Agency name change reflects broad social mandate

December 2019
Wendy Schneider

One of the Hamilton Jewish community’s longest-serving social service agencies is changing its name to better reflect its mission. Hamilton Jewish Social Services, founded in 1929 at the height of the Depression, will now be known as Hamilton Jewish Family Services (JFS). JFS president Susan Roth said the new name “reflects the reality of our agency’s commitment to helping individuals and families as they navigate through life’s challenges. As Hamilton Jewish Family Services, we are proudly aligning our agency with other Jewish family service agencies internationally that share our name and spirit.” JFS executive director Alexis Wenzowski made the announcement about the agency’s new name at its open house held at JHamilton on Nov. 14. 

“With our new name, we are capturing the rich history of supportive care that Jewish Social Services represented, and beginning to write a new story of support within Jewish Hamilton,” she told the HJN.The rebranding also reflects a broadening range and reach of programs and services that reflect the diversity of challenges individuals face in life. In addition to poverty relief, programs include career counselling, support programs for caregivers and those suffering from chronic pain or mental health issues. 

Jewish poverty in Canada is on the rise and Hamilton is no exception. Incoming JFS president Hanna Schayer told that HJN that the agency will continue to have poverty reduction as a primary focus.

“When people come into the agency, we’re going to make sure that they know about every possible opportunity available to them, through the federal government or through other agencies, whether it’s retraining or introducing them to all the programs available, including those that will help them get out of poverty,” she said. 

Approximately 70 families currently rely on JFS’s Kosher food bank, according to Wenzowski, while up to 35 individuals rely on monthly financial aid. “This assistance helps many low-income individuals keep their head above water,” she said.

Hamilton Jewish Family Services’s new logo depicting a pair of hands enveloping two figures in the shape of the Hebrew words “chai” is meant to represent the support the agency gives people as they journey through life. 

“We envision JFS as a place that supports people when they most need it, and creates hopeful opportunities for community engagement. We work with a large unaffiliated population who come to us because they are Jewish and need help. Often JFS is their only relationship with the Hamilton Jewish community,” said Wenzowski. “We are here to guide, assist, and support everyone throughout their journey.”