JFS was founded in 1918 by the “Jolly Sixteen”—a group of sixteen women who were committed to making a difference in people’s lives. They united four Jewish women’s groups—Hebrew Sisterhood, Jolly Sewing Circle, Junior Charity League, and the Ladies Hebrew Aid Society—and established Federated Jewish Charities.
They didn’t have a staff of professional caseworkers, but they did have Rose Neumann—founder and first volunteer director. And they had drive. And a sense of purpose. They were our first rescue squad.
Early on, their efforts were dedicated to welcoming new immigrants—those who came from the other side of the country, and those who were seeking refuge in the United States for the first time. Needs were mostly short-term and specific—a place to sleep, a warm meal, a clean shirt for a job interview.
Over the decades the San Diego population expanded rapidly, and our focus shifted from immediate needs to family strengthening and counseling. By the 1980s, after years of national change and uncertainty, counseling had become one of our primary services.
Today, we have grown into a premier human services agency in San Diego serving more than 35,000 people a year. Like the “Jolly Sixteen,” we are committed to making a difference in people’s lives. You can see it in our past, you can feel it in our present, and you can count on it in our future.