The History of JF&CS

The History of JF&CS

Since 1891, the agency now known as Jewish Family & Career Services (JF&CS) has served our community. We are one of Atlanta's longest continuously operating social service agencies. It is remarkable to think of the impact we have had as an organization over that time. As Atlanta has grown dramatically, JF&CS has as well, altering our service offerings over the years to keep pace with a growing population and its evolving needs. But our underlying approach of transforming lives has remained constant throughout our history.

  • In 1875, the population of Atlanta was recorded at 31,000, and the Jewish population was 400
  • By 1935, Atlanta had grown to 285,000, including 12,000 Jews (U.S. Bureau of Census, Census of Religious Bodies, 1926)
  • In 1960, the Atlanta Jewish population is estimated at 20,000
  • Today, Atlanta metro is more than 6.1 million, and there are 132,100 Jews in the Atlanta community

Historically, JF&CS is a testimony to the commitment of the Atlanta Jewish community to the values of the family and the importance of the individual.

  • 1891 - the Montefiore Relief Association (MRA) is established to provide charity and financial assistance to immigrating Jews
  • 1911 - Morris Hirsch Clinic formed to provide charitable health-related services
  • 1924 - Montefiore Relief Association and Morris Hirsch Clinic merge with the Jewish Federation for Social Service, and MRA is renamed to Montefiore Family Service Bureau (MFSB)
  • 1953 - MFSB is renamed to Jewish Family and Children's Bureau (JFCB) after adding a local child care program to its service
  • In 1960, JFCB had a staff of three and a budget of approximately $35,000
  • By 1970, the staff had grown slightly larger and the budget had expanded to approximately $65,000
  • In 1975, Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) is formed as an entity of the Atlanta Jewish Federation
  • 1980 saw the JFCB budget move to slightly over $500,000
  • July 1982, Jewish Family Services (JFS) received its State Charter as the "umbrella" name for the combined JFCB and Ben Massell Dental Clinic
  • 1986 - JVS becomes fully autonomous
  • 1997 - JFS and JVS merge to form JF&CS

In 1991, JFS had nine programs and an operating budget of $1M. Today, JF&CS has an operating budget nearing $20M, approximately 30 specialized programs, with a staff of more than 200.

From Humble Beginnings

The History of JF&CS

Relief Agency founded in 1891

The Montefiore Relief Association was founded in 1891 in large part by Morris Lichenstein.

In the late 1800's, Eastern European Jews begin to arrive en masse. The two main synagogues in Atlanta – The Temple & Ahavath Achim Synagogue – did not know how to meet the influx of needs. Morris Lichenstein was instrumental in establishing the Montefiore Relief Association in 1891 shortly after coming to Atlanta – the predecessor of Jewish Family & Career Services (JF&CS). Its purpose was to provide direct relief and loans geared towards helping an individual become self-sufficient. To this day, this remains core to the mission of JF&CS.

The History of JF&CS

The Morris Hirsch Clinic is established in 1911.

Morris Hirsch, a founder of The Temple, established the clinic, providing outpatient medical services to the less fortunate. It operated out of an old house on Capital Avenue. In the beginning, the small clinic was only open on Sunday mornings, but soon more beds were added to the clinic and a nurse was hired at an annual salary of $500.

In 1915, dental care was provided.

The History of JF&CS

The clinic transitioned to solely provide dental services in 1929.

In 1956, Dr. Irving M. Goldstein, a dentist and former Chief of Staff at the Morris Hirsch Clinic, and Dr. Marvin Goldstein, his brother and successor, recognized the need to move the dental clinic from its location in downtown Atlanta. They enlisted the help of Ben Massell, one of Atlanta's premier builders and developers, who ultimately acquired a location on Pryor Street.

In 1959, urban renewal and eminent domain laws made it necessary for the clinic to move. Again, Ben Massell, with help from the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, secured the clinic a new home, this time on 7th Street in midtown Atlanta, where it remained for 49 years. In honor of his involvement, assistance and financial generosity, the clinic was renamed the Ben Massell Dental Clinic (BMDC).

