Primis named JAF director to raise group’s profile

Primis named JAF director to raise group’s profile

Ellen Primis, who spent 11 years as regional director of Bnai Zion in Pittsburgh, has moved on to a new leadership position in the community.
Primis has been named executive director of the Jewish Assistance Fund, a largely volunteer-driven organization that provides assistance to families in need in Jewish Pittsburgh. She will be installed at a function Thursday, Nov. 6, at the Jewish Family & Children’s Service.
“They came to me,” Primis said. “Harvey Wolsh and David Maretsky called me; we had a meeting and that was the beginning of that. It was wonderful.”
It’s the first time the JAF has hired
a professional administrator, but
Maretsky, the incoming president of JAF, said the poor economy made this the right time to take the step.
“We probably used to have 10 to 12 requests a week [for financial assistance],” Maretsky said. “Now we’re in the 15 to 18 area; it’s probably a 25 percent increase over where we were.”
“We’ve come to the point where we need a part-time director to help guide us to additional fundraising and increase our [visibility] in the community,” he added.
Primis sees her job primarily as maintaining the operation of JAF while raising its profile in the community.
“Many people do not know who we are and what we do,” she said, “and we’ve been doing this since 1986, and it has always been volunteer driven.”
“The need for money for clients has increased because of the economic turmoil we’re facing,” Primis added. “I am just here to facilitate bringing in more funds as well as keep a wonderful organization going.”
The Jewish Assistance Fund confidentially helps qualified individuals who are in immediate need of food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and attaining an education.
Primis’ 11-year stint at Bnai Zion came to an end in August when the national office closed its Pittsburgh branch for economic reasons.
Primis said she left Bnai Zion on very good terms.
“I believed in the project, now, it’s an opportunity for me to give back to the community in Pittsburgh.”

(Lee Chottiner can be reached at

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