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Aging Services Emerge as a Community Priority

In keeping with a promise to provide updates on its strategic planning process, Jewish Family Service is continuing to share highlights from a survey about community needs. Through input from more than 300 people, Jewish Cincinnati made it clear that aging services are a top priority.

“Finding information, services and care to help people as they grow older can be incredibly challenging,” said Jewish Family Service CEO Liz Vogel. “When the complexities of health insurance are factored in, it becomes even more difficult. This issue transcends education and financial means to impact nearly everyone.”


As JFS drafts its strategic plan, it’s considering the effect of a societal shift underway. By 2030, 20% of Americans will be retirement age, and older Americans will outnumber children. In the Jewish community, more people will be caring for aging loved ones who wish to age in place rather than move to senior campuses.


“Social isolation is quickly emerging as a significant health problem,” said Ann Sutton Burke who leads the Aging Services team at Jewish Family Service. “According to AARP it has the health impact of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” Burke’s team is investigating solutions to address this growing concern.


Jewish Family Service also is considering how services at the Barbash Family Vital Support Center may evolve in coming years. Forty-five percent of Baby Boomers have no retirement savings, according to a study by the Insured Retirement Institute. Among those with some retirement savings, 28% have less than $100,000.


Jewish Family Service already offers programs and services for older adults and their adult children who provide care.

w  StarPoint Home Care’s personal caregivers help with activities of daily living, keeping people aging at home more secure and independent.

w  CareLink Care Management offers concierge support with navigating the challenges of aging in place.

w  Caregiver Services help caregivers balance their lives while assisting loved ones.

w  The Center for Holocaust Survivors provides Survivors with care management; home visits; restitution assistance; counseling and referrals; social therapeutic activities; free hearing tests; and safety/adaptive equipment.


Jewish Family Service also operates AgeWell Cincinnati in collaboration with the Mayerson JCC, JVS Career Services, StarPoint Home Care and Cedar Village.



“Balancing our service mix to address the community’s highest priorities is a key component of our strategic plan” said Jewish Family Service Board Chair Dan Rapp. “It’s the highest form of stewardship to direct our resources toward the most pressing needs in Jewish Cincinnati.”

New women’s group Tikvaseinu holds successful first event

Cincinnati, OH: A new women’s group, designed to empower women and their families who experience mental health issues, held their kick-off event on Tuesday, July 9th at the home of Arna Poupko Fisher.


Chaya Spetner, of Cincinnati, created Tikvaseinu (which means “hopeful”) to provide a forum for women in the Cincinnati Jewish Community to discuss mental health and how it affects them and their loved ones. The goal for this first event was to learn about and explore mental health awareness with guest speaker from Chicago, Rachel Zimmerman, LPCP. This opening program was generously sponsored by Congregation Zichron Elizer, Golf Manor Synagogue, Shaarei Torah and Cincinnati Mikveh.


Over 70 women came together to hear Zimmerman speak about the mental health crisis in America, and discover ways to find your path to happiness while figuring out how to stop destructive comparisons and remove the “shame” that goes along with mental illness.


After a small presentation from Spetner and an introduction from Liz Vogel, CEO of Jewish Family Service, Zimmerman opened with a story about how she noticed that people rally around those going through physical illnesses, but tend to shy away from those suffering from mental illness. “Everyone here is personally affected, whether it’s their own struggle with mental health, or whether it’s a family member, a parent, a spouse, a loved one, a best friend,” said Zimmerman.  And despite how common it is, there is still a stigma attached to having mental health issues.


Zimmerman believes strongly that there is no such thing as “normal”; everyone is on a journey and has their own baseline that will be different than anyone else’s. She urges self-compassion (it’s ok to not be ok sometimes) and to surround yourself with a supportive network that you feel safe and comfortable talking with about what you are going through. Most importantly, “drop the struggle and accept where you are, not where you thought you were going to be,” and don’t forget to give support to those who are struggling (and their loved ones as well).   


“Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional," Zimmerman said. She encourages women to not be afraid of going to therapy, or taking medications if that will help. “I don’t see anyone hesitate when it comes to strep throat, to cellulitis- even to cancer,” she says. “Don’t fall into the mind-game that taking medication means something about you as a person, your value, or your worth. This is just not true.”


