As people across the United States wrestled with the impact of the Civil War during the 1860s, increasing numbers of émigrés chose the greater Newark area of New Jersey to rebuild their lives, escape persecution and provide for their families. Within the Jewish community, 14 young gentlemen established the Hebrew Benevolent and Orphan Society to distribute small sums of money to the needy across Newark in 1861. With name changes and mergers, the Society evolved many years later into the Jewish Counseling and Service Agency, and is known today as Jewish Family Service of MetroWest.

The community's needs have changed during the decades, and programs and services have adapted to meet demand. Today, the Agency's catchment area has grown to provide services to the residents of Essex, Morris, Sussex, and parts of Union and Hudson counties. With offices located in Florham Park, Livingston and Jersey City, JFS also has placed social workers in several local synagogues and senior care facilities, annually serving more than 3,500 families, comprising close to 10,000 people.

Jewish Family Service fulfills its mission to help anyone in need by providing quality comprehensive mental health services on a non-sectarian basis. The Agency has resettled Holocaust survivors, supported the poor, assisted with adoptions, helped seniors to remain independent in their homes, educated the community about domestic abuse, administered the MetroWest community's Hebrew Free Loan fund, counseled families and children, partnered with local synagogues and sister Jewish communal agencies and so much more.

To kickoff the celebration of its 150th year of service, JFS announced a year of dedicated programming at its Annual Gala on June 3, 2010 and designed a new logo to reflect this milestone achievement. In addition, JFS has partnered with the Jewish Historical Society of MetroWest to create Past-Forward, an exhibit showcasing the work of JFS and the many contributions of its leadership, volunteers and staff, while also providing insight into the changing and evolving social service needs of the community. Production of 12 panels comprising the exhibit will be featured at the Alex Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus in Whippany from September through November 2010. After that time, the panels will travel to various community venues to coincide with JFS-sponsored programming.

More than 90 community members serve on the 150th Anniversary committee, including many current and former board members and other friends of the Agency. This committee is led by co-chairs Carol Marcus of Bloomingdale (formerly of Short Hills), a past president of JFS, and Sandra Rosenbaum of Short Hills, a long-standing board member and former officer. Sub-Committee leadership includes Jean Rich of Morristown and Marcia Ripps of Bayonne, who are chairing the History Sub-Committee, Linda Schultz of Short Hills and Jerry Harwood of Short Hills, who are chairing the Community Forum Sub-Committee and Thelma Florin of West Orange and Harvey Zeller of Caldwell, who are chairing the Endowment Fundraising Sub-Committee.

Other planned celebrations for the 150th Anniversary include a cocktail reception, an open community forum in May 2011 featuring a keynote speaker, an event honoring the Agency's past presidents and the 150th Anniversary Gala on June 2, 2011.

JFS acknowledges the generous underwriting support of the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey for its sponsorship of the Past-Forward exhibit and is pleased to recognize additional support from Hebrew Free Loan of New Jersey and the Rachel Coalition. JFS also extends its thanks to Linda Forgosh, executive director, and the staff of the Jewish Historical Society of MetroWest for their meticulous work in presenting the history of JFS in such a compelling and informative manner.

Jewish Family Service of MetroWest is a comprehensive social service agency providing counseling and support services, on a non-discriminatory basis, to help strengthen and restore the family, in Essex, Morris, Sussex and parts of Hudson and Union counties. JFS annually touches more than 3,500 families in the Metro West area. Traditionally, half of our services help older adults and their families cope with the changes of aging through extensive in-home services including subsidized home care, case management services, counseling, caregiver education, volunteer friendly visitors, and specialized programs for Holocaust survivors. For children and families, JFS provides individual, couple, child and family counseling, family play therapy, support groups, adoption services, school and synagogue-based social work services, debt counseling, domestic violence services, family life education and other assistance needed to maintain healthy families. JFS has offices located in Florham Park, Livingston and Jersey City. For more information, please call (973) 765-9050 or visit www.jfsmetrowest.org