Jewish Family and Children’s Services Breaks Ground for Bala Cynwyd Center

By Cheryl Allison, Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 9.56.58 AMcallison@mainlinemedianews.com

In its 160-year history, Jewish Family and Children Services has assisted countless individuals and families in the Philadelphia area, including Main Line communities, at every stage of life. Now that help will be available closer to home for local residents.

In a ceremony Sept. 9, the organization symbolically broke ground for its fifth location and its first on the Main Line at 349 Montgomery Ave. in Bala Cynwyd. The Barbara and Harvey Brodsky Enrichment Center will not only bring a broad array of services to the community, but the $8 million project will revive a long vacant building in a part of the Montgomery Avenue business district. The 18,000-square-foot building will be completely renovated and given a new face.

At the ceremony, JFCS Board Chairman Michael Willner said the organization recently had engaged in strategic planning for its future. What it learned, he said, is that “Our core services are critical to the health and well-being of individuals and families,” especially those “less connected to the community and who have many needs.”

The Bala Cynwyd center, which is slated to open a year from now, in September 2016, “is designed to assist us in growing our community-building experience for those that we serve by providing therapeutic group services for individuals and families,” Winner said, helping them “have a new sense of belonging during their moment of crisis or life transitions.”

For their long-time support of JFCS, the center is named in honor of Barbara “Bobbi” Brodsky of Haverford and her late husband, Harvey. Barbara Brodsky has been a lead donor to the Bala Cynwyd project, having a particular interest in serving persons with special needs.

The organization traces its roots to 1855, when Rebecca Gratz founded the Jewish Foster Home, the first institution in the country to care for indigent and destitute Jewish children. Later merging with other Jewish children’s service organizations, it formed as the Association for Jewish Children in 1941. Merging with Jewish Family Services, which had its beginning in 1869 as United Hebrew Charities, it took the new name of Jewish Family and Children’s Services.

Its social services now range from foster care and adoption, to family support and education, to financial assistance and healthcare, to supporting Holocaust survivors.

Speaking at the ceremony, state Sen. Daylin Leach (D-17th) said he attends many such events, but in this instance came “with a feeling of coming full circle.” It was JFCS’s predecessor organization, the Association for Jewish Children, that was there to help when his mother, raising him on her own after her husband left the family, had to quit her job to provide full-time care to her ill mother.” “We were on public assistance,” Leach said, but there came a point when his mother felt she could not care for him. Through the agency, he was placed in foster care for a time.

Now, “I have the opportunity to see the organization move forward to help a lot of kids like me in the future,” he said. “Many, many hundreds of lives will be touched for the better.”

Montgomery County Board of Commissioners Chairman Josh Shapiro, also attending, remarked that “Oftentimes in our society today, you don’t quite know where to turn. For families . . . it is the scariest thing in the world when your child is in need.

“When you can find a place like JFCS which literally will really wrap their arms around you and help you get through those challenges,” he went on to say, “you can really see something special occurring all across our community.”

When completed, the new Barbara and Harvey Brodsky Enrichment Center will offer a variety of facilities, including a teaching kitchen for life skills, a parent-child resource room, an art studio, a library, a computer technology hub, a financial resource center, a resource room for seniors, a food pantry, community space, and rooms for individual and group counseling.

In announcing acquisition of the Montgomery Avenue building earlier this summer, JFCS President and CEO Paula Goldstein said the organization has offered a number of its services to Main Line residents in the past through affiliations with local synagogues and in-home services to individuals. The Bala Cynwyd center, as its first permanent home on the Main Line, will offer more opportunities to bring people together and strengthen the community connection and engagement programs it has offered for area clients, she said.

For more information about Jewish Family and Children’s Services, visit www.jfcs.org.