Philadelphia, PA • Since 1819


FHBS Announces New Funding from the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia

The Female Hebrew Benevolent Society of Greater Philadelphia is proud to be receiving $60,775 from the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Maimonides Fund for Health and Human Service Relief. In just six short weeks, the Jewish Federation raised $1 million that was matched with $500,000 from the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) – making a total impact of $1.4 million going out into our community to serve the most vulnerable members of the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community. All of the money raised was granted to 13 local organizations and agencies, including the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society.

Holly Nelson, Chair of Jewish Federation’s Emergency Response Committee shared, “We are truly grateful for the generosity of the Maimonides Fund donors who stepped up to ensure that individuals of all ages who have been deeply affected by the pandemic are receiving the assistance they need. The Jewish Federation is committed to supporting our entire community. The success of this Fund and the larger Jewish Federation COVID Emergency Fund, is a testament to the power of our collective.”

Money granted through the Maimonides Fund will provide countless essential services to the vulnerable individuals that the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society serves. The funds will be allocated towards costs associated with providing immediate aid to clients facing financial crisis, especially medical expenses, utilities, and rent/mortgage payments.

Our Leadership Team

Suzanne Sztul, President

Suzanne learned about FHBS during her social work internship at Jewish Family and Children’s Service. Shortly after, she joined the board as an observer, followed by full board membership in November 2013. She is well versed in the operations of FHBS, having served as recording secretary, chair of the Monthly Stipend Committee and administrator of our Mishloah Manot fund raiser, among other supporting responsibilities. Suzanne is honored to have been elected to serve as president for the next four years. When not running FHBS or wrangling her toddler, she enjoys playing piano, bike riding, cross-stitching, Israeli dancing, and mahjong.


Meryl Tucker, Vice President

Meryl was introduced to FHBS by former board president Eileen Sklaroff, following many shared and peaceful mornings of yin yoga. Drawn to the notion of women supporting women, Meryl joined the board as an observer, eager to connect with the community after taking a leave from her professional role as a social worker. She became a full board member in 2019. Surrounded by a house full of males, she relishes in the connection to strong, empathetic women. In addition to supporting FHBS, Meryl enjoys exploring Philadelphia with her three boys, yoga and travel.


Alicia Ludwig, Recording Secretary

Board member emerita, Naomi Benditt, a friend from camp carpool days, introduced Alicia to FHBS. “I was moved when I heard each individual story of the women we help and jazzed that the organization is all-volunteer run and has been since its founding 200-years ago.”  She transitioned from observer to board member status in May of 2019. Alicia’s two daughters are now in graduate school programs studying law and speech language pathology.  Free from carpooling, she enjoys reading, gardening and is a bit of a homebody.  Professionally, her work revolves around the intersection of research, healthcare, and educational evaluation.


Pam Stein, Treasurer

A professional at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia told Pam about FHBS, and she was immediately impressed with the mission of the organization. Excited to work with a group of Jewish women who help Jewish women in the Greater Philadelphia area, Pam joined the board in 2009.  She is an accountant by trade, so volunteering to be the treasurer was a perfect fit. Pam lives in the suburbs with her husband, two step-kids and two cats.

FHBS Celebrates 200 at the Rosenbach

A program entitled, Rebecca Gratz: American Judaism’s First Female Philanthropist, was presented in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society (FHBS).  Susan McDonald, a Rebecca Gratz fan and scholar, spoke at the Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia on November 12, 2019.  Gratz is among the founders of FHBS and served as the first secretary for nearly 40-years.

McDonald is the host and creator of the blog Rebecca Gratz and 19th Century America.  McDonald has a great understanding of Jewish values, American patriotism,  and feminine strivings that motivated Gratz’s public acts of compassion. Gratz was a leader in her Jewish community and the Philadelphia community of the 19th century.  She left an indelible impression, for the organizations she helped create, and saw those efforts imitated throughout the eastern seaboard of the United States.  Our Philadelphia FHBS holds the distinction of being the oldest, continuously run Jewish charitable organization in American history.  To learn more about the life and times of Rebecca Gratz, read more.



Never Doubt That FHBS Makes a Difference

Hello Everyone,

I just want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for giving my daughter the opportunity to go to camp at Golden Slipper. She has the time of her life when she is there, and she looks forward to it all year long. The program is absolutely outstanding, especially for the vulnerable age she is at. Golden Slipper builds her confidence and makes her an independent little woman. This is her third year with Golden Slipper and each year she is happier.

Thank you for the scholarship that you have provided to my daughter. We have been through trauma and hard times in our lives, and this really brings such joy to my daughter. I cannot thank you enough. This is so very appreciated from myself, my daughter and my entire family!

Thank you for all you do! Thank you from my whole family.

Commemoration & Celebration

On the morning of Sunday, June 2, 2019, the Board of Managers of the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society and their families gathered at Mikveh Israel Cemetery, 825 Spruce Street, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the founding of the organization and to honor the women buried there who were among our original members. A brief ceremony highlighted our past, present and future and ended with a member of the next generation placing a stone on the graves of these independent and forward-thinking women whose commitment to Jewish values and practices guides us even to this day. Read more…

Group Helps Jewish Women for 200 Years

Eileen Sklaroff forgives you if you haven’t heard of the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society (FHBS), an organization celebrating its 200th anniversary.

