The Jewish Welfare Society was formed in 1942, formalizing community welfare work that had been taking place on a voluntary basis within the Jewish community during the previous decade. Impetus to incorporate came from the desire to foster professionalism, and to join the newly-founded Edmonton Community Chest (now United Way) and terminate its own annual fund-raising efforts. The Society was thus incorporated in 1955, and changed its name to Jewish Family Services in 1961.
Clara Mintz, of blessed memory, is widely regarded as the founder of Jewish Family Services. A trained social worker, she was adamant that the informal work of helping once another within the community needed to be formalized to ensure that services were delivered with the highest standards of professional competency and accountability. After her death in 2004, her two sons established a Reserve to honour her and her late husband, David. At the 2005 Annual General Meeting of the agency, son Bruce inaugurated the fund and presented a biography of Clara, which chronicles much of the history of Jewish Family Services. You can read that biography here.
Originally set up to serve the Jewish community specifically, the agency has since its incorporation served the community-at-large, clients from which now comprise the vast majority overall(~90%), although the percentage varies by program. Services are explicitly non-faith-based, however, we aim to have sensitivity to clients for whom Jewish culture and religion (not necessarily the same thing) are important, and to use our position to invite the Jewish community to greater participation in service to the broader community.
Our mission statement and organizational values are expressed in a Hebrew phrase, “Tikun Olam”, which means restoring or healing a broken world. We envision a world of economic and social justice; where individuals, families & communities care for and support themselves and one another. To this end, we provide strength & support to individuals and families in need, in a manner sensitive to Jewish values.
Due to our small size, we have evolved to focus our energies on filling specific niches, and extensive referral, collaboration and co-operation with other service providers.