Jewish Family Services: Timeless Values, Timely Services

We are living in unprecedented times, and while our values are timeless, the need to put them into action has never been more urgent. One local organization that has acutely experienced the increased demand for urgent needs of our community as a result of the global pandemic is Jewish Family & Community Services (JFCS) East Bay.

Avi Rose

JFCS East Bay has been providing essential mental health and social services since 1877. In recent years, their clients have included everyone from Holocaust survivors and the elderly to working-class families struggling to make ends meet. But today, in the age of COVID-19, there is one thing that virtually every JFCS East Bay client has in common: increasing isolation and the escalating necessity for lifesaving services. With the support of two $75,000 emergency grants totaling $150,000 from the Federation’s COVID-19 Response Fund, Avi Rose, JFCS’s former Executive Director, led his organization to launch the COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Program, offering a menu of services including emergency financial assistance, mental health services, food delivery, parenting support, and more.

“It was clear that we had to start delivering services remotely to clients. It took a lot of flexibility and creativity from our staff and volunteers, but we moved quickly to meet the surge of needs.”

A particularly creative pivot was changing the food delivery process. “We have a long history of delivering holiday meals, but all of a sudden, we were in a situation where we had clients who were either short of money to get food or just not in a position in terms of physical vulnerability to go shopping. So, we had to figure that out really fast.” Not only were they swift, but they were also effective. Shortly after the shutdown, JFCS East Bay connected with a food distributor and began delivering produce and grocery cards to over 100 East Bay families.

For Passover 2020, JFCS partnered with Mihaela of Julia’s Kosher Kitchen who managed the process and delivery of holiday meals, using their strict cleanliness guidelines.

JFCS East Bay has always tended to the mind as well as the body, providing a variety of counseling services. However, shifting to virtual programs and assistance during the pandemic meant that some people didn’t have the technology to receive life-sustaining psychological and social services. So JFCS East Bay also raised funds to deliver Chromebooks to refugees and low-income families.

Since March, over $200,000 in support has been disbursed to 222 Bay Area households.

As the pandemic continues to disrupt and challenge so many lives, the COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Program, which is open to people of all backgrounds, and the Jewish Community Safety Net, which serves any East Bay Jewish person in need, are here to help.

Robin Mencher

JFCS East Bay has made an enormous impact under such extraordinary circumstances. In part, thanks to Avi who recently retired—leaving the organization in the capable hands of Robin Mencher, the new executive director. Robin will have the benefit of starting on a solid foundation of support from JFCS East Bay staff and volunteers—continuing their work to connect and empower the diverse community.

Please reach out if you or someone you know in the East Bay is in need of assistance; a member of the JFCS staff team is ready to help.

Categories: Community, Grantees


January 19, 2021


Jon Moskin