“We are a very well-kept secret,” said Sklaroff, the organization’s president.

The tiny social services organization was founded in 1819 with the help of legendary Philadelphian Rebecca Gratz…

Read more in the Jewish Exponent.

Arlene and Stephen

Arlene is a 93-year-old widow whose monthly income of $1,167 derives from Social Security, SNAP and a monthly stipend from FHBS. She ran an antique jewelry business in Center City with her late husband; they raised two sons. Arlene has multiple health issues including circulatory problems, depression and loss of appetite. She is homebound and mostly bed bound because she has to keep her legs elevated.

Arlene’s story is sad and continues to spiral downward. One of her sons was murdered in his place of business many years ago. Her home was in the son’s name and, upon his death, his wife forced her to move out. Arlene lived in subsidized senior housing for seven years while she and the other son, Stephen, went to court to regain the property.

They finally succeeded, but at the cost of buying the house from the daughter-in-law. Arlene returned to live there by herself while Stephen lived and worked in suburbs. Everyday Stephen came to Arlene’s home before and after work to prepare her meals and help with household chores. The trip took about 45 minutes each way. He also helped with expenses. 

Then Stephen was diagnosed with stage four lymphoma. As a result, his girlfriend walked out, and he eventually lost his job. The girlfriend has a daughter who was like a granddaughter to Arlene, so the breakup had an emotional impact on her as well.

Stephen eventually moved in with his mother. He held hope that he would survive the cancer so he tried not to cash his 401K. But the household bills, which amount to almost $3,000/month, forced him to do so. This same hope caused him to delay applying for SSD. When he finally did, he was rejected and had to request a hearing in order to finally receive $1,307/month, less than if he had applied at the time he was no longer able to work. The added income saved their house from foreclosure but still is not enough to cover all of the expenses.

If Stephen dies, Arlene will have to move to a nursing home because she needs daily care and there will be no one to provide it. If Stephen dies, Arlene will no longer have a reason to live.

FHBS is here to help. We are providing a Personal Emergency Response System, and a $50 pharmacy stipend for a six-month period. We also recently started paying quarterly for incontinence supplies. Arlene’s story is sad, but she deserves dignity and care especially in this difficult time.

From Generation to Generation

Following is a note received from a donor whose mother’s commitment to the mission and work of FHBS was reflected in a bequest. We are grateful that our message reaches so many and results in generous support for Jewish women in need.

Thank you so much for your contribution to FHBS in memory of my mother.

The essence of my mother was kindness. FHBS was one of the favorite charities of this ‘woman of valor,’ who never forgot what it was like to grow up poor, how hard her parents worked and struggled and the ravages of the Great Depression during her formative years.

Your contribution in this meaningful way truly reflects her caring spirit.

Best wishes to all for the New Year.

Written by a Donor/Daughter of a Donor

Thank You All

At FHBS we care. We strive to meet the needs of the community from young to old. When we get thank you notes for our efforts, we feel a sense of success and satisfaction. In an age of brief communications, these thank you notes take on a special meaning.

“E thanks you for the good news that she won the camp scholarship. You made her summer, she said. Thanks for all that you do. It is much appreciated.”  Domestic Violence Counselor, Jewish Family & Children’s Service

“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your generous CVS gift card you send me every month. I really don’t know what I would do without it. You are so kind. God bless you.”

“Dear FHBS, Thank you for the scholarship to Ramah. I am really looking forward to going to camp. Love, Jacob F.”

“Once again, God Bless. You have gifted me toward my pharmacy. You have no idea what relief your generosity gives me. I take 15 pills a day and paying all of it was a great worry of mine. With your help, I am able to finish my payment in a humane way – when I can pay it. Thank you.”  Fondly, A. J.

“You gave our son with special needs the most wonderful summer of his life. It was wonderful for us as parents, too. We have never spent a night away from our 12-year-old son. Best of all was when the counselors told us what a terrific kid he is. We always knew it, but now others who came to know him feel the same. There are no words to express our appreciation.” Mr. and Mrs.  J. F.

Written by Judy Richards

A Delicate Financial Balance

Charlotte is a 22-year-old woman with low IQ scores and autism spectrum disorder. When her father passed away about a year ago, she moved to Philadelphia with her mother and sister, who has borderline personality disorder and recently experienced a significant psychiatric episode. Charlotte’s monthly Social Security Disability payments of $1,025 plus SNAP benefits of $501 provide support for the entire household. Her mother earns only $150/month doing house cleaning. In March, the family was advised that the Social Security Administration would be reviewing Charlotte’s case and putting her check on hold. FHBS paid April’s rent, $850, to keep the family current pending resolution of the review.

Written by Eileen S. Sklaroff


On the invitation of Barbara Glickman, the Education Director of Ohev Shalom of Bucks County in Richboro, our president, Eileen Sklaroff, spoke to three Hebrew school classes of 4th, 5th and 6th grade students about FHBS. Her talk was scheduled the week before their Mitzvah Day Project, and the message was about tzedakah and how FHBS serves our local community. From the students’ questions and comments, Eileen could see they understood the mitzvah of tzedakah.

