Caring for Generations
 
 
 
 
 

Our Stories

Story 32


Thank You, Parkinson's Dance

Thank You, Parkinson's Dance

Kathryn N.

When I was home from college this summer, I volunteered with JF&CS Parkinson’s Family Support. I enjoyed every last minute of my time at JF&CS and will miss it immensely when I am back at school.

Although my position could be more lightheartedly described as ‘temporary, glorified snack-and-drink-girl’ than volunteer, even on my first day I was treated like any other member of the group. A large source of the success of Parkinson’s dance is its fearless leader, Art Sullivan. Each week the room is all smiles as we plié, mambo, and do the Charleston together. As Art always says, "There are three rules to this class: One, we’re here to have fun. Two, try your best to follow me. Three, if rule number two isn’t working out so well, refer back to rule number one.”

One of my first and most lasting impressions of the Parkinson’s dance class was how incredibly open and welcoming everyone was. How amazing it was that this group of people had found such a deep connection and support system in each other. And how amazing it was that I, for however short a time, got to be a part of it. Thank you, Parkinson’s dance.

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Story 31


The Parable of the Spoons

The Parable of the Spoons

David S.

My longtime neighbor and friend Alan Dana, a former JF&CS Board President, brought my wife Gail and me to our first Benefit.

The video shown that night was how the agency had helped a newly-settled, rather elderly Jewish man make friends in the community and create a new life here for himself, and I was so moved by it.

My favorite memory from my time at JF&CS is when I attended the tenth anniversary dinner of Hakalah, a program begun by JF&CS and Holocaust survivors to help other Holocaust survivors. Dr. Bob Berger shared the parable of the spoons, a story that explains the difference between heaven and hell by the way the people in each eat with a long spoon. In hell, people are unable to eat because they cannot bring the long spoons to reach their own mouth. In heaven, people feed one another from each other’s long spoons. I think this parable perfectly captures the philosophy behind the endeavor of Hakalah: take care of and be kind to one another.

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Story 30


Relieved to Find Your Elder Experts

Relieved to Find Your Elder Experts

Marya V.

Last April, I faced a crisis. Seven hundred miles away, my elderly parents were rapidly declining.

My mother, who has Parkinson's disease, was the sole caregiver for my father, who could barely walk and showed signs of worsening dementia. At a friend's suggestion, I contacted JF&CS.

A week later, I met with the Director of Your Elder Experts at JF&CS. She was quick to grasp the practical and emotional particulars of my parents' situation. Her referrals - to lawyers, financial advisors, and elder living facilities - were so on target and consistently excellent that I quickly came to trust her implicitly.

Six months later, the picture is entirely different. My parents are now safe, well cared for, and living within a few miles of my home in Newton. Their affairs are in order, and their house in Michigan is about to be sold. Thank to expert guidance and referrals of JF&CS, I was able to work through a long list of tasks and obstacles that seems insurmountable half a year ago. My mother, my siblings, and I are enormously relieved and grateful.

 

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Story 29


A Sense of Respectability for the Children

A Sense of Respectability for the Children

Leonard S., shared by Leonard’s daughter, Sandra S., MEd

My father Leonard, may he rest in peace, wanted to be a farmer. He had a degree in agriculture, which he put to use trimming trees at the Arnold Arboretum, but my grandfather warned him that he would never make a living.

So he started working at the Jewish Home for Children in Brighton, run by JF&CS, as a house parent. The directors of the Home were so impressed by his innate ability to relate to those in need that they agreed to pay for him to get his Master's in Social Work and then his Master's in Education, as long as would commit to work for JF&CS for a number of years after.

Returning to JF&CS after receiving his graduate degrees, my father was soon in charge of all the Jewish Homes for Children - Dorchester, Brighton, and Newton. He also became the director of Camps Kingswood and Chebacco, both JF&CS-run summer camps. He fostered a new sense of respectability for the children: No second hand clothes, no charity boxes in stores, and no buying food wholesale. He felt that these children deserved the same as any child living in a home with parents, and he made sure there was always a house parent available, day or night.

When the kids got older, my father ensured that they remained under the care of JF&CS until they were 21, helping many of them go to college, and even paying tuition just as JF&CS had done for him. Many went on to become renowned professionals and sent beautiful tributes when he died in 2013. These children, who came to the Jewish Home for Children angry, hungry, and dazed, some speaking no English, some survivors of the Holocaust, remembered a wonderful man who believed in them, bettered their lives, and made them feel valued and respectable.

