Jewish Family Services held our 2022 Annual Meeting on October 26th at the War Memorial in downtown Milwaukee.  Guests were able to attend in-person or virtually.  Adam Witkov, Jewish Family Services’ Board Chair welcomed guests and presented highlights from the last year.  He stated that JFS continues to serve a diverse population of clients across the greater Milwaukee area.  The vast majority of the people served are challenged economically with seventy-one percent living on less than $15,000 a year. Seventy-four percent of individuals served live in the city of Milwaukee (ranked 2nd in poverty among top 50 most-populated cities in the United States.) Adam said, “When someone has a disability, mental health challenges or is aging, the condition of poverty nearly doubles the negative outcomes associated with those conditions. So, we know it is not enough for JFS to offer quality services, we must also make sure these services are accessible those who struggle financially.”

Randy Nelson, Treasurer gave a financial overview of Jewish Family Services and JFS Housing, stressing that JFS Housing has continued to trend upward over the years.  He said, “Without the generous support of our donors JFS would not have had the impact we did; our clients and community thank you!” Randy said, “JFS has an important mission, particularly now more than ever, we can’t fulfill it without your ongoing financial support.” To further emphasize the importance of philanthropic support to Jewish Family Services, Fund Development Committee Chair, Marlene Lauwasser provided specifics within the past fiscal year’s budget. “Last year, philanthropic support accounted thirty-one percent of JFS’ operating budget, second only to non-government revenue at thirty-eight percent,” Marlene said, “We benefitted from significant contributions from individual donors, an increase in grant awards and a number of significant bequests. The United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County allow us and other partner agencies additional flexibility using our allocated dollars and the Milwaukee Jewish Federation was our largest single source of philanthropic support at twenty-seven percent, even more so when including grants to support Jewish community programs and special initiatives.”

JFS Housing’s Board Chair, Laurie Biskowitz provided an update on Bradley Crossing and Deerwood Crossing Senior Residences. This past year, Bradley Crossing was home to 246 residents including adults, individuals with disabilities, and low-income families. This number includes a significant number of children, thirty-seven percent. Surveys show the positive impact of our supportive housing model at Bradley Crossing with 86% of respondents showing improvement in their ability to understand and advocate for their needs,” Laurie shared, “In addition, 81% reported improvement in their daily living skills, and 95% described their living situation as improved or remaining the same.”  Laurie went on to say that for seniors, age 55 and older, Deerwood Crossing Senior Residences is a place where they can face aging with dignity and the personal supports they need to remain as independent as possible. Fifty percent (50%) of residents are age 76 or older and twenty-eight percent (have household incomes under $15,000.  Surveys show that eighty-eight percent of seniors agree and strongly agree that environment is well maintained and they feel safe. One-hundred percent agree and strongly agree that they are able to socialize and seventy-six percent agree and strongly agree that they are satisfied with their overall experience.

The highlight of the evening was guest speaker, Judge Derek Mosley, the Chief Judge of the Milwaukee Municipal Court. His presentation on “Unconscious Bias – Knowing What You Don’t Know” gave the audience a better understanding of the millions of bits of information that we receive every day, how our brains logically fill in the blanks and ultimately leads us to bias and conclusions that happen without our being aware of the influences.  Judge Mosely offered, “If you are person and you come in contact with people, then this presentation is for you.”  Attendees were encouraged to assess their own bias by taking Harvard’s Implicit Association Test.   One of our long-time board members shared, “he provided one of the best presentations I’ve ever attended.