“In terms of who may be in need of our help, we have seen Covid-19 affecting people across our community,” said Jewish Family Service CEO Liz Vogel. “There are so many people who have been impacted who do not know where to go for help.”
According to the 2019 Cincinnati Jewish Community Study, twenty-eight percent of Jewish households have insufficient savings for three months to cover unexpected or emergency expenses. “At Jewish Family Service, we want to make sure those who don’t have that safety net aren't facing eviction, foreclosure, or other financial hardships. We’re here for them so they don’t have to walk alone on that journey,” Vogel said.
The organization can quickly help toward making mortgage and rent payments and offer grocery assistance. As always, all communication and services are completely confidential. “We know the stress of losing a job, or not being able to afford groceries this week, but for many in our community, this is probably going to be a short-term hurt,” Vogel said. “We don’t want it to become a major issue in someone’s financial and emotional future. We’re here to help them smooth over the rough patches as easily as possible.”
In addition to financial and emergency assistance, Jewish Family Service (JFS) also offers mental health services, counseling programs, aging services, and support groups for people with mental and emotional wellness challenges through a deep network of community organizations and resources. “When Covid-19 happened, we saw a big uptick in calls around what we call geriatric care management, both from the seniors themselves and from their adult children,” Vogel said. “The callers are often worried about the health risks and social isolation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
JFS was able to pivot quickly for its senior group programs, transitioning them to virtual experiences. They are hosting English speaking and citizenship classes, socialization programs for Holocaust Survivors and other older adults, a singing club, a book club, virtual art classes, and more—all to ensure that seniors find an outlet and experience loneliness less often.
The Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry, located at the Barbash Family Vital Support Center, has remained open, serving more than 200 households annually. Normally clients are allowed to come in and shop for their own food, but due to social distancing, staff and volunteers are now pre-packing items and delivering them directly to cars.
The mission of JFS is to strengthen lives in times of need, and Vogel said there is no barrier to entry—anyone at any time, for any reason, can contact the organization and receive help. “We want to remove the stigma of asking for help,” Vogel said. “There is a Jewish value to care for our brother, but we also have a deep understanding that sometimes situations beyond our control are going to happen. We don’t want what should be a short-term hurt to become a lifelong burden. We don't want anyone to have to go it alone, and we want to help them return to their normal way of life as quickly as possible.”