JFCS expands via new North Peninsula center

North Peninsula Jews looking for social services will no longer have to drive north to San Francisco or south to Palo Alto.

On Jan. 2, Jewish Family and Children’s Services opened a new facility in San Mateo to serve the community’s growing Jewish population.

“There are needs everywhere, but we found a pocket of especially underserved people in the North Peninsula,” said Rich Sorkin, a JFCS board member and volunteer.

A 2005 study of the Bay Area’s Jewish community found that in the North Peninsula, one out of three households has children under the age of 18 — the highest proportion in the area. Of those children, one out of five live in single-parent homes. The North Peninsula also has the Bay Area’s second-highest interfaith marriage rate, at 62 percent of the Jewish population.

These are all populations that JFCS serves. And yet, the community had no JFCS programs of its own. The distance could be tough on the many people JFCS serves, especially the elderly.

Anita Friedman, JFCS executive director, said she and her colleagues already knew the North Peninsula was underserved, and the study confirmed their anecdotal experiences.

“The study highlighted a critical need and inspired us to move quickly,” she said.

The results will be apparent starting this month, when North Peninsula residents will have quick, local access to the buffet of offerings JFCS provides, thanks to the opening of the renovated 20,000-square-foot space. The Eleanor Haas Koshland Center is located at 2001 Winward Way in San Mateo.

The new JFCS building houses Parents Place and Seniors-At-Home, comprehensive mental health services, a volunteer center and programs for children, teens and émigrés.

“All of our other centers are full, serving thousands every year, and we expect this to be true in San Mateo,” Friedman said.

JFCS began fundraising two years ago to cover the cost of the new building. It has raised half of its fundraising goal of $10 million, which includes the cost of renovation and a program endowment.

JFCS hired eight new people for the Hass Koshland Center and reassigned several other staffers. The organization expects the new center to serve 10,000 to 15,000 people in the first year alone. That estimate is partially based on how quickly people began to use the Palo Alto JFCS resource center when it opened two years ago.

“Almost instantaneously people were coming in and using those services,” Sorkin said.

He added that when social services are not convenient or cost effective, even people in need won’t seek them out.

“When JFCS opens in a community, all of a sudden, people think, ‘Well, this fits my needs’ and they start using the full palette of services,” he said.

The new building is named for Eleanor Haas Koshland, a dedicated supporter of JFCS and the Jewish community, and a North Peninsula resident. Haas Koshland was the JFCS board president in 1939. She donated the building that is now the JFCS Dream House, a transitional housing program for women and children, and the lot that is home to Rhoda Goldman Plaza assisted living community in San Francisco. She also founded JFCS’ Utility Workshop to create work and support for victims of Nazi persecution.

Stacey Palevsky

Stacey Palevsky is a former J. staff writer.