In honor of Labor Day and our Centennial year, I’d like to highlight the Federation partner agency that for nearly 85 years has aided our community members in finding employment and receiving the training and tools needed to succeed. Today the Jewish Vocational Service of MetroWest (JVS) continues its mission by serving more than 2,000 individuals each year who dream of a better life.
The JVS was founded in 1939 by the Jewish Community in Newark, initially serving unemployed Jewish adults who in the post-Depression were still desperately seeking work, followed by emigres who poured into the country post-WWII. The agency also began to serve young people seeking their first jobs and youth in need of college guidance. Its Board of Trustees and the Board of the Jewish Community Council (predecessor of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ) worked to develop a network of businesses to participate in the agency’s job placement program.
By the end of its first decade, JVS enlarged its repertoire of services, grew its staff, and created a sheltered workplace specifically for emigres who were disabled due to the atrocities of the Holocaust and could not gain employment in the competitive work world.
The agency moved into larger quarters in Newark, expanded its rehabilitation efforts, and incorporated the Opportunity Workshop of JVS (known now as The Joseph L. Weinberg Vocational Rehabilitation Center). Today the JVS of MetroWest has three offices and continues to help people reach their goals.
Here are some of the key programs JVS established over the years:
1957 – Adopted a non-sectarian service policy for most of its programs, ushering in decades of grant-funded services dedicated to the needs of individuals with significant barriers to obtaining employment.
1971 – Established the first rehabilitation, job placement, extended employment, and supportive services program in New Jersey dedicated to older adults with disabilities (ages 55+) in its Work Center on Aging Program.
1977 – Formulated a collaborative response to the sudden influx of hundreds of Soviet Jewish refugees by creating a joint Émigré Resettlement Center in coordination with MetroWest member agencies. This program was expanded in 1985, through government funding, to include English as a Second Language (ESL) and Basic Skills training for individuals from more than 20 countries, thereby becoming an International Service Center.
1979 – Established the JVS Scholarship Loan Program providing interest-free loans to students pursuing a degree in higher education.
1991 – Started to provide English as a Second Language and Basic Skills training on-site in companies, which expanded to a customized training program to hundreds of businesses throughout the State of New Jersey.
2003 – Created Maturity Works, a career counseling and job placement program for unemployed residents of MetroWest age 45+.
2004 – Started JVS At Home Services to provide nonmedical caregiving companions and home maintenance repairs to help the frail elderly and disabled residents of MetroWest remain safely in their own homes.
2006 – Established the Ronald I. Coun Center for Creative Maturity and offered the community the first annual JVS Creative Maturity Expo in 2007.
2007 – Established Wellness Works which provides healthcare case management for clients. In addition, it offers an agency-wide annual health fair, ongoing health screenings, and educational seminars.
2009 – Launched Career Camp to give teens diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder the opportunity to explore the world of work.
2011 – Created the Career Center for young adults diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder to help develop the skills to enter the competitive job market.
For nearly 85 years, JVS has provided the Greater MetroWest Jewish community and beyond with critical support in finding meaningful work and success in life. They have positively impacted the lives of thousands upon thousands of individuals and are a stellar example of what our Jewish community can achieve when we pool our resources to address ever-changing needs.
To learn more about JVS, visit its website.
To read a fascinating blog about how Jewish Americans led the way in labor organizing, click here.