How JFS supports community

Learn more about the work of Jewish Family Services (JFS) in this agency submission sharing the stories of those who have benefited from their services. 

By David Dern, CFRE, Director of Development

As an inter-faith, multi-service agency, Jewish Family Services Ottawa, (JFS) supports many of the city's vulnerable communities through senior support services, settlement and integration, specialized support for Ottawa's Jewish community, homeless outreach, and broad range of mental health counselling services through our centrally located clinic and community-based walk-in locations.

Through the Centre for Children, Youth and Families, the counselling team offers innovative wraparound family counselling — a holistic approach that cares for the entire family and helps them heal together. And we do all of this on a sliding fee scale. In fact, 70% of these family sessions are subsidized.  

The power of the work of JFS is found in the stories of those who have utilized services. It paints a picture of what our team offers the community by sharing stories of those who came to us for support. Here are two of their stories:

A male client, in his mid 30s, came to our offices for support.  This client was Jewish and had been impacted by the Israel-Hamas war. He had expressed concerns about relatives living in Israel and was also concerned about the rise in antisemitism locally. Specifically, he was concerned about the safety of his young children.  

Our specialized mental health team provided him with counselling sessions to help him process the trauma he was experiencing. As therapy progressed, he expressed a desire to better support his children, leading him and his partner to engage in couples counselling to acquire skills to better nurture their three kids and help them to navigate these difficult times. Additionally, one child, exhibiting significant distress, began seeing one of our Children, Youth and Family therapists.

After four months, the father felt better equipped to manage independently. He was sleeping better and was able to resume many of his day-to-day activities. He and his wife continued monthly counselling focusing on parenting skills, ensuring that they could continue supporting their children. The child, who was referred for individual counseling, showed notable improvements in daily functioning under the ongoing care of their therapist. The whole family was positively impacted, and they are now functioning with less tension and have a more positive outlook. 

Furthermore, given the family’s struggles, they were also connected with our Tikvah program, which offered them some financial relief and system navigation related to specific difficulties they were having accessing city services. 

Using our unique wraparound capabilities, all with a culturally sensitive approach, the three therapists involved in the care, could coordinate the services offered to the family and maximize the impact. Being able to access these services under one roof allowed the family to better manage their time, alleviated the stress of having to tell their story multiple times to different service providers.

Guided by our Jewish values of Kehillah (Community), Kavod (Respect) and Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World), our entire team helps our neighbours live with dignity and feel respected and connected to their diverse community. These core values allow us to help our neighbours, from many parts of the world, live with dignity and feel respected and connected to their new home.

Our second story:

“We brought our 8-year-old daughter to JFS because she refused to talk to the adults in her life following a traumatic event related to our immigration to Canada from Southern Asia. For a time, we worked with separate therapists, one to help our daughter process the events and one to help us, parent her through this time, we then came together for family therapy and my daughter finally found her voice again. It was amazing to watch her transformation! She started to develop friendships at school, communicate with her teachers and more importantly, she was able to communicate more freely with her family.”

JFS offers supports in 14 languages and is committed to culturally and linguistically respectful programs. It makes JFS unique within our city.

Outside of therapeutic services, we work with long-term and complex issues that require on-going investments in time and resources. In addition, JFS is constantly re-evaluating its offerings to identify new and evolving needs in our community and develops programs that guide people to stability and health.

Please visit to learn more about our work during Mental Health Month happening this May.