Syracuse Jewish Family Service: A Brief History


1839—New Jewish arrivals hold Minyan services in the back room of Berheimer and Block’s notion store on Canal Street. This is the beginning of an organized Jewish community in Syracuse.

1830’s to 1850’s—A growing number of immigrant Jews, mostly from Germany and coming by way of New York City, settle in Syracuse and become involved in a variety of businesses and occupations. Several Jewish charitable societies and benevolent associations are organized to provide assistance to newcomers and the needy.

1870’s to 1890’s—The second wave of Jewish immigration brings newcomers from Russia and Poland to the Syracuse area. As a result of growing social welfare needs, United Jewish Charities is formed in 1891. This organization, which combined the activities of a number of smaller Jewish benevolent associations, is the forerunner of the present Jewish Family Service. This agency focused service efforts on immigrant resettlements and the provision of material assistance.

1936—United Jewish Charities changes name to Jewish Social Service Bureau. During the depression era, services continued to focus on immigrant resettlement and material assistance. The agency is heavily involved in resettling European Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. After WWII, the agency works to resettle Holocaust survivors and other displaced Jews settling in Syracuse.

1939—The agency files certificate of incorporation on February 4, 1939 and changes its name to Jewish Family Service Bureau. Jewish Family Service Bureau separates staff from that of the Syracuse Jewish Federation, and hires its first full-time Director. The agency begins changing focus away from provision of financial assistance and toward counseling for individual and family problem solving.

1950’s to 1970’s—Efforts of the agency continue to shift towards providing for the counseling needs of individuals and families as well as developing services for older persons. Kosher Meals-On-Wheels begins service in 1959. Russian resettlement program begins in the late 1970’s.

1980’s to 2009—Agency name changes to Syracuse Jewish Family Service, Inc. in 1986. Agency increases focus on expanding services to the elderly, as well as meeting the needs of special populations across the life cycle.

2009-Present—Agency comes under the umbrella of the continuum of care campus of Menorah Park. From 2011, agency establishes a focus on issues of later life: services to and care of individuals, families, current and future professionals, and the community at large around today’s complex journey of aging (“Aging: developmental process beginning at birth”). Agency adds geriatric care management, pilots and develops evidence-based geriatric depression program, develops brain health programming and resources, expands psychoeducational and therapeutic services, and enriches education and training opportunities and consultation opportunities for public and professionals. Develops services in exceptional needs, e.g., award-winning Tachlis of Inclusion and Jewish enrichment at Kosher group home. Increasing emphasis on integration into Menorah Park campus and community-based services within Jewish community as well as to general community. Reestablishes service to and partnerships with schools, JCC, congregations, etc. Organizes and spearheads Jewish community crisis response and prevention regarding social and humanitarian needs.

2017: In January, SJFS celebrates 125 years by launching its newest program, M-Power U: A Learning Community for Early Memory Loss, assisted by funding from the national Brookdale Foundation and the Community Grant Program of the Jewish Federation of CNY. The program is now accepting applications for a second weekly session to be added to the existing Monday time slot. To be held on Thursday afternoons, it is planned to begin sometime this summer depending on demand.

As the human services arm of the Jewish community, SJFS is dedicated to holistic, preventive, wellness-oriented integration of social and human services offered without regard to race or creed to all residents of Central New York.

Upcoming Events

Center for Healthy Living/OASIS classes

Enrolling soon through Syracuse OASIS
o Thursdays,  Jan. 17 & Feb. 14, 1:30pm - 3pm, “Poetry as Spiritual Practice with poet and poetry teacher Gloria Heffernan

o Sundays, 1/6; 1/27; 3/ 3; and 3/31, from 3pm - 5:30pm: “Views on Aging: Through the Movie Lens”, with SJFS Director Judith Huober

o Tuesdays, 2/12-3/19, from 1:30pm - 3:00pm, “Zen and the Art of Graceful Aging” with Peg Miller, LMSW

o Tuesdays, 3/26-April 16, from 1:30pm - 3:00pm, “Zen and the Art of Caregiving” with Peg Miller, LMSW

o Mon-Weds, Feb 4-April 24, 3:00pm - 4:00pm, "Mind AerobicsTM: Mind Sharpener with Ellen Somers. Pre-screening required; contact Ellen.

M-Power U Now Enrolling for Arts and Minds Community

M-Power U — A Learning Community for Early Memory Loss: We are now  enrolling participants for a new section called An Arts and Minds Community on Fridays starting February 16 from 11:30am to 3:30pm at Menorah Park. Contact SJFS Assistant Director Ellen Somers at x. 225 to make an appointment for screening and information!

Syracuse Jewish Family Service...

Building Well-Being in Central New York

For Generations Past, Present and Future