"We give people the tools they need to become self-sufficient and meet their basic needs independently."
— Jewish Family & Children's Service (JF&CS) Website, 2014
"The society aims to make its beneficiaries self-supporting…so as not to be a burden of the Commonwealth but a part of it."
— Representative Women of New England, on the charities started by Lina Frank Hecht, 1904
One of the major tenets of modern day social service agencies is the concept of self-sufficiency. At present-day JF&CS, we deal with people's immediate needs but also address how they can become more independent in the future. It is hard to believe that this concept was also at the heart of JF&CS predecessor agencies more than 100 years ago.
In the 1880's, pogroms, anti-Jewish laws, and heightened anti-Semitism in the Jewish Pale of Settlement in Russia and Eastern Europe caused a substantial increase in Jewish immigration to the United States. With one of the largest Jewish populations in the US, nearly 100,000 Jews listed Boston as their final destination when they arrived on American shores.
Some 20 years prior to the massive wave of immigration, Boston area Jews provided charity for their needy through a handful of synagogues. But as immigration increased, and by extension, the numbers of people and families in need, the resources of the synagogues were strained. A group of "26 responsible men," members of Congregations Adath Israel and Ohabei Shalom, came together to form the United Hebrew Benevolent Association (UHBA) on January 10, 1864. Led by Nathan Strauss, the group modeled itself after secular benevolent societies, which appealed to the community for support and was the predecessor organization to today’s JF&CS.
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