Women left feeling empowered and excited to a part of this inspiring new group. The night closed with the attendees given an opportunity to voice what they felt was necessary to support women in regards to mental health; survey forms were completed and results will be addressed by the appropriate agencies.


"The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Tikvaseinu is excited to do many great things for the community,” shared Spetner. To RSVP for the July 22nd, August 5th and/or August 7th events, please email


Tikvaseinu is a non-profit organization, and is affiliated with Jewish Family Service of Cincinnati and is connected with RELIEF (a mental health resource referral organization).  




Lifting Up Voices: Protecting Older Adults from Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Financial Exploitation


As adults get older, they can become more vulnerable to scams and different types of abuse—sometimes from those whom they trust. The statistics show this is a pervasive problem, which is becoming increasingly common. Elder abuse has been recognized as a largely hidden public health problem that affects 5 million, or one in 10 older Americans aged 60 and older, every year, according to the National Council on Aging. Globally, an estimated 141 million older adults have experienced elder abuse.


What is elder abuse?

It is well known that millions of older adults are financially exploited each year. In fact, reports from Bloomberg indicate that those over 60 in the US are losing $37 billion a year to fraud—and that is just what is reported. However, the impact goes far beyond the pocket book and affects the physical and emotional health of victims. Unfortunately, in approximately 60 percent of financial exploitations of older adults, the perpetrator is a family member.


Abuse of older adults is not limited to finances. Elder abuse also includes physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, as well as exploitation, neglect, and abandonment. These perpetrators are also often known to the victim and can include adult children, other family members, and spouses, as well as staff at nursing homes, assisted living, and other facilities.


Why don’t older adults ask for help?

Many older adults find these problems difficult to talk about, and so many just don’t. They hesitate to share them with others because of:

  • Shame or embarrassment

  • Fear of retaliation

  • Sense of resignation or powerlessness

  • Family loyalty

  • Lack of credibility

  • Fear of nursing homes or institutions

Spotting the signs of elder abuse

While an older adult may not report elderly abuse, there are some things people can watch out for as a caregiver or loved one to spot the signs of abuse. Take concern if an older adult:

  • Seems depressed, confused, or withdrawn

  • Is isolated from friends and family

  • Has unexplained bruises, burns, or scars

  • Appears dirty, under-fed, dehydrated, over- or under-medicated, or not receiving needed care for medical problems

  • Recent changes in banking or spending patterns

Where to report suspicions of elder and dependent abuse

Adult Protective Services agencies investigate complaints about abuse, neglect, and exploitation of adults who are unable to care for themselves or make decisions due to mental or physical impairment, illness, or a crisis in their lives.


If you believe that an adult age 60 or older has suffered abuse, neglect, or exploitation, you may file a report with your county department of Job and Family Services by phone, mail, fax, or in person during agency hours—or you can call 1-855-OHIO-APSS (1-855-644-6277) toll-free at any time of day. In Hamilton County, call Adult Protective Services at 513-421-LIFE (5433). All calls are confidential. People who witness any form of abuse should call 911.


AgeWell Cincinnati is also able to answer your questions about elder abuse and help connect you to the agency that can best provide support. 


Taking action

We live in an aging society. A large number of older adults are isolated, and it is easy for elder abuse to happen—particularly as Baby Boomers age and scammers and others recognize that this population has trillions in assets that they can help themselves to with seemingly little repercussions.


The Elder Fraud and Elder Justice Act was passed in 2010. Prosecutors and practitioners say that more money needs to be appropriated to try to prevent elder abuse from happening.  Unfortunately, there is not enough money to research, prevent, and train people to recognize and deal with this epidemic. Collaborative action focused on preventing abuse across the lifespan—from keeping children safe to the wellbeing of elders—is vital for the entire community.


Lifting Up Voices for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2019 in Cincinnati

Every year on June 15, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is commemorated in the US and around the world. WEAAD was launched by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) and the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life (NCALL) has joined forces with WEAAD with this year’s theme, Lifting Up Voices for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) 2019. AgeWell Cincinnati strives to increase elder abuse awareness, as we Lift Up Voices for older adults in our community.






Strategic planning and unity was the focus of Jewish Family Service’s 75th Annual Meeting held May 1, 2019.

