Forty years ago, Jewish Foundation for Group Homes (JFGH) was founded by families whose vision for their children with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD) were lives of independence, of dignity and choice, and within our community. Most importantly, they wanted their children to have a place where they truly belonged, where they could feel at home and connect with their Jewish life in a meaningful way. As simple as it seems, this was cutting edge in its time.
In 1982, this intrepid group of parents – spearheaded by Bob and Joy Cohen – swiftly brought to life JFGH’s very first group home. Over the course of the ensuing four decades, JFGH grew to become much more than just the place individuals call home. Today, it is an approach to supporting people with IDD leading lives of abundance – of meaning, connection and joy. As we have continued to grow and learn and evolve, we recognize the power of every person taking their rightful place in community, and that there is a place for everyone. It transcends a home or a place of work.
People with IDD have taught us extraordinary lessons. Our role in their lives has shifted and will continue to evolve. Our supports have grown to include a range of community living supports; transition, career development and post-secondary education planning supports through MOST; and Aging with Dignity. We are also pursuing the creation of culturally competent and accessible health and clinical supports. All of these initiatives and so much more are intimately informed by the people alongside whom JFGH has, for 40 years, walked and worked.
Underneath it all is this fundamental truth: Every person has their place in the community. We acknowledge our obligation and recognize our privilege to deepen the impact of our work while affirming that we will always fight to assure that all people with IDD take their rightful place in communities of which they are an essential part.
In this seminal moment in the history of this venerable organization, signifying our commitment to a new envisioned future, our name changes from JFGH to Makom.
Makom is a Hebrew word with many meanings, among them ‘place’. For us, Makom represents and recommits to our Jewish roots and values, while allowing for our evolution toward being so much more than just a place people call home. Today, Makom meets people where, how and who they are. And Makom is our constant reminder that everyone has their place.
Makom is a place of belonging. A place of support. A place of connection. A place where every individual can continue to grow as they determine and find meaning. A place where families can meet and share their experiences and find support of their own. We are a place for people of all faiths. And we are a place of innovation, where we will continue to push the boundaries of what it means for individuals to live the life they choose.
Makom will continue JFGH’s legacy as a trusted place for individuals and their families to find and build supports, but we are now – and have long been – so much more than a physical home. Rather, Makom is a starting point for self-determined living where individuals are empowered and thrive.
Our core values—Jewish values—evolve with us: Excellence, Inclusion, Self-determination and Integrity.
Our mission – to support and empower people with IDD to achieve the quality of life to which they aspire – reflects our commitment to celebrating people determining their own lives and directing their own supports, recognizing peoples’ vision for their own lives, and the myriad ways we, as an organization, can support them.
Our revised vision – a world where people with IDD share the same options and opportunities for a well-lived life as all other members of the community – demonstrates the aspiration of our mission when it is achieved.
How will we achieve this audacious new vision? Through strategic growth, partnerships and innovation.
As our co-founder, Bob Cohen, would often say, “Gam zu l’tovah” – this, too, is for good. Closing institutions was for good and led to a rapid growth of JFGH. And now, our continued work in creating, even demanding, that all people take their place in our society, leads us to Makom. And our new name, reflecting that evolution, is most certainly for good, as well.
We are thrilled to have you join us as we enter our next chapter as Makom. The best is yet to come.