JVS sign at their Kansas City, Mo. office. Photo by Ruby Sokol.
JVS sign at their Kansas City, Mo. office. Photo by Ruby Sokol.

Jewish Vocational Services KC Offers Life-Changing Support to Refugees

Jewish Vocational Services was founded in 1949 and has continuously been helping immigrants feel welcomed to Kansas City. JVS is a non-profit organization in Kansas City, Mo., and it was started to help Holocaust survivors, refugees, and World War Two veterans immigrate to America to help them escape the Nazis and provide them with a better life. 


JVS’ end goal is to help immigrants become self-sufficient, successful, and contributing community members here in Kansas City. They strive to make sure their clients become comfortable speaking and understanding English while also having the ability to provide for their families.  


Hillary Cohen Singer, the Executive Director of JVS says, “[Within JVS] there are three big parts to our work. The initial welcoming [where] we focus on jobs and employment. Then, health and wellness.” 

Hilary Cohen at her desk at JVS. Photo by Ruby Sokol.

The initial welcoming Singer refers to is the preparation for moving the immigrants into their homes. JVS also has staff specifically to help the physical and mental health of their clients.  


Singer said, “Usually we don’t have the ability to be in contact with people before they arrive,” the [U.S.] State Department shares a “little bit of information about who they are, (…) how many people are in their family, what ages, how much English they speak, if any.” The government will also share with JVS’ Refugee Resettlement Program jobs the immigrants have done in their country of origin, and if they have any health issues. 


Once informed of an immigrant’s arrival into the Kansas City area, JVS rents and furnishes an apartment to quickly make them feel at home. Immigrants who are provided with a home they know is theirs, recognize the sense of steadiness and stability, both of which are important values for immigrants and their success. 

HBHA faculty volunteering at the JVS Donation Warehouse in 2022. Photo courtesy of HBHA.

Singer said, “Most of the people who we have worked with have lived in refugee camps for a long time, and it’s a really impermanent way of living.” Knowing this makes JVS further stress the importance of providing homes for their clients right away.


Singer said the Initial Resettlement Case Managers “work with people who have been here in their first three months,” to help them find workspaces for each individual. When working with a new client, JVS makes sure to know what each client’s ability is professionally.


The health and wellness aspect of JVS is to make sure all immigrants who have moved with JVS’ help can have medical care to help attain a healthier lifestyle. These immigrants sometimes find out about chronic illnesses which they never would have found out about if they had not gotten the opportunity to move to America. JVS’ help could even be life-saving in certain cases.


The Interpreter Services Program within JVS provides help for immigrants who do not speak English. They provide the services at their office, along with help from the community. This service enables the immigrants to receive help from a variety of community resources that they would not have access to without the interpreter program.

JVS’ Kansas City, Mo. office. Photo by Ruby Sokol.

Along with physical health, JVS helps their clients who are struggling with their mental health, providing therapists for immigrants struggling with depression and anxiety. JVS is the only organization in Kansas City providing therapy sessions with an interpreter, so even if someone does not speak or understand any English, they are still able to get the help they need. 


JVS depends on the kindness of people from the greater Kansas City community, such as religious and civic groups. These helpers, “work with us [JVS] in welcoming families into the Kansas City area,” said Sean Reilly, JVS’ Community Sponsor Coordinator. This welcoming strategy helps the refugee families resettle and gives community activists the ability to help Jewish Vocational Services and the immigrants who are being welcomed into the community. 


JVS was started by a group of Jewish citizens locally 75 years ago in response to the immigration struggles during the Holocaust. Now, JVS provides its services to immigrants from around the world.

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About the Contributor
Ruby Sokol
Ruby Sokol, Writer
Ruby Sokol is a freshman at HBHA. This is her first year in publications. She loves to spend time dancing, playing volleyball, basketball, and soccer. She also loves hanging out with her friends. This year, she is looking forward to writing and working on articles for RampageWired.