From 1977 to 1982, several dedicated volunteers pioneered the establishment of a Jewish counseling agency for Somerset County.
Betty Roswell and Margit Feldman served as co–chairs of the founding committee that included Rabbi Michael Abraham, Adele Blumberg, Shuey Horowitz, Gert Robinovitz, Kenneth Straussfeld, Burton Shimonovsky, Esther Kaufman, Evelyn and Abe Rosen, and Ken Segal.
In October 1978, the founders voted to establish an agency separate from the Jewish Federation and JFS subsequently opened its doors on May 6, 1980. Ken Segal graciously donated a vacant office at 18 Hamilton Street in Bound Brook and that location became the first official home of JFS.
Ann Schulman, the first director, was hired on a two–day per week basis. Her responsibilities were to develop a caseload, administer the agency, provide counseling, and promote JFS throughout the county. Quite a job for two days a week!
Ann Schulman was followed by four other capable directors: Brenda Butler, Karen Perkul, Zina Freundlich and Tova Friedman. Mrs. Friedman served JFS for over 20 years. In 2008, JFS welcomed Jerry Starr, our present director.
As JFS continued to grow over the early years, more space was urgently needed. JFS moved from 18 Hamilton Street to a larger office in Bound Brook. After an extensive search, a Board committee recommended the renting of a beautiful home at 150 W. High Street in Somerville, which has been occupied by JFS since October 1, 1985.
In the late 1990’s, under the able leadership of Jerry Zweig and Linda Jerrow, JFS began a building fund campaign for acquiring, expanding, and renovating the building. A matching gift campaign was established which raised the money needed to purchase the building. In May 2000, the dream of owning our own facility came to fruition and the task of expanding and renovating began.
For over thirty years, JFS has continued to grow, expanding services and programs to the community. In the 1980’s, JFS became a non–sectarian agency, thereby receiving support not only from the Jewish Federation, but from Somerset County United Way, as well. Additional funding has enabled the expansion of personnel and services to include counseling programs for families, children, and the elderly.
In addition, JFS also offers career counseling, resettlement of refugees, kosher food assistance, an Elderly Support Program, the Holocaust Survivors Assistance Program including Café Europa, the Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program, Family Life Education/Speakers Bureau, and information and referral services.
Today we are over 25 years old and growing. We are proud of our accomplishments and look forward to many more years of serving the community.
Excerpted from A Brief History of Jewish Family Services of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties by Betty Roswell
A more detailed history is available at the JFS office.