A few days later, Eileen received a letter from Ms. Glickman explaining, It is having individuals like Eileen sharing her expertise and knowledge with our students that assists in sparking each student’s own journey in their Jewish identity. A $36 contribution from the Hebrew School was included.

Then followed another surprise. Responding to a teacher’s suggestion that one way the students could participate in helping was to give FHBS some stamps, Eileen received 127 stamps ($56.69) from the amazing Dalet class. They collected the stamps as part of their Mitzvah Day Project. FHBS used those stamps to send Purim greetings as requested by donors for our Mishloach Manot fund raiser. Everyone wins!!!

Written by Judy Richards

Taking A Burden Off Caring Daughters

In early September 2015, Ethel, a 98-year-old widow, fell during the night. Unable to get up or call for help, she remained on the floor for approximately 15-hours until one of her daughters, concerned because she could not contact her mother, entered the apartment. She found her lying on the floor, dehydrated and soiled. Ethel spent four days in the hospital and three weeks in rehab before returning home. Fearing another fall, her older daughter enrolled her mother in a medical alert system program but expressed concern that the monthly fees would impact on her ability to pay for other medical needs – new hearing aids, incontinence supplies, a home health aid, all of which Ethel cannot afford on her income of $1,146/month. Two months after the fall, Philips Lifeline installed equipment in Ethel’s home ensuring a direct line to help in a medical emergency and freeing resources for her family to support her needs in other ways.

Written by Eileen S. Sklaroff

$50 Doesn’t Seem Like A Lot, But…

Grace is a 55-year-old woman who moved to Philadelphia from Lakewood, New Jersey in December of 2013. At that time, her daughter, who lives locally, was paying for her to live in a studio apartment in Center City. Divorced with only a little over $1,000/month to cover expenses, including Social Security, part time employment and SNAP, Grace moved to an apartment managed by Project HOME. In June of last year, a falling out with her daughter resulted in loss of financial support and total estrangement. Grace’s monthly income barely covers her $837 rent. In better times, she had a successful crafts line and still tries to sell some of her pieces on the internet. Currently, Grace walks a friend’s dog to earn extra money. Her $50/month CVS gift card will cover vitamin supplements, medicinal creams and remedies for her back pain.

Written by Eileen S. Sklaroff

A Stair Glide Provides Accessibility and Much More

A social work intern at Jewish Family and Children’s Service referred Esther to FHBS. She is 87-years-old and lives in a two-story house in the far Northeast. Her daughter, who has breast cancer, lives with and takes care of her. Their combined monthly income from Social Security and SSD is $2,673. Additionally, Esther receives SNAP in the amount of $16, Medicaid and PACE. Her husband died of lung cancer, and his treatment depleted their savings. Esther suffers from COPD as a result of secondary smoke inhalation. The intern contacted FHBS looking for resources to buy a stair glide. FHBS suggested rental and reached out to reactivate a relationship with a reliable vendor. The annual cost will be $1,149. FHBS paid $644.05 for installation plus six-months; JFCS will pay the next installment. Esther’s daughter left the following phone message: “… I want to thank the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society for what they have done for my mom… I try the best I can to take care of her and the stair glide is just wonderful. I wish I could tell you how many times she uses it. She was always confined to her bed and stayed upstairs and now she can come down and eat dinner with us…”

Written by Eileen S. Sklaroff

$50/Month Makes A Difference

Kathy is a 59-year-old, divorced and disabled woman whose monthly income of $876 derives from SSI and SNAP. In addition, she qualifies for Medicaid. Kathy rents a room for $325/month leaving little extra to cover her personal expenses, including the many over-the-counter medicines she needs to alleviate symptoms from esophagitis and a hiatal hernia. The $50 monthly gift card from CVS will help cover Ensure, Pepto-Bismol, antacids, Tums and ibuprofen. She drives a 16-year-old Dodge Intrepid. Recently dropped from her ex-husband’s car insurance policy, she now needs to pay for her own. Adding to Kathy’s stress is credit card debt of $10,000, incurred by her mother, who is purportedly paying it down.

Written by Eileen S. Sklaroff

Making a Difference for Rosa

Rosa is an 88-year-old widow, who lives in subsidized senior housing in Northeast Philadelphia. Her monthly income, derived from Social Security, is $1,175; she has $1,000 in savings. Her care manager applied to FHBS for a grant to cover a dietary supplement. She wrote: “This client has a gastrointestinal blockage that she states is a long-term consequence of her experiences during World War II. She is too frail for surgery, and her diet is limited to soft, white foods and clear liquids. Ensure gives her strength and energy. One can each day is a vital part of her nutrition.” Two cases of Ensure will be shipped directly to Rosa every three-months at an annual cost to FHBS of $601.92. When the first shipment arrived, Rosa called her care manager to share what a major difference it has made in her life. After taking the supplement again for just two days, she said, “I feel like a completely different person… My ankles are so swollen, but without Ensure I couldn’t even lift them off the stool. Now I can.”

