For  2015 and beyond, the Hanukkah Gift Program of the Jewish Children’s Regional Service, which provides holiday gifts to the neediest and easiest overlooked Jewish children residing  in the seven–state service district of the agency, will now have its major expenses underwritten by a generous grant from the Oscar J. Tolmas Charitable Trust.

The Hanukkah Gift Program, which is entering its eighteenth year of operations, at the 160 year-old children’s agency, currently serves approximately 200 Jewish minors and residents of state institutions.  Each recipient receives eight small gifts, one for each night of Hanukkah. Thousands of gifts are annually wrapped by hundreds of volunteers.  Before Hanukkah, gift boxes are shipped to the homes of families and to state institutions, while other packages of gifts are delivered by volunteers or picked up at the JCRS offices.

“We are quite pleased to be able to honor the memory and charitable interests of the late Oscar J. Tolmas by underwriting the costs of valuable programs such as this,” explained Trustees Vince Giardina and Lisa Romano.  “Oscar Tolmas wanted his legacy to serve those with the greatest of needs, and these individuals, like our veterans, need to be remembered and served.”

The generous grant to the JCRS Hanukkah Gift Program was one three grants made by the Tolmas Trust to the major programs to the agency, which is headquartered in New Orleans, and serves as  the oldest Jewish children’s agency in the United States . New, permanent scholarship funds at JCRS have now been established in the name of Oscar J. Tolmas in the Special Needs Program and in the Education Program.  The special needs program is a unique service, which underwrites the care and treatment of the most developmentally challenged and dependent Jewish youth in the region. The education program provides financial assistance to Jewish undergraduate college students from the region.  In each of these programs, awards to youth are based on documented financial need.

Oscar Judah Tolmas died December 2, 2013, at the age of 93.  The New Orleans native served as a Naval Officer during World War II.  Upon discharge, he pursued several career paths, including law, real estate development and horse racing. He served for several years on the LA State Racing Commission and as Chairman for four years in the early 90s.  In 2013, he was honored by the Louisiana Bar Association as a 70-year member, having graduated in 1943 from Tulane University Law School.

The Jewish Children’s Regional Service is the only regional Jewish children’s agency in the United States. The organization was created in New Orleans in 1855, in response to the periodic, local yellow fever epidemics, and it served as the first home in the US for Jewish widows and orphans. For the last seventy years, JCRS has operated as a social service agency for Jewish children and youth, and it annually provides needs-based scholarships to over 500 Jewish youths for special needs, college aid, and the overnight camp experience.  Through various outreach programs, including the Hanukkah Gift Program, JCRS serves another 1,000 Jewish youths annually.

“If one sees the notes, emails, and letters of gratitude that JCRS receives throughout the year, the reader would get a sense of the impact that JCRS makes on the lives of children and youth,” explained JCRS executive director, Ned Goldberg. “Many of the kids we serve have physical, educational, or emotional challenges, while others have families that have suffered through significant turmoil.  The job of our staff is not only to help youth by providing guidance and  scholarship opportunities, but it is also to provide the message to the parents and children that they are not forgotten by the Jewish community. These generous grants from the Oscar J. Tolmas Charitable Trust go a long way in transmitting that exact message, while fulfilling the ideals that Oscar stood for,“ Goldberg added.

If you are in need of service from JCRS; would like to learn more about its programs, client profiles , or success stories; or have an interest in  honoring or memorializing  a family member, please visit the website:, contact the office at 1-800-729-5277, or write to JCRS,  P.O. Box 7368, Metairie , LA 70010.

The Jewish Light