family Vital Support Center possible not just for the people in the Jewish community, but for all of those in our Cincinnati community who will find this a place of refuge, support, and help.


The food pantry is open to Jewish Family Service clients as well as all people in need who live in Cincinnati's 45220 zip code. It is the only food pantry in the region that also includes a section with a full array of kosher foods and meat.

The Vital Support Center offers a best-practice and evidence-based program. It is also the only place in our community that addresses the unique needs of people experiencing hunger, poverty and mental illness who desire to be served within a Jewish cultural setting. For example, Jewish Family Service clients can enjoy Jewish holiday themed parties, rabbinic support, and Hebrew classes.


Said Shep Englander, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, “This truly is a historic day because it is not only the day when we launch what will be a national model, but also the day when we celebrate a partnership and collaboration that is truly unique.” He added that the Vital Support Center is right at the heart of the caring pillar of the Cincinnati 2020 initiative to secure our future as a welcoming Jewish community that provides an exceptional quality of life for every one of its members. “The Center is a result of what has always been one of the core values of our community—caring for people in need by reducing poverty and isolation.”


Because of the unique collaboration of several organizations and individual donors, Jewish Family Service was ultimately able to bring the Barbash Family Vital Support Center to the community’s individuals in need.


“Here’s where the stars and planets all lined up for us,” said Schwartz. What had started with an original planning grant from the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati (now called Interact for Health) grew to include financial support from the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, and several individual donors including the Bernie and Pam Barbash Family and the George and Anne Heldman Family. Finally, as Jewish Family Service was touring several potential properties, Hebrew Union College suggested its campus as a possible location.

Community invited to Grand Opening Celebration of Vital Support Center

The community is invited to the Grand Opening Celebration of the Jewish Family Service Barbash Family Vital Support Center 9:30 – 11 am Sunday, October 27, 2013 at 3113 Clifton Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45220, on the campus of Hebrew Union College in Clifton.

The Jewish Family Service Barbash Family Vital Support Center provides a comprehensive approach to tackling the hardships that accompany poverty, hunger, and mental illness.


“A 2008 community survey identified 1,100 low-income Jewish households in Cincinnati, and another 1,625 households that are just one car repair, one job layoff, or one health setback from descending into poverty. Along with poverty, hunger, and mental illness come the hardships of homelessness, fear, isolation, stress and despair,” said Beth Schwartz, Jewish Family Service Executive Director.


“We are thankful for the support of all our major donors, Bernard and Pam Barbash and Family, the George and Anne Heldman Family, the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Inc., and the leadership of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati for bringing the vision and funding together.”


By offering services under one roof, Jewish Family Service professional social workers and care managers can best lead its clients toward stability, security, and self-sufficiency. Clients at the Barbash Family Vital Support Center will benefit from a food pantry to end hunger, case management to promote stability, and peer-based socialization activities to encourage wellness and recovery.


The food pantry is open to Jewish Family Service clients as well as all people in need who live in Cincinnati's 45220 zip code area. It is the only food pantry in the region that also includes a section with a full array of kosher foods and meat.


The Vital Support Center is also the only place in our community that addresses the unique needs of people experiencing hunger, poverty and mental illness who desire to be served within a Jewish cultural setting. For example, Jewish Family Service clients can enjoy Jewish holiday themed parties, rabbinic support, and Hebrew classes.


“Socialization and spiritual needs are as important to achieving wellness as nutrition, exercise and diet. We focus on helping clients achieve their goals in all these areas,” said Fran Gafvert, Jewish Family Service Director of Vital Services.


In the spirit of tikkun olam (repairing the world), the Barbash Family Vital Support Center will offer a wide range of social action and volunteer opportunities.


“The Barbash Family Vital Support Center is a place where clients, staff, and volunteers are welcome, and where everyone can feel accepted and be accepting. Together we can end the stigma of poverty, hunger, and mental illness,” said Gafvert.


Get a tour of the new Center to see how it is so much more than just a food pantry, and learn how you and your family can volunteer. RSVP at or to Paula at 513-766-3326 or

The grand opening celebration began with a welcome from Mark Miller, President of the Board of Jewish Family Service, and Andy Berger, President of the Board of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati. The invocation was provided by Rabbi David Ellenson and Rabbi Aaron Panken of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). Following comments by Sherman, Qualls, Schwartz, and Englander, a video about the Vital Support Center’s development was shown (and can be viewed on the Jewish Family Service website The morning continued with a ribbon-cutting ceremony by Michael Oestreicher, President of The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, and the Barbash and Heldman families. Rabbi Jonathan Cohen, Dean, Cincinnati campus of HUC-JIR, concluded the celebration by leading a prayer as Fran Gafvert hung the mezuzah.


The video included this heartwarming comment from a Jewish Family Service recipient, “This is what tikun olam (Hebrew for repairing the world) is about. Just thank you from the bottom of my heart and I know others absolutely feel the same way. Just thank you.”


Learn more about the Vital Support Center, see more photos of the celebration, and watch the video shown at the event.


JFS 2013 Annual Meeting installs new President, instills strength

Jewish Family Service had one overriding message at its Annual Meeting held June 25, 2013: JFS has grown and transformed from an agency that was in a survival mode for several years into a strong organization that stands out amongst the crowd. Learn more.

Community Leaders Gather in Washington to Advocate on Behalf of Jewish Community and Vulnerable Populations

Jewish Family Service Executive Director Beth Schwartz convened with government professionals and other lay leaders in Washington DC February 5-7 at the Government Affairs Institute (GAI) to advocate on behalf of Jewish community and vulnerable populations. She is shown left as she enters the Eisenhower Executive office building for White House briefings.  Learn more

Memorial dedicated to Jews who lost their lives to Nazi regime in WWII

On Friday, November 9, 2012, Jewish Family Service and the Center for Holocaust & Humanity Education dedicated a permanent memorial to honor all Jews who lost their lives by the Nazi regime: Jewish soldiers, partisans, and innocent victims. Learn more and see photos from the event.

