Our History

The very beginnings of Jewish Family Service date back to 1889, when the United Jewish Charities was organized to serve the needy Jewish population. Through name changes and moves, local crises and international atrocities, Jewish Family Service has been dedicated to helping individuals, families and the community.

Each year, JFS touches the lives of 15,000 people of all ages, religions and socioeconomic backgrounds through a variety of programs centered around older adults, mental health and wellness, and basic needs support. We are committed to working to ensure the brightest possible future for all members of our community.

A Timeline of our History


The United Jewish Charities organized to offer services to assist needy families, children, people with employment or health problems.


The Jewish Social Service Bureau (JSSB) is organized.


The JSSB is incorporated.


We introduce the state’s first Homemaker Service Program and hired our first consulting psychiatrist.


Resettlement Services was established and operated as a department of JSSB.


The Jewish Children’s Bureau merges with The JSSB. This begins our foster care services that included the recruitment of foster parents and homes for children.


Opening of 5737 Second Avenue, our first building.


JSSB begins charging for counseling services and creates a sliding fee scale and establishes Sheruth House as a group home for teen girls.


Moved to 13327 Linwood Avenue after selling the Second Avenue building to the State of Michigan.


JSSB establishes the Department of Services for the Aged.


JSSB becomes Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS).


Opening of the Curtis Street location.


JFCS inaugurates its group therapy services. Volunteer Services are formally organized. In the wake of the Detroit riots, we relocate Jewish families from the inner city to subsidized housing.


Harold Silver retired after 30 years as Director and was succeeded by Samuel Lerner.


Jewish Family and Children’s Services is renamed Jewish Family Service of Metropolitan Detroit.


Kosher Meals on Wheels is initiated as a collaborative program with National Council of Jewish Women and the Jewish Federation Apartments. Financial assistance program is expanded.


JFS is approved as an outpatient psychiatric clinic. We initiate the Family Institute, which includes family therapy, marital therapy, and child-parent therapy. Group Apartments for the Elderly are established.


Dedication of the new Jewish Family Service building at 24123 Greenfield Road.


The Skillman Project, a non-sectarian program working with issues of physical and sexual abuse of children and child neglect, is established.


JFS goes through its first accreditation process and receives first grant from Area Agency on Aging 1-B and adds non-sectarian services into counseling and homemaker services. In-home respite care is established.


JFS goes through its first accreditation process and receives first grant from Area Agency on Aging 1-B and adds non-sectarian services into counseling and homemaker services. In-home respite care is established.


Samuel Lerner retires as Director and is succeeded by Alan Goodman.


WINDOWS, the agency’s domestic violence prevention and treatment program is funded and Safe Place, a kosher shelter, opens in partnership with the National Council of Jewish Women. Professional Transportation Services begin with one agency vehicle and three drivers. A grant from the Ryan White Act provides services to people with AIDS and who are HIV-positive. Resettlement Services merges with Jewish Family Service.


Norman Keane becomes Executive Director of Jewish Family Service.


Project Chessed, an innovative program that provides uninsured Jewish adults access to medical care, is created.


Jewish Family Service moves to the Sally & Graham and Suzanne & Joseph Orley building in West Bloomfield.


Jewish Housing Assistance is created as a result of the economic downturn. In response to the growing needs of legal services for those we serve, Legal Referral Service is created.


CEO Norm Keane retires after 13 years of leading JFS; Perry Ohren is hired as his successor.


JFS responds to the flood that affects cities east of Woodward.


First COA accreditation is received. Suicide prevention initiative, A Single Soul is created.


Healthcare Navigation services begins in response to Obamacare.


Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit creates jhelp (housed at and staffed by Jewish Family Service), Jewish Detroit’s resource for connecting people to the help they need.


JFS is appointed Midwest Administrator by the Claims Conference in order to coordinate services for Holocaust survivors in 15 states.


The Claims Conference grants JFS 14.7 million dollars to continue serving Holocaust survivors in metro Detroit and across the Midwest.