The History of JF&CS

Ben Massell Dental Clinic (BMDC) on 7th Street in midtown Atlanta.

Defining Moments of Leadership


Leonard L. Cohen joined the staff of the Jewish Family and Children's Bureau of Federation as Director of Casework Services and Planning. Services included marriage counseling, parent-child counseling, personal counseling, services to the aged, assistance to the unwed mother, adoption service, resettlement assistance, and help in locating scholarship resources. He retired in 1988 following 27 years as Executive Director of Jewish Family Services.


Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) is created to focus on occupational placement and counseling. Leadership and program growth is provided by Dr. Mark Fisher, Executive Director, from 1975 - 1993. It was initially called the Gate City B'nai B'rith Federation Employment Service of the Atlanta Jewish Welfare Federation.


Under the lay leadership of Phyllis B. Friedman z"l, Jewish Family Services (JFS) becomes an independent organization. It started with a staff of seven. Herbert Kohn is named President in 1982. JFS becomes the parent name for the new agency consisting of Jewish Family and Children's Bureau and Ben Massell Dental Clinic.

First Annual Meeting - 1983

Growing to Meet the Dynamic Needs of the Community


Aided by the generous contribution of the family of the late Max M. Cuba, JFS moves from the Atlanta Jewish Federation Building into offices in the Selig Educational Building next door to The Temple.


The PAL Program, Atlanta's only Jewish Big Brother/Big Sister program, is created to match mentors with Jewish children in single-parent homes. Its annual fundraiser, Havinagala, is initiated in 1994.


JFS begins providing services to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. "ILP Parties" begin in the mid-90s to help provide financial support for the independent living program. They soon become the singular annual wine tasting event – The Tasting – that is now more than 20 years strong.

The History of JF&CS

Gary Miller joins JFS as CEO in 1991

In 1991, Gary Miller left his native Montreal to take the helm at Jewish Family Services. At the time, JFS had a budget of around $1M and ran nine programs: Kosher Meals on Wheels, Cradle of Love Adoption, The PAL Program, Community Chaplaincy, Counseling, Resettlement, Volunteer Services, Friendly Visitors, and DART (Dial-a-Ride Transportation).


Shalom Bayit (Peace in the Home) domestic violence program begins as a three-year grant. Today, it remains a core program, offering educational programming, advocacy and consultation, and working to dispel the myth that abuse does not occur in Jewish homes.


JFS and JVS move together from separate Midtown offices to the agency's current location on Chamblee Dunwoody Road.

The History of JF&CS

1997 - Jewish Family & Career Services is born

On January 1, 1997, Jewish Family Services (JFS) and Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) officially merged into one agency. This was symbolized when JFS President Judith Cohen z"l "wed" JVS President Ron Kirschner at the first JF&CS Annual Meeting in 1997.


The Rainbow Center was founded by members of the Atlanta Jewish Community to support LGBTQ+ individuals. It is now renamed SOJOURN: the Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity, and operates as a separate agency.


Services to older adults, previously Elder Connections, are formalized as a core service area and endowed as Aviv Older Adult Services.


The Ben Massell Dental Clinic opens its new office on 14th Street in Midtown.


HAMSA (Helping Atlantans Manage Substance Abuse) is launched as an all-inclusive community resource for education and referral services relating to substance abuse and addiction.

The History of JF&CS

Expansion of the Dunwoody Campus

In 2017, JF&CS completed the expansion of its Atlanta campus.

The expanded campus, located in the Atlanta suburb of Dunwoody, now includes a new clinical services wing, a new disabilities services building (IndependenceWorks), a new lobby, and a complete upgrade to all furnishings and fixtures.

The History of JF&CS

Terri Bonoff joins JF&CS at CEO

In 2019, Terri Bonoff assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer.