Mission & History


Jewish Family Service (JFS)  is a nondenominational, nonprofit, social service organization that supports all Utahns as they navigate life’s challenges – illness, aging, financial uncertainty, mental health concerns, family problems, or personal issues.  Our mission is to strengthen individuals and families of all backgrounds through counseling, advocacy, care management, and community education.

JFS is one of the only agencies along the Wasatch Front offering these services to those in need on a sliding fee scale, meaning we assist all people regardless of ability to pay. Whether offering affordable mental health counseling to individuals and families, resources and comfort to older adults and their caregivers, or being that safety net for those in financial distress via emergency assistance and food pantry, JFS' highly qualified professional staff strives to provide the best programs and services for all, regardless of denomination.

Jewish Family Service has been caring for all since 1872 and JFS continues to play a critical role in our community. We care for the poor, the elderly, and the sick and we help prevent people from falling through the cracks. Our funders make it possible for those who cannot afford or easily access services to receive urgently needed help today.


1870s - During ‘The Long Depression’ of 1873–79, 18,000 USA businesses went bankrupt, unemployment was 14%. In 1872, in Salt Lake City, a group of philanthropically minded women organized the Hebrew Women’s Benevolent Society, to aid Jewish transients, in order to “relieve the destitute.”

1880s - ‘The Gilded Age’ was an era of serious social problems, rapid economic growth, expanded industrialization and the first trade unions. In 1888, the Hebrew Women’s Benevolent Society adopted a formal Constitution, changed its name to the Jewish Relief Society of Salt Lake City. They provided food and clothing to US displaced persons who begged door to door.

1920s - In 1920, the Jewish Relief Society of Salt Lake City became one of the earliest affiliates of the Community Chest (today’s United Way). The Society relied on in-kind donations from local businesses, the local Rabbi’s fund, and earnings from ‘White Glove Teas’.

1930s - ‘The Depression Years’ saw economic collapse, unemployment hit 24%. Conditions at local hospitals were awful. Transients overwhelmed local resources. In 1936, the Jewish Relief Society remained one of volunteer workers until the overwhelming number of transients required hiring a paid worker. Mrs. Louis Zucker worked from her home as the ‘transient and case worker’ at a salary of $35 per month to defray her expenses.

1940s - WWII decisively ended the depression. By 1948, Jewish Relief Society provided approximately 600 meals, 250 lodgings, as well as clothes, medicine, and gasoline for transients. Coal, food, half soles for many shoes, and ice were also given to local relief cases.

1950s -  In 1956, the Jewish Relief Society (JRS) worked with the Transient Committee of the Community Welfare Council. Work began on a shelter for migratory workers. JRS employed part-time MSW caseworker, Mr. Javier Saenz, who was supervised by the local LDS Family Service Society (FSS).

1960s - The Jewish Community Center on East Seventeenth South opened in 1961, and Jewish Relief Society rented its first permanent office and changed its name to Jewish Family Service. Goals were: “Social casework program, Community education for family living, and Community leadership in the improvement of social conditions directly affecting family life.” In 1965, Mr. Javier Saenz, began working exclusively for JFS.

1970s - ‘The Great Inflation’ of the 1970s happened. The stock market lost 40% in 18-months, unemployment reached double digits. In 1979, Jewish Family Service survey identified Jewish seniors who could benefit from JFS services. The American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and local Jewish federations lobbied the U.S. government to have Soviet Jews admitted as refugees (conditional immigrants) increasing resettlement needs in SLC.

1980s - After 28 years of service, Mr. Saenz left Jewish Family Service in April 1984. Helane Leta, Counselor, was hired as part-time Executive Director. A community needs assessment identified 65 Jews who needed Counseling and Therapy and an equal number of Jewish seniors who needed various services annually.

1990-95 - Jewish Family Service supported ‘Operation Exodus’, the national rescue of almost one million Jews from the former Soviet Union, with Grandpa’s Attic and the Blood Drive. In June of 1994, Carol Einhorn, MSW, was hired as the first full-time Executive Director.

1996-2000 - During ‘The Lost Decade’, the worst economy since the 1930s, Jewish Family Service moved to larger office space in Sugarhouse to accommodate more Senior clients. In 1997, Evelyn and Joseph Rosenblatt established the Free Loan Fund. JFS moved again into office space at the Jewish Community Center. Programs included Senior Services, Counseling, Free Loan Fund, Youth Services, Group Educational programs, Refugee support services, and support for Holocaust Survivors.

2001-2005 - In 2004, with a large grant from the Administration on Aging, JFS began Project EncourAge, to help older adults ‘age in place’ and remain in their homes and community.

2006-2010 - After ‘The Global Financial Crisis’ of 2008, Jewish Family Service provided services to the entire community regardless of their race, religion, or ethnicity.  Services included Mental Health Counseling, Support Groups, Life-cycle and Drug Prevention Educational programs, Refugee Services, Senior Outreach, Care Management and the Park City Career Network, support for the unemployed.

2011-2015 - Jewish Family Service expanded services for caregivers through education, a volunteer mentor program, short stay respite, care management and mental health counseling. Counseling services in Park City were opened, A lecture series on substance abuse and aging issues was launched. In 2012, JFS began a food pantry to assist 85 struggling clients. In 2014, JFS implemented the free Parent Plus Program, which included family dinners and childcare. Working with the University of Utah Center for Alzheimer’s Care, JFS launched the Music and Memory Program and served 300 clients the first year. The program evaluates the effect of music on someone with cognitive decline.

2016-2017 - The JFS staff mentored ten agencies across the USA and Canada to help establish new Music and Memory programs. The JFS food pantry served 1,800 families in 2016. Funding from the Utah Emergency Food Network expanded the food pantry to serve 5,000 individuals in 2017. JFS created a new fund to help refugees in financial crisis.

2018-2019 - The organization expanded existing services and established new programs, including counseling services, caregiver support programs, and the Gleeful Choir program. The Park City location was opened in 2019 and that same year, the Salt Lake City office had to unexpectedly move offices to its present location on 4500 South.

2020-present - In response to the Covid-19 pandemic in March of 2020, JFS staff mobilized immediately, adapting its programs to meet the growing needs of the community in a time of crisis. Since April 2020, JFS has provided over $1 million in emergency financial assistance to people in Park City and Salt Lake, who faced urgent needs due to the pandemic. JFS will be here for our community as the pandemic continues and beyond.