JFS approved by State of Ohio to answer Medicare concerns

Jewish Family Service has been approved by the State of Ohio as one of only a handful of sites in the Tri-state area to provide Medicare counseling and information; and the only Jewish communal site in Southwestern Ohio.


The designation comes from the Ohio Department of Insurance after four Jewish Family Service Aging specialists recently completed certification training by the state’s Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program (OSHIIP).  Learn more

Food Pantry is expanding to "one-stop" Barbash Family Vital Support Center

We are pleased to announce that we have been awarded major funding to propel our dream toward reality...expanding our food pantry into the Barbash Family Vital Support Center, a comprehensive "one-stop" service center where the most disenfranchised and vulnerable members of our community can receive comprehensive wrap-around care from Jewish Family Service professionals. Read the press release from The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati press release, and the Jewish Family Service of Cincinnati press release.

Bikur Cholim Spa Day makes women in assisted living feel special

Women at the Bridgeway Pointe assisted living community felt extra special when Jewish Family Service organized a Spa Day for them Tuesday, March 27. Eight of the residents were pampered by students at Paul Mitchell: the School who volunteered to do manicures and hair styling. Learn more and see pictures

Ann Sutton Burke honored as COA's Outstanding Professional in Aging

Ann Sutton Burke, Jewish Family Service director of Aging and Caregiver Services, was honored as the 2012 Outstanding Professional in Aging by the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio when Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann presented her with the award before an audience of 500 professionals and volunteers in aging, March 7, 2012. Learn more.

Holocaust survivors celebrate at annual Hanukkah party

December 2011 Jewish Family Service Center for Holocaust Survivors hosted the annual Hanukkah party, one of the many Friendship Club activities held throughout the year and is open to all Jewish Holocaust survivors.The entire program was in English and Russian, reflecting the further expansion of services and programming to Russian-speaking Jewish Holocaust survivors in our community. Learn more and see pictures

Volunteers brighten holidays for families in need

94 children, whose families are struggling financially, will better enjoy the holidays thanks to the generosity of Jewish Family Service friends and staff who supported the Snowlake and Dreidel Gift project. Learn more

Jewish Family Service Workshop teaches new approach to forgiveness

CINCINNATI APRIL 22, 2013 Cincinnati professionals gained new insights into forgiveness when Jewish Family Service presented “Don’t ask me to forgive you! A radical approach to healing from interpersonal wounds” with national media guest expert and best selling author Janis Abrahms Spring, PhD, ABPP on Thursday, April 11.


Spring began her presentation by describing two unhealthy responses to interpersonal wounds. “Research says that hating and hurting is not good for you, but that does not translate into the fact that forgiveness is good for you,” said Spring.


She went on to describe how forgiveness, when it is given too easily, can lead to continual mistreatment or quash any opportunity for a relationship to grow closer. The other extreme, refusing to forgive, is a reactive response that prevents any future positive resolution of conflict. Spring cited scientific research that showed the correlation between non-forgiving and poor health.


“Refusing to forgive literally makes you sick. Research shows it can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, and compromise your immune system. This can make you more vulnerable to cancer, stroke, and heart disease. Living in a grudge state diverts you from making peace with yourself and it punishes you, not the offender,” she said.


Spring then offered two healthy ways to heal. Genuine forgiveness is one way, but the offender must be involved for that to occur. She asked what happens when the offender is unavailable or unwilling to earn forgiveness.


“What is your response when dealing with parent’s suicide or losing a child to an act of terrorism,” she asked. “Forgiving can be too generous. Not forgiving is too destructive to your personal well being.”


She presented what she described as an alternative radical approach to the emotional healing process, Acceptance. Acceptance was defined as “a responsible response to an interpersonal injury when the offender can’t or won’t engage in the healing process. It is a program of self-care, a generous and healing gift to oneself accomplished by the self, for the self.”


Spring explained that the goal of Acceptance is to resurrect your best self, “Never let the need for revenge be greater than the need for healing.” She also suggested ways to help stop obsessing, noting that “each time you go over it in your mind, you affect yourself physically and emotionally.”


In private practice for 35 years, Dr. Spring is a recipient of the Connecticut Psychological Association’s Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Practice of Psychology and the Connecticut Association of Marriage and Family Therapists Award for Distinguished Family Service. Board Certified in Clinical Psychology, she is a former clinical supervisor in the Department of Psychology at Yale University.


“Don’t ask me to forgive you!” was Jewish Family Service’s 9th annual Miriam O. Smith Educational Series (MOSES) workshop. Susan Shorr (of Symmes Township) and Marcie Bachrach (of Blue Ash) were the volunteer co-chairs. The workshop provides the opportunity for professional development as well as offers the community a chance to learn from nationally recognized experts on different mental health issues.


Jewish Family Service provided the 261 event attendees Continuing Education Units (CEUs) in many disciplines including social workers, counselors, marriage and family therapists, educators, psychologists, case managers, nurses, chemical dependency counselors, rehabilitation counselors, life coaches, clergy, psychiatrists, and occupational therapists.


Jewish Family Service established the MOSES series to honor the memory of Miriam O. Smith, who was a long time social worker at Jewish Family Service. She provided extensive individual and family therapy, headed the adoption program, and served as the interim director of the agency.


Next Year, the 10th Annual Miriam O. Smith Educational Series will feature Diane Poole Heller, PhD, world renowned author, presenter, and expert in trauma and adult attachment.