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Story 1


A Gift from the Bar Mitzvah Boy

A Gift from the Bar Mitzvah Boy

Howard M.

It all started with a television set. Something simple, yet so necessary that it was obvious to all that it was missing from the common room.

In 1987, I was facing that mixture of fear and apprehension that all Jewish 13-year-olds face: a Bar Mitzvah. In the midst of practicing my parsha, my family and I began to talk about what it means to reach this milestone and that, while it is a celebration, it's also a time to start to establish who you will be as you grow up. My mother suggested that I donate some of the financial gifts that I would receive for my Bar Mitzvah to a charity. We did some research and chose Community Housing for Adult Independence (CHAI), which was opening their first community home for adults with disabilities in Brighton. In a way, these individuals were doing what I was: taking a step into the broader world and figuring out who they would be.

My first gift was the donation of a television set for the common room. I stayed connected to the program through high school as an occasional photographer for events. There were always events going on at the Brighton residence and I could see that it was a very comfortable place for the residents and their families. It gave me a lot of satisfaction to see the program expand as quickly as it did to serve so many people. I look forward to seeing this program continue to thrive and serve a community that was so grateful all those years ago to start out with a television.

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Story 2

Betty Ann M. Moved by the Mission

Moved by the Mission

Betty Ann M.
Betty Ann M., z"l

In 2001, I participated as a client in a Jewish Healing Connections (JHC) spiritual support group for caregivers and people living with serious illness. As a teenager, I had survived Stage III Hodgkins, a lymphatic system cancer. Intensive year-long radiation and chemotherapy left me weakened and prone to chronic medical issues. I needed some professional emotional support for managing my daily life. The supportive experience I found at JHC was profoundly important to me at the time.

I was so impressed and moved by the program’s mission that after my support group ended, I became a member of the first JHC advisory committee in 2002. I transitioned from someone who came to JF&CS to be helped to someone who could be a creator of the next wave of supportive activities for others. I personally feel very connected to the kinds of experiences that folks have when they’re in difficult times. The opportunity to comfort, listen, and be present with another person in moments of loneliness or distress is profoundly meaningful. I feel honored to be part of JHC, whose mission is just that.

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Story 3

Miriam F. Enriching my Life

Enriching my Life

Miriam F.
Miriam F.

JF&CS has played an important role in my life at different stages.

When I was a child, my family received crucial help settling in when we arrived in Boston as refugees from Romania. When I had my first child, I had the support of a wonderful Visiting Mom and lactation consultant. Currently, I have the joy of visiting with a local elder and forming an inspiring new friendship. That's three JF&CS programs so far that have supported me and enriched my life! I am incredibly grateful for all the important work of the people at JF&CS and look forward to finding more ways I can give back.

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Story 4

Marilyn R. Becoming Even More Connected

Becoming Even More Connected

Marilyn R.
Marilyn R.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was on the JF&CS Board of Directors. I had no idea that several years later, my father would become a JF&CS client.

In 1998, I moved my dad from Cleveland, OH to a nursing home in Newton, MA. I had heard about the JF&CS Shabbat program for seniors and felt it was important for him to have a sense of Judaism and familiarity in his nursing home. JF&CS did a wonderful job in making him feel comfortable and connected.

When my father died several months later, I was thrown into a whole new world of grieving. I tried to figure out which Jewish customs applied during this difficult time and I realized that this was completely unchartered territory for many people. With JF&CS staff assistance, I wrote “A Jewish Healing Guide on Death and Dying” in 1999 to help people know what to expect when a loved one dies. Through my work on this publication, which was healing for me personally, I became even more connected to JF&CS. Since then I have been a major supporter of Jewish Healing Connections and co-chair of its advisory committee, a volunteer through Friendly Visitors and Visiting Moms, and assisted with the Hunger & Nutrition programs. I also recently participated in the Wise Aging Project conference hosted at JF&CS.

This agency does incredible work and offers invaluable services to the community and I feel it is very important to support it. Whatever I give – time, energy, and financial support – is recognized and appreciated.

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Story 5

David R.
Still Connected to JF&CS

Still Connected to JF&CS

David R
David R.

My first contact with JF&CS took place in the late 1940s. After returning home from fighting with the 82nd Airborne to liberate a German labor camp in WWII, I attended the Boston University School of Social Work where