Jewish Family Service Food Pantry to expand into full service vital support center...


To tackle the growing needs of the most vulnerable members of our Jewish community, Jewish Family Service is transforming its Food Pantry into the Barbash Family Vital Support Center on the campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.


“The food pantry has been the gateway to the road of self-sufficiency. When clients come to us for food, it opens the door to other services Jewish Family Service can offer to help provide stability in their lives,” said Beth Schwartz, Jewish Family Service Executive Director. “The Barbash Center will strengthen the lives of people in need by putting the food pantry, case management, supportive counseling, emergency financial assistance, health promoting classes, and therapeutic socialization under one roof. It will also be a central location on a Jewish campus that can offer social action and mitzvah opportunities for all ages.”


The Barbash Family Vital Support Center will be housed in the former gymnasium building on the campus that will be renovated for this new purpose. Space will include an expanded food pantry, rooms for classes and social gatherings, private client meeting rooms, and more. The building will be accessible to all, allow for discreet entry, and have adequate parking.


For people served by the food pantry and who have no ability to travel by car, bus, or otherwise, Jewish Family Service staff and volunteers will continue to make deliveries as done currently.


Jewish Family Service has been the primary organization attending to the problem of poverty in the Cincinnati Jewish community. After recognizing a gaping hole in services available to low income Jewish clients who came to the agency, Jewish Family Service opened its food pantry in 2003 at Golf Manor Synagogue.


“We have been most appreciative of Golf Manor Synagogue’s generous partnership, with a donation of space rent-free for the past 8 ½ years. We could not have realized such a successful operation without them,” said Schwartz.


The food pantry, however, had outgrown its one room. What originally served about two dozen clients has evolved into a fully conceived Vital Services department providing food, emergency financial assistance, supportive counseling, and case management. By 2012, this vital support has improved the life circumstances of 458 individuals.


The growing need of the community was confirmed by the 2008 Community Study, which surveyed about 100,000 individuals in the greater Cincinnati area to capture the characteristics of the local Jewish community and provide insight into its needs, attitudes and behaviors. The study found, based on federal government guidelines, that there are 1,100 impoverished Jewish households. Another 1,625 near-poor households are just one car repair, job layoff or health setback from descending fully into poverty.


Jewish Family Service envisioned a comprehensive “one-stop” service center to address all of the problems associated with poverty and mental illness that often accompanies poverty-- a place where Jewish Family Service professionals could help the most disenfranchised and vulnerable members of Cincinnati’s Jewish community.


Initial development for a new center began with a planning grant from The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati and under the leadership of Fran Gafvert, Jewish Family Service Vital Services Department Director. A three-year grant providing seed money was then awarded by Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati as a result of a strong business plan.


This dream of a new center was propelled toward reality with the recent announcement of major financial support. The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati has committed to a high-impact investment of $3.2 million over 10 years. Jewish Federation of Cincinnati began a $2.1 Sustainability Campaign and Bernie and Pam Barbash have generously given the lead gift of $1 million. Private donations in the amount of $800,000 are still needed for the Center to open early 2013.


“We thank the Barbash Family, The Jewish Foundation and the Jewish Federation for their new funding that will pay for our expansion costs. Jewish Family Service will continue to shoulder the burden for the bulk of the Center’s ongoing budget. We will need to continue to rely on the community support for which we’ve always been so grateful. Donations given through both the Jewish Family Service Friends campaign and Jewish Federation of Cincinnati’s Community Campaign will be as important as ever before,” said Schwartz.


The new Center’s location requirements and priority services were identified through focus groups and surveys of current Jewish Family Service clients. The HUC-JIR campus was selected after comparing several sites around the city. Its central location is convenient to the more than 40 Greater Cincinnati area zip codes already served by Jewish Family Service. It is served by several Metro bus lines, with a bus stop in front of HUC-JIR’s main campus; and it is easily reached by both Interstates 71 and 75. The location is also near the additional community services that clients often require, such as health care and public benefits offices.


“We look forward to the synergies with the HUC-JIR and University of Cincinnati students and their social action groups. Being at HUC and having their rabbinic students provide pastoral services will truly make the Barbash Center unique,” said Schwartz.


“The HUC-JIR campus with its large space available to house the Barbash Center was the optimal location for our clients to readily access the support and services needed…and for us to reach more families in need,” said Schwartz. In addition to addressing the entire spectrum of hardships that accompany hunger and poverty, the Jewish Family Service case managers will work to identify and help more poor Jewish individuals discovered by the 2008 Community Study–with the goal to more than double its current number of clients served by 2020.


This project is an unprecedented collaboration among Jewish Family Service, Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, private donors, The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, and Hebrew Union College. It is the first project to go live under sponsorship of Cincinnati 2020, the community-wide collaboration to make Cincinnati a model community and a Jewish destination.


“We look forward to the opening of the Barbash Family Vital Support Center to help us fulfill the Jewish Family Service vision of leading the way to a Jewish community where everyone lives with dignity, security and hope,” said Schwartz.


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

Read the press releases about this project from The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati and Jewish Federation of Cincinnati.