Written by Eileen S. Sklaroff

Pharmacy Stipend Program Begins Eighth Cycle

Beth is a 78-year-old, divorced woman who relocated from Florida, where she was living with her second, emotionally and physically abusive husband. When one of her sons, also a resident of Florida, learned of his mother’s situation, he and his mentally challenged daughter came to visit. Infuriated by the attempted intervention, the stepfather, a former New Jersey police officer, shot Beth’s son in the chest and killed him. Beth borrowed $13,000 to pay for an expedited divorce and left the state. The debt was repaid through a special program, but she is restricted from obtaining a credit card again. Beth lived with another son in New Jersey for three years while waiting for an opening in a Federation Housing building. Her monthly income from Social Security and a city pension is $1,835. Beth suffers from Crohn’s Disease, Lupus and diabetes. She has a history of breast cancer, back surgery and a bladder implant. She goes for Remicade infusions every two months and also takes calcium, vitamin D and other supplements. Additionally, Beth uses incontinence products. Her social worker wrote: “ Rite Aid gift cards would be very helpful.” Thanks to continued support from The Legacy Fund of SJCC Bnai Aaron, Beth and 29 other women will receive a $50 pharmacy stipend for the next six-months.

Written by Eileen S.  Sklaroff

Peace of Mind

Gert resides at a low-income, tax credit building under the auspices of Federation Housing, Inc. Her annual income of $21,000 comes from Social Security and a pension. Gert has a loving family, including a daughter-in-law who is devoted to her. They call or visit frequently. An aide assists with shopping, house cleaning and personal care. Although Gert appears frail and uses a walker, she is an active participant in many activities in her building – book club, hot lunches and wellness checks. She has had the use of an ERS since 2007. Her response to the annual survey about participation in the program says it best: “I have been very fortunate and have never had to use my button. However, I am 99-years-old and living independently. The fact that I have the system helps me feel safer and better able to cope.”

Written by Eileen S. Sklaroff

Even With A Caring Family, Old Age Can Be Cruel

In her late 90s and frail, Dena is a resident of a senior community where she is seen every other day by a social worker. Her daughters, who live locally, speak with her daily on the phone. Yet, when Dena fell during the night in September 2015, she was all alone for close to 15-hours and unable to call for help. When her oldest daughter could not reach her by phone, she came to her mother’s apartment where she found her on the floor, dehydrated and soiled. This was followed by four days in the hospital and two weeks in rehab.

Dena has many medical issues that come with living a long life: hearing loss, incontinence and frailty. She requires a home health aide and a physical therapist, both of whom come to her apartment. For those times when the aide is not there, she relies on an Emergency Response System. Dena fears that she will not be able to pay for the ERS and other services. To lighten the financial burden on Dena and her daughters, FHBS agreed to cover the cost of the ERS. This will not only ease concerns about another fall, but also help her family continue to provide for her financial needs.

Together with the family, FHBS can make a difference and bring peace of mind to all concerned.

Written by Judy Richards

On the Edge of Homelessness

Brenda is 58-years-old and single. She worked part-time until an injury led to shoulder surgery. While recovering, she fell and is now in a rehab facility with additional back problems. Already $40,000 in debt, Brenda cannot afford to pay her rent. Though she currently receives SSD income and will apply for SNAP should she be unable to return to work, this will not be enough to cover her expenses, including a 13-year-old car. FHBS paid her rent of $810 for December. Her financial problems are not solved, but we saved her home for another month and gave her time to work on a long-term plan. For some, that is a moment to exhale.

Written by Judy Richards

An Emergency Response System Summons the Rescue

Rose is a 93-year-old widow who was living in her own house in Northeast Philadelphia on August 28, 2011 when she was enrolled in FHBS’s Emergency Response System Program. She was assessed as “frail,” but not isolated because she had contact with the outside world several times a day. Her case manager describes Rose as “very social.” Her income of $1,137/month derived from Social Security and SNAP.

In March of 2014, FHBS received notification from Philips Lifeline indicating that Rose had “entered a hospital or rehab.” Her case manager confirmed that she had fallen for the third time, broken her hip and was in the hospital. Rehab was possible but it was too early for the attending physicians to make that decision. Rose’s version as quoted in the Questionnaire Feedback is as follows: … I fell a few months ago in my house and fell on the floor and crushed my hip. I passed out. My nephew found me and then I called my daughter. I don’t want to be a burden.”

At the beginning of May, Rose moved from rehab to her daughter’s house. The ERS went with her. In late August, Rose moved to the Philadelphia Protestant Home on a trial basis. With winter coming, her daughter wanted Rose to be in a place where she could get immediate help if needed. A visit a few days later confirmed that her mother was happy and doing well.

The equipment was returned to Philips Lifeline and FHBS received the following note:

“On behalf of my mother, Rose S., I wish to thank you for having paid for Mom to have Lifeline these past few years. She and our family have greatly appreciated the security and peace of mind she had using Lifeline. She survived Dad by 30-years and economics became difficult. Thank you for caring and your kindness.

Sincerely, her daughter, Judy L.”

