JFS Delaware Celebrates 125 Years of Dedicated Service

In 1899, a visionary group of Jewish leaders from Wilmington embarked on a journey to improve people’s lives in the community.

Originally named the Hebrew Charity Association, the organization’s early mission was clear: to alleviate the suffering of less fortunate members of our Jewish community; to assist them to become self-supporting; to act as a peace committee to adjust the differences among members of the Jewish community; and to perform all such duties as may come before us in the name of charity.

By November 1930, the Hebrew Charity Association was incorporated, comprising 17 signatories who met regularly in an office at the corner of Eighth and Orange Streets in Wilmington. Under the 23-year leadership of Morris Levy, the organization achieved great stability, touching lives through financial, legal, and medical aid.

By the 1960s, services had expanded dramatically, and the agency’s name was changed to Jewish Family Service of Delaware; in 2005 the agency again changed its name to Jewish Family Services of Delaware, emphasizing the multitude and variety of “kaleidoscopic” services provided.

Now in 2024, JFS Delaware is celebrating 125 years of dedicated service to the community. JFS has grown and evolved over the past 125 years. A century ago, our focus was the Jewish community. In modern times JFS serves not only the Jewish community, but any Delawareans who need our help. Our positive impact has multiplied.

“The more I’ve worked in the nonprofit sector, the more I see that the term “social impact” is a more appropriate way to describe what we do,” said JFS Delaware CEO Renna Van Oot. “When the community comes together, the board is visionary, strong, and united with a dedicated staff – worlds can be changed. JFS has maintained this for 125 years, and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this team and community.”

Today, JFS offers many diverse services and programs, providing comprehensive support to all, regardless of religion, race, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, or special need.

Our individual and family counseling services help children, teens, adults, and families develop strategies to cope with their unique challenges.

Our RISE (Refugee Integration Support Effort) program helps refugees and other immigrants from all over the world integrate and make a home in their new communities in Delaware.

The COMPASS program provides specialized medical care for older adults with dementia and—just as importantly—critical support for their caregivers including education, counseling, and improved access to services.

Through JFS’ Care Navigation services, older adults, adults with disabilities, and their loved ones can access compassionate, professional, and personalized care management services to enhance quality of life, encourage independence and healthy lifestyles, and ensure a safe and supportive living environment.

Cancer Care Connection, an affiliate of JFS Delaware, helps people affected by cancer navigate the full range of the issues they face, make informed decisions, and take action on their own behalf.

Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) strengthens and empowers families that are at-risk or in crisis by helping them to identify support systems and develop action plans to reach their goals with confidence.

JFS continues to evolve to this day. Yet, its core mission—inspired and guided by the Jewish values of our founders—has never changed: to provide counseling and support services which strengthen the well-being of the individual, family, and community.

To celebrate this special milestone of 125 years of service, JFS invites you to partner with us at our 125th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday, April 6 at the Deerfield Golf Club, Newark, DE where we will enjoy a night of fun and history. There will be cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and silent and live auctions featuring the area’s finest restaurants and businesses, new vacation packages, unique entertainment offerings, original artwork, sporting events, and so much more.

We will also honor the late Gilbert J. Sloan, Ph. D. by renaming the JFS Care Navigation Program the Gilbert J. Sloan JFS Care Navigation Program. Dr. Sloan was a strong supporter of JFS for many years and a beneficiary of this program.

At the heart of the JFS 125th Anniversary Celebration, our purpose shines brightly: To celebrate a legacy of unwavering commitment to and compassion for our community. For generations, we have provided help to others when they needed it most. On April 6 we will celebrate what that history has shaped: a strong and vibrant JFS, providing essential support services and skilled counseling to all in need. We invite you to join us in celebrating JFS’ achievements and supporting its future!

Visit www.jfsdelaware.org/125th-anniversary/ to purchase tickets or become a sponsor of the JFS Delaware 125th Anniversary Celebration.