“As times change, communities change, and needs change,” said newly installed Board President Dan Rapp while discussing the need for strategic planning. He also acknowledged what remains constant is the professional expertise, dedication, and compassion of the Jewish Family Service staff who give their hearts and souls to help its clients.


Jewish Family Service CEO Liz Vogel explained strategic planning’s aspiration to create a powerful service model making it harder for people in need to fall through the cracks. “We identified that our core strength is our ability to reach into and respond to the needs of the Jewish community. We are part of a care delivery network that includes family, friends, community agencies, and Rabbis. I call it our “sticky web” of wrap-around support working together to direct people to the right level of support so we can reach people that no other agency could. And we offer culturally appropriate services that aren’t available anywhere else.”


She said strategic planning will “continue to increase engagement with the Jewish community where we are best positioned to deliver the highest quality of care; better understand and address the needs of families and children; brand our professional services so that the community has a wider understanding of our high care delivery; and obtain financial stability.”


The newly installed 2019-2020 Board of Directors will help institute changes to best meet the evolving community needs. Joining Rapp on the Board are Larry Juran as Immediate Past President, Nancy Steinberg Warren as Vice President, Melanie Blumental as Secretary, and Lev Orlov as Treasurer. Izar Spivak and Max Yamson are Members at Large to the Executive Committee. Cathy Bowers, Rabbi A.Y. Braunstein, Joanne Grossman, Laura Katz, and Gary Smith are new Board members. Amy Diamond, Mark Miller, Steve Mombach, Nina Paul, David Schimberg, Susan Shorr, and Scott Slovin are continuing as Board Members.


Awards acknowledging staff longevity were given to Ann Sutton Burke, Sandee Golden, and Gail Ziegler for 15 years, and Jonathan Magrisso and June Ridgway for 5 years.


The Miriam Dettelbach Award, given in honor of the first executive director of Jewish Family Service as recognition of exceptional volunteer service to the agency, was given to Meryl Juran and Judy Kadetz who co-chaired the 2018 Jewish Family Service Dancing with our Stars gala fundraiser. A special thank you also went out to the eight gala dancers who helped raise $200,000 in donations and sponsorships to support the essential programs of JFS. This includes Marty Betagole, Ross Evans, Brooke Guigui, Matt Hiudt, Oscar Jarnicki, Amy Rubenstein, Ghita Sarembock and Michael Woloshin. 

Dr. Samuel S. Rockwern Passover Delivery Project of Jewish Family Service makes an impact...and you can too!

CINCINNATI, OH March 25, 2019 --

How does your donation to the Dr. Samuel S. Rockwern Passover Delivery Project of Jewish Family Service impact our community? Here’s just one example:


Leah and Nathan rely on our Passover Delivery Project to traditionally observe the holiday at home.  They both grew up keeping the traditions of Passover: no consumption of bread, pasta, corn, peas, rice…any and all prohibited foods were off the table, literally and figuratively. And unfortunately, kosher for Passover items are expensive, often to the point of leaving those with unstable financial situations have to choose between paying their bills or ritualistically celebrating Passover. For Leah and Nathan, and their 2 children, this became their reality. Nathan lost his job in the recession 8 years ago, and has struggled finding steady work; Leah works part time when she can.  With a reduced income, just buying matzo can be difficult.  As it’s very important to them to observe Passover as they did growing up, the Passover Delivery Project has been immeasurably helpful to them.


“Having Passover food brought to us…it’s such a blessing,” said Leah.  “We can have a seder, we can enjoy the food of the season, we can teach our children the traditions.  How can we say thank you enough?”


Nathan is also grateful for this project. “It takes some of the stress away at Passover, getting that kosher for Pesach food.  Knowing the community is there for us, helping us stay a part of the community, that means the world to me, to us.”


Leah and Nathan are aliases, of course. But the story is true. Every dollar you contribute to the Dr. Samuel S. Rockwern Passover Delivery Project of Jewish Family Service directly impacts members of our community. Not only does it help purchase kosher for Passover food (packaged, fresh and/or frozen) that allows them to observe Passover in the traditional way, but it helps keep the Heldman Family Food Pantry stocked year-round.


Now is the time: the Passover Delivery Project is on April 7th. Be a part of this mitzvah, help your community, and make your contribution to the Passover Delivery Project today. Our success is due to your generosity – thank you!      Donate now


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.



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.” 

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.