History

Since our founding over 165 years ago, we’ve proudly served as a vital source of support for the people of Los Angeles.

In 1854, the tiny Jewish community of the pueblo of Los Angeles established the Hebrew Benevolent Society, the area’s first charitable organization. The volunteer group’s purpose was to collect funds from “those who have” and distribute them to “those who have not,” Jew and non-Jew alike. The organization began by purchasing land for a cemetery to fulfill the Jewish religious commandment of burying the dead. Little did these pioneers know that they were launching the future Jewish Family Service, the first social service agency in Los Angeles.

By the early 1900s, the Los Angeles Jewish community had grown large enough to require specialized services such as medical and child care, which the agency added to its roster of services. In 1929, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. The community was suddenly faced with severe unemployment. For the first time, basic necessities such as food, housing, immigration and resettlement services were provided by our agency.

Jewish Family Service LA has met many challenges throughout its 166 years, including building community for people with diverse abilities, maintaining food pantries, providing shelter to survivors of domestic abuse, helping to provide financial assistance and support services to survivors of the Holocaust, expanding programs to serve the burgeoning suburbs of the San Fernando Valley, meeting demands for mental health and addiction services, providing vital assistance to a rapidly growing population of older adults, and helping victims of emotional trauma caused by accidents, violence, and natural disasters.  

Founded in 1854, the Hebrew Benevolent Society became Jewish Family Service in 1946 to reflect its wide array of services. Today, Jewish Family Service LA has earned a national and international reputation as a model for excellence in services for children, families, people experiencing food insecurity, people in need of mental health assistance, individuals with diverse abilities, survivors of domestic abuse, and older adults, and more.

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