Cincinnati is home to the oldest Jewish community in the Midwest, housing nearly 32,000 vibrant and diverse Jews across the region.
Jewish Family Service (JFS), is a local agency committed to strengthening lives in times of need and providing support to seniors living in poverty — many of which are Holocaust survivors and witnesses - who came to Cincinnati to rebuild their lives. They are the last of a generation who can recall first-hand truths about such a dynamic time in history.
JFS not only serves the local Jewish and elderly community, they also dedicate quality services to anyone who is experiencing poverty – no matter the age, race or ethnicity.
Like many organizations at the beginning of COVID-19, JFS noticed an uptick in requests for food and housing. The crisis had begun to expose people in our community who already struggle to make ends meet as well as the seemingly middle class, who were hit with challenges they never expected to face.
“The extra support from the COVID-19 Regional Response Fund activated by United Way of Greater Cincinnati has meant we haven’t had to turn anyone away,” said Liz Vogel, CEO of Jewish Family Service. “Requests for food and emergency rent assistance have already jumped by 20 percent. We believe that we’re just at the beginning of this economic crisis that has thrown so many people out of work.”
As more information about the virus became available, data suggested that seniors and the elderly were the most vulnerable and at risk for COVID-19 fatalities. As a result, many seniors became isolated. JFS stepped up to ensure that the elderly in the city would not feel neglected and would continue to stay connected with their friends and family.
Encouraged to re-evaluate how they provide resources to those most at risk, JFS quickly pivoted their senior group programs. Tablets and Technology, a hands-on program that helps seniors to get comfortable with technology, transitioned to a virtual experience. Clients were provided tablets and a data plan to help them stay connected to their daily routine. JFS conducted a music club through Skype and delivered art supplies for virtual art classes – all to ensure that seniors found an outlet and never experienced loneliness.
In addition to protecting the mental health of our senior community, JFS provided resources to help others manage the unknown, like food security. Their Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry remained open during the pandemic. The pantry serves more than 200 households annually and is the only food pantry in the region to offer kosher and non-kosher foods and meat. Due to social distancing, they pivoted from allowing clients to shop for their own food, to having staff and volunteers pre-pack items and deliver directly to cars.
United is the way to tackle the problems in our community. There are many organizations like Jewish Family Service, who are doing the hard work of helping people in need. That is why Jewish Family Service was chosen to receive a $25,000 grant to ensure the safe distribution of food and housing security for clients who are need during this extraordinary time.
As the country begins to open doors and relax certain guidelines, JFS is using this time to focus on who matters most, what has worked and what they can improve. There is an increased urgency as an organization to be nimble and to continue delivering first-class service everyone in the community.
The COVID-19 Regional Response Fund has distributed more than $7 million into the community to support residents who are most disproportionately affected by — and most vulnerable to — the health, economic, education, housing, and social impacts of the crisis.
Red carnations symbolize the Red Army’s role in defeating Nazi Germany. Jewish Family Service helped resettle people fleeing antisemitism in the former Soviet Union. In their honor, JFS hosts a Victory Day celebration every year but due to COVID-19, they chose to honor the day with carnations being delivered to people's homes.