Jewish Family Services celebrated its 170th Birthday Party on Sunday, October 6 at the Virginia War Memorial. The warm, overcast afternoon was perfect for enjoying the sweeping views of the James and the Richmond skyline. Many friends of JFS gathered to celebrate: current and former board and staff members, people resettled by JFS from the Soviet Union in the 80s and 90s, representatives from Beth Sholom, the JCFR, RJF and JCC and others touched by JFS over the years.
JFS’ 170-year history was on prominent display throughout the event. Posters honored the Straus, Cohen and Thalhimer families and their many generations of JFS leaders. A timeline of important moments in JFS history, from 1849 to 2019, flanked the wall overlooking the river. People resettled from the former Soviet Union by JFS in the 80s and 90s told stories about their first days in Richmond to laughter and applause.
JFS CEO Wendy Kreuter, Board President Sandy Sisisky and Rabbi Scott Nagel addressed the crowd, touching on JFS’ past and future. Ms. Kreuter welcomed the assembled friends of JFS. Rabbi Nagel, representing JFS’ founding from Congregation Beth Ahabah, delivered a stirring D’var Torah and honored the former JFS Presidents who recently passed away, Dr. Sherman Master and Mrs. Sara Belle November, OBM. Ms. Sisisky spoke about JFS’ future and its commitment to collaborating with partners to transform lives and strengthen our community for many years to come.
After the program, friends of JFS lit seven birthday candles to honor aspects of JFS’ history, present and future. Rabbi Nagel lit the candle representing JFS’ 170 year history. Kate Bellemen, the great, great granddaughter of the Ladies Hebrew Association’s first president, Fannie Heller Straus, lit a candle for the families of JFS’ leaders, clients, friends and partners. JFS Adoption Social Worker Jessica Carty lit the candle for JFS’ work in adoption.
Ellen Glass, who recently celebrated her 30 year anniversary at JFS, lit a candle representing JFS Counseling. Teresa Baldwin, supervisor of JFS’ Senior Engagement program, lit the candle for JFS Care. A candle for JFS’ 170th birthday was lit by longtime JFS volunteers and leaders Jerry and Ann Samford. Finally, young Isaiah and Eva Sisisky lit a candle for the lives JFS will transform in the future. As the breeze over the James blew out the last of the candles, slices of cake circulated through the crowd.
JFS is grateful for everyone who attended and for our generous sponsors: the Miller, Bowles & Horn Group of BB&T Scott & Stringfellow, BB&T, DominionTek, the Richmond Jewish Foundation and Woody Funeral Home.