Written by Judy Richards

How Americas Oldest Jewish Charity Stays on No-Frills Path

When Women Help Women — Without the Galas

If you search for the offices of the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society, you will not find any. America’s oldest Jewish charitable organization in continuous existence has never had an official headquarters, and most likely never will. That’s not the only thing that distinguishes FHBS from other charities: It has no paid staffers; its members work as volunteers. The ladies of FHBS do not throw banquets; they do not hold teas. They raise funds through no-frills giving campaigns; they reach out to people in their own circles, informing them of their mission to offer aid to Jewish women in financial distress…

Read more:

An Emergency Response System Does More Than Its Job

Mrs. Allerson, a widow in her eighties, was startled by two men who broke into her ground floor condo in the Northeast in late summer.  She instinctively pressed the call button on her emergency response system, even though it was not a medical emergency, and the police were summoned. On seeing Mrs. Allerson, the men ran out as her neighbor screamed and yelled at them.  The experience left her anxious and insecure in her own home.  Unable to afford a security system, as she was limited to Social Security and food stamps, Mrs. Allerson turned to her social worker at Jewish Family and Children’s Service, who appealed to FHBS for immediate help.  Within two-weeks, a security system was installed.

To quote her social worker, I just got off the phone with Mrs. Allerson. I told her you were covering the cost of the installation and the first month for her alarm system. She is so very grateful. She started crying!  I echo her gratitude.

FHBS responds immediately to women in our community who often have no place to turn for financial assistance in troubled times. Your contribution enables us to be there when needed.

Written by Judith Richards

FHBS Pharmacy Stipend Program Begins Sixth Cycle

The sixth cycle of FHBS’s Pharmacy Stipend Program began on September 1, 2015 with a total of 26 participants, each receiving a monthly $50 gift card, or the equivalent, through February 1, 2016. Stipends are to be used for uncovered medical expenses. The total cost of the program is $7,770; funding came from The Legacy Fund of Suburban JCC Bnai Aaron ($7,500) and an FHBS board member ($270).

Thirteen women from the fifth cycle were eligible for renewal. A referring social worker advised that two of her clients were currently financially stable and would not need the stipend; one client died mid-cycle. Twelve new clients were added. Of these 12, five were never before assisted by FHBS in any category. At the request of social workers, we also included four women with great financial need who had been participants in earlier cycles.

Fourteen of these women live in Philadelphia with 12 in surrounding suburbs including Bensalem, Elkins Park, Hatboro, Huntingdon Valley, Merion, Plymouth Meeting, Trevose, Willow Grove and Wynnewood. They range in age from 42 to 92 with approximately equal numbers of women in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. Ten are married, four are divorced, eight are widows, three are single, never married and one is separated. There are six minor children in five households; 15 households have two or more adults.

Primary sources of income include employment, SS and SSD. All but two households receive at least one public entitlement. Fourteen households receive SNAP. According to the 2015 Federal Poverty Level Guidelines, three households live at 100% or lower, nine at 150%, nine at 200 % and five at 250%+. [A single person classified at 100% subsists on an annual income of $11,770 or less, two persons at $15,930 or less, etc.]

Referrals came from Heart to Heart at Klein JCC, JFCS Departments of Care Management, Senior Services and Orthodox Services and Federation Housing. Pharmacies include Acme, CVS, Giant, Rite Aid, ShopRite, Target, Walgreens, Walmart and seven independent stores.

This program, initiated with contributions in memory of Lillian Tabas and continued for five additional cycles through the generosity of The Legacy Fund of Suburban JCC Bnai Aaron, has impacted on the lives of 78 different women.

Written by Eileen S. Sklaroff

Who Benefits From a Pharmacy Stipend?

Regina is an 88-year-old widow who has been bedridden for years with senile degeneration of the brain. She lives with her single, 64-year-old daughter whose small pension supplements their $1,320 monthly income. Their car is a 1990 Acura Integra with 86,000 miles. When the case manager first visited the home, she found a dire situation. Liberty at Home Hospice had been supplying incontinence products but discharged Regina inasmuch as they no longer deemed her condition “terminal.” The case manager immediately began the process of applying for SNAP, Medicare Part D, Low Income Subsidy and PDA Waiver. The household is not eligible for a property tax rebate because taxes have not been paid for the past two years. FHBS’s assistance in the form of a monthly $50 Rite-Aid gift card will be a huge help. The daughter said, “I live for my mother and my mother lives for me.”

Sandy’s husband walked out after 40-years of marriage. She said to her case manager, “I was left penniless at age 60.” Now 71, she finds herself working part-time at JC Penny to supplement Social Security and SNAP. Monthly income totals $1,636. Her estranged husband pays for her health insurance, which is fortunate since she just completed treatment for two kinds of breast cancer. He will stop paying real estate taxes in January 2016. Sandy drives a 1994 Toyota with 84,000 miles. She does not have cable TV or a cellphone. She is working with a credit counselor on debt consolidation and possible personal bankruptcy. With her case manager’s encouragement, she is also thinking about applying for subsidized senior housing. Sandy’s monthly $50 Rite-Aid gift card will help with vitamins and OTC medical needs.

