Founding Story

Old Ezra
New Ezra

The Dina and Eli Field EZRA Multi-Service Center was founded in 1983 by the Jewish Federation to meet the needs of the economically disadvantaged through a 24/7, toll-free hotline. Volunteers provided information, advocacy, service referrals, and linkage services to callers. As the need for services grew, the agency moved into a storefront in 1984 with the Council for Jewish Elderly at 4613 North Sheridan Road. Together, these organizations provided services for the elderly and to residents who came from the former Soviet Union in the Edgewater, Uptown, and Lakeview neighborhoods.

During the late 1980's and early 1990's, EZRA's services grew to include free religious programming for the Jewish community, job training services, intensive case management, and a food pantry.

In 1998 due to an increased need for food among Jews living in poverty, JUF and EZRA opened Chicago's first kosher meal program, the JUF Uptown Cafe, at 4000 North Sheridan Road.

In 2001, with a generous gift from Eli and Dina Field, Federation purchased EZRA's current home at 909 West Wilson Avenue in Uptown. Throughout the 2000's, the need for healthcare and health education resulted in an ongoing partnership between EZRA and Weiss Memorial Hospital – the hospital provides collaborative programming including health fairs and screening clinics, and clients are referred to the hospital for additional healthcare assistance.

Most recently, EZRA has developed its food advocacy efforts by creating a community garden for clients to grow their own food and partnering with the Greater Chicago Food Depository to expand the EZRA Food Pantry.

EZRA's services continue to change based on the needs of the community it serves.

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