Jewish Family Services of Ottawa (JFS) supports the vulnerable in our Jewish population and in the community-at-large. After a dozen years of serving on the board, I continue to be surprised by how many people underestimate the number of individuals our programs are designed to serve.
JFS responds daily to the needs of this population in a variety of meaningful ways: providing fresh produce to 120 families monthly via our Miriam’s Well program; supporting 80 families through referrals to the Ottawa Kosher Food Bank; delivering food to approximately 20 families from our Kosher Meals-on-Wheels program; and providing case management, counselling, advocacy, and financial support to individuals and Jewish families who live below the poverty line via our Tikvah program.
Much of the work that JFS accomplishes affects allied communities around the greater Ottawa area. Other than delivering services to our own Jewish community, we view this as an ideal way to break down stereotypical barriers, as well as an opportunity to bring diverse people together across the city.
The JFS budget exceeds $4.5 million annually with funding and grants from the city, the provincial and federal governments, as well as the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, private charities and foundations, and our own donors. We have also enjoyed partnering in significant charity events with the organizations like Ottawa Chamberfest. These funds enable the agency to pinpoint needs within the Jewish community, in particular, that are otherwise not being met.
One specific program that I’m particularly proud of is the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany, which enables JFS to provide support services to Holocaust survivors. The signifiant funds received annually from the German government are designed to meet the unique needs of an elderly traumatized population, and JFS is very well suited to act in partnership. The funder is looking for opportunities to broaden its support for the growing needs of this aging population. It is a remarkable expression of contrition that is unprecedented in this day and age.
Another program that I would point out is the Diverse Seniors Support Services program. The program places our staff in the living rooms of seniors, and exposes this diverse population to the soulful work of our highly trained staff. Not only do we meet the support needs of these populations, but we expose them to our Jewish values.
The ongoing work of JFS changes the views for our Jewish and non-Jewish workers, who then become ambassadors of openness, acceptance, and tolerance. This paradigm shift is helping the Jewish community as more people are replacing hate and fear with reconciliation and trust.
At our recent annual general meeting, our guest speakers, clients and staff, shared how JFS has made a difference in their lives and those of their clients, from the perspectives of the Tikvah Unit, the Counselling Group, and Street Smarts. Being in the forefront of these community-building activities and supporting vulnerable populations enables JFS to develop programs that are over-subscribed and indeed enables us to broaden our many offerings in an atmosphere that relies on cutting-edge strategic techniques, targeted staff training as well as broad community volunteer and financial support.