Barbara, age 54, lives in Bucks County with her 61-year-old husband and their 19-year-old son. They lost their home to foreclosure and lived in a motel room for a year and a half. Her family recently helped them move into an apartment, which JFCS helped furnish. Monthly income from SSD is $3,387. Both Barbara and her husband are sick and unable to work. They are part of a charity program at St. Mary’s Hospital so medication and doctors’ visits are covered in total. The son receives Medicaid and gets a small stipend from Tabor Services to buy clothing and a winter coat. They carry debt of $20,000 in unpaid medical bills. Barbara will use her monthly $50 Walmart gift card for Depends and Benadryl.

Written by Eileen S. Sklaroff

An Emergency Response System Reevaluated

Sara is a fiercely independent 86-year-old, who has lived in the same Center City apartment, once shared with her mother, for over 50-years. A single woman who never married, Sara worked until retirement. She derives monthly income of $1,045 from Social Security, SNAP and a stipend from FHBS. Other public entitlements include a rent rebate and PACE. Until recently, Sara was relatively healthy and went daily to the PCA Senior Center on South Broad Street; on Fridays she attended the Shabbat program at the Jewish Community Services Building. These resources were especially important during the administration of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, who reinstated an assets test for SNAP recipients causing Sara to lose her benefits. (Sara has squirreled away approximately $14,000 to cover the rent increase she fears will force her to move and the cost of her burial.)

It took two different social workers and several years to convince Sara to accept an FHBS monthly stipend and a personal emergency response system. She was enrolled in our ERS program in March of 2013. Despite the fact that she was told repeatedly that the equipment is useless unless the call button is on one’s person, Sara insisted upon keeping it on a crystal elephant on a table near her phone. She called it her “good luck charm” because having it there was a guarantee she would never need to use it. In late June, she woke up in the middle of the night, tried to get out of bed and could not move. The crystal elephant was not within reach. Sara screamed for an hour and a half before someone heard her and called the building’s property manager. He arrived and, subsequently, summoned an ambulance.

On July 8, Sara’s social worker made a home visit. Sara said, “All I know is I never had the need. Sometimes when people get ill, they get so scared they forget what they should.” The following day, she used her ERS to call for assistance and was readmitted to the hospital. She is now home with assistance from an aide.

Written by Eileen S. Sklaroff

After 196-years, our mission is still relevant for today’s young women

Tanya Bradley, a student at Loyola University Chicago, won a $500 prize in a drawing to donate to a charity of her choice. She opted for the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society! Tanya explained her choice in an email to FHBS President Eileen Sklaroff: “I knew I wanted to donate to a charity that helped women, especially those who are Jewish like me. My great-grandmother came to this country during the Holocaust with only 5 dollars in her pocket. I know having an organization like this would have helped her. I want to contribute to helping women like my great-grandmother in any way possible. I hope the money I donated can help a woman in need realize that even though life can be hard, there are people to help guide you through the struggle and that it will turn out okay.”

Tanya simply and eloquently explained the raison d’etre for FHBS. We’re here to help women in need.

Written by Judy Richards


Betty is a 63-year-old, disabled woman who was living frugally on $1,579 a month from Social Security Disability payments. She fell behind in her rent and utilities and sought help through OVR to obtain a part-time job, increasing her monthly income by $480. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late, and her electricity was shut off in March. When Betty sought the help of the Jewish Family and Children’s Service, FHBS was contacted and paid $670 to restore service. PECO then set up a monthly payment plan that was affordable.

Though Betty was extricated from this latest disaster, she lives under the pressures that come with growing debt. In addition to the basic costs of food and shelter and phone, she has the added expenses of a 12-year-old car, medical bills and health insurance. With no family to help, Betty finds herself in this stressful state each month. Thanks to our donors, we can be there for her when she’s in a pinch.

Written by Judy Richards

News Flash: The world is filled with caring people!

In the fall of 2014, a home health aide discovered the body of her 62-year-old, Jewish patient, who lived alone in her suburban home. Bensalem police were summoned and declared the death to be of natural causes. The aide could not provide contact information for family or friends and advised that her patient had become a recluse, remaining inside her residence for the last years of her life. The body was held at the Bucks County Coroner’s office.

About a month later, the deceased’s 95-year-old father, residing in a nursing home in Philadelphia, called the police because he had not heard from his daughter. He learned that she had passed away and was advised to contact the coroner’s office to make funeral arrangements.

In February of 2015, a subordinate reminded Detective Jack Gohl of the Bensalem Township Police Department about the case. He attempted to contact the father and found that he, too, had passed away.

The administrator at the assisted living facility informed Detective Gohl that her resident’s last wish was to be buried with his wife and daughter. Detective Gohl began collecting information that led him to Harry Schwartz, a director at Goldstein’s Funeral Home, and discovered that when the wife died in 1991, her husband had purchased three plots at King David Cemetery in Bensalem. The funeral home agreed to facilitate transportation and burial of the remains of both father and daughter. To pay for the internment, the cemetery recommended that Detective Gohl contact Jewish Family and Children’s Service. They, in turn, called upon the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society. Eight hundred dollars in Jewish communal resources, a small discount from the cemetery and $500 from the Bensalem Police Benevolent Association insured that father and daughter would have a proper burial. Detective Gohl also obtained the services of a rabbi, who graciously agreed to perform a graveside service pro bono.

This poignantly tragic story evinces the compassion of many people of different faiths who came together to do the right thing. No publicity. Just quiet humanity.

Post script: After the burials, FHBS began to work on the cost of markers for the graves – an inscription on the double monument for the father and a footstone for the daughter.  Jack Livesey, Sr., owner of the cemetery, came forward to offer to cover the expense of both, adding one more act of generosity and kindness to those of Detective Gohl and Harry Schwartz. We are grateful to have had all of them as partners in our efforts on behalf of this family.

Written by Judith Richards & Eileen Sklaroff

Pharmacy Stipend Program Report – 4th Cycle

The Fourth Cycle of FHBS’s Pharmacy Stipend Program began on September 1, 2014 with a total of 27 participants, each receiving a monthly $50 gift card through February 1, 2015. Stipends are to be used for uncovered medical expenses. Funding came from The Legacy Fund of Suburban JCC Bnai Aaron ($6,700), the family of former board member Lillian Tabas, z”l ($500) and an FHBS board member ($300). The balance of $560 came from non-directed, general contributions.

Sixteen women from the third cycle were eligible for renewal. One was described as “non-compliant” by her care manager, and another used only a small amount of her stipend held at a private pharmacy. Both were discontinued. Fourteen women were renewed, and 13 were added. Of these 13, nine were never before assisted by FHBS.

Eighteen of these women live in Philadelphia with nine in surrounding suburbs including Bala Cynwyd, Broomall, Doylestown, Fairless Hills, Jenkintown, Havertown, Merion, Narberth and Trevose. They range in age from 33 to 90 with almost equal numbers of women in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. Eight are married, four are divorced, one is separated, seven are widows and seven are single, never married. There are six minor children in three households; 13 households have two adults.

Primary sources of income include employment, alimony, SSD, SS and Survivor’s Benefits. Seventeen households receive various public entitlements. According to the 2014 Federal Poverty Level Guidelines, three households live at 100% or lower, 11 at 150%, 11 at 200 % and two at 200%+. A single person classified at 100% subsists on an annual income of $11,670 or less, two persons at $15,730 or less, etc.

Referrals came from Heart to Heart at Klein JCC, JFCS Departments of Care Management, Senior Services and Orthodox Services. Pharmacies include Acme, CVS, Pathmark, RiteAid, Target, Walgreens, Walmart and five independent stores.

This program, initiated with contributions in memory of Lillian Tabas and continued for three additional cycles through the generosity of The Legacy Fund of Suburban JCC Bnai Aaron, has impacted on the lives of 54 different women, as indicated by this note from Ellen D.: Dear Ladies, You can’t know how very thrilled I am to continue being a part of this great program. It’s really wonderful and so welcome!! Thank you very, very much.

Following are snapshots of two clients who benefited from a pharmacy stipend during the fourth cycle of the program:

Jodi B is a 57-year-old, single woman who lives on $1,212 per month, including SSD, SNAP and a $10 salary. Jodi has Hepatitis C and several years ago underwent a liver transplant. MAWD (Medical Assistance) requires her to pay only $65/month for health care, and her prescription meds, which are quite expensive, are covered. She shared an apartment with a brother who passed away. The condo was sold at Sheriff’s Sale, forcing Jodi to find new housing. JFCS helped with the moving expenses. Jodi uses an assortment of OTC medications, e.g. pills for low blood sugar, to keep her physical condition in balance. The pharmacy stipend card will help with these items. Unlike most of our clients, she has another brother who co-signed her lease and is committed to helping her meet expenses to the extent he is able.

Rachel F is a 63-year-old, married woman who is the sole caretaker for her 67-year old husband. She never worked, and the couple lives on his SS and SNAP, about $1,640 monthly. They owe $6,119 to doctors and hospitals. Rachel’s husband, who is home bound, has Parkinson’s Disease, early onset dementia and depression. She has arthritis and takes OTC anti-inflammatory medications and vitamins for which she will use her stipend. There are adult children, but they do not live in the area and are unable to help.

Written by Eileen S. Sklaroff

Nobody Says It Better Than Our Clients

When asked for personal responses as to how they feel about having an emergency response system in their homes, almost all recipients enthusiastically endorsed it.  Some conceded they had not actually used it or needed it at the time of the survey, but felt secure just knowing it was there if it were needed.  The ERS button eliminates all the what ifs to living alone.  It also enhances the recipient’s sense of independence because, as so many expressed, they don’t want to be a burden to their children. A sense of security enhances the quality of one’s life, particularly as we age. Read what our clients have to say: (more…)

A Safety Net for Sylvia

Sometimes the smallest thing can change the quality of life.  When FHBS provided Sylvia with a device that empowered her to call for help that would come immediately, her life and that of her devoted family relaxed and felt more secure. (more…)

When It Rains, It Pours

Harsh economic times can press an organization’s capacity to its limits, increasing the plea for donor support. Faced with many requests, donors often have a hard time knowing where to give, how their gift will be used and to what extent it will actually help those in need. FHBS prides itself on giving 99 cents of every gifted dollar to our clients. We have no galas, luncheons or marathons. Continuing the practice established in 1819 of being a quiet charity, we send just one solicitation letter annually, at the inception of the Jewish New Year.

With our updated website, we can now share the stories of the people we help with greater frequency, and you can learn where your dollars are going. Emergency aid takes many forms for women who have been identified by communal professionals as deserving of immediate assistance. Three of the women FHBS has assisted recently have physical, psychological and financial burdens that would challenge even the strongest among us.

Marian is a 33-year-old single woman living with her mother, who has rheumatoid arthritis and heart problems, and her 9-month-old daughter. A former administrator at a local utility company, Marian lost her job a year ago; unemployment benefits ran out in December 2013. This past June, her infant daughter stopped eating and drinking. After extensive testing at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, no diagnosis was reached. The child is on a feeding tube with a special formula for the foreseeable future. W.I.C. does not cover the cost.

Saddled with student loans, medical bills and debit-card debt, as well as a 2002 car and expenses that exceed a household income of $29,000, including Social Security, Social Security Disability and food stamps, Marian is beyond overwhelmed. FHBS is providing a $50 CVS pharmacy gift card for the next six-months to help pay for the formula.

Janice was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and had a mastectomy. She continued to work a part-time, 15 hour-a-week job until the pain from her illness became unbearable. Now 74, she has been told that her cancer has metastasized, and she has six to 10 months to live. Arthritis and spinal stenosis complicate her weakened condition, and she ambulates slowly with a cane. A single woman with no family, Janice has no one on whom to rely for support. Her monthly income is now $650 in Social Security and $175 from SNAP. Her landlady, a friend and former colleague, lowered her rent from $550 to $450 a month, and her social worker applied to MANNA for home delivered meals.

Janice has been accepted into the palliative care program at Penn Home Care, which will provide an aide to help with bathing and some meal preparation, but she is reluctant to follow through with her social worker’s suggestion to get additional support to assist with shopping and transportation to doctors’ appointments. FHBS began an emergency monthly stipend in the amount of $150 on September 1 and will also pay October’s rent, easing some of Janice’s financial burden and hopefully giving her peace of mind.

Nadine is a 50-year-old woman with a complicated family situation and a home infested with bed bugs. She is divorced from her first husband and lives with their three college age children in the home she acquired in the settlement. She married a second time, in a religious ceremony only, to a man who physically and financially abuses her. She paid off all his debts, and while he lives in her house, he has never worked or contributed to the household expenses. Nadine works at a daycare center with reduced hours in the summer. She tried to combat the bed bug problem on her own but the treatment was unsuccessful. She then turned to a professional but waited so long between the first and second treatments that he had to begin anew. FHBS paid the exterminator $600 for three consecutive visits with a guaranteed outcome. Nadine’s home is on its way to becoming a bed bug free environment.

It’s a mitzvah to help those who so desperately need it and have no one to whom to turn for assistance. To continue this work, FHBS needs your support.

Written by Judith Richards

Update on Pharmacy Stipend Program

Now Beginning Third Funding Cycle

I was honored and most grateful for receiving the Lillian Tabas and the Legacy Fund of Bnai Aaron for the gift certificates to Walgreen Pharmacy. They were a great help in subsidizing my monthly medication bills. A special thanks to Francine Bernstein for recommending me to this program.  Bless you all. H.G.

I was so moved by the generous gift card. The gift that the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society gives for those of us that are in unfortunate circumstances is so wonderful. I have thoroughly enjoyed your gift and it has made a difference in my life. Thank you for all you do and continue to do for others. Many thank. H.R.

H.G. and H.R. are two of the 19 women assisted during the second cycle of FHBS’s Pharmacy Stipend Program. The Legacy Fund of SJCC Bnai Aaron made this possible with a grant in the amount of $5,100. Renewed funding for a third cycle enabled us to expand our reach to include 27 women, 11 renewals and 16 new clients. The $7,800 received was augmented by a $300 gift from one of our emerita board members providing a total of $8,100 with which to work.


Winter Updates 2014

With the cold comes some good news:  The Legacy Fund of the SJCC Bnai Aaron has generously agreed to support our Pharmacy Stipend Program for another six-months. Beginning March 1, twenty-seven women will receive a $50 gift card to the pharmacy of her choice. Eleven will continue for a second round; sixteen are new. The requests for emergency aid continue to pour in from social workers throughout the Jewish community, illuminating the economic crunch that puts hard working neighbors in economic jeopardy.


Real Stories, Real People

When the women at Congregation Mikveh Israel established the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society in 1819 to help local Jewish women in need, they appropriately described their mission as benevolence. That word emphasizes the action of the donors whereas charity often is interpreted as a characterization of the recipients. Today we continue to help those in the five-county, Greater Philadelphia community who are struggling in our very tight economy to buy prescription drugs, to get a car out of the repair shop or to give their children or custodial grandchildren the chance for a happy summer at camp. In a small but critical way, FHBS helps lessen the burden of financial pressures. We do this with the cooperation of other organizations under the umbrella of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Working together, the Jewish community strives to be of assistance to those who need our help.  Through social workers at Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS), Abramson Center for Jewish Life, Klein JCC, Heart to Heart and others, we receive appeals for aid. When we learn of the struggles, both emotional and financial, that encumber our fellow Jews, we realize how crucial it is to extend a helping hand. What follows are summarized accounts of just a few cases where FHBS has made a difference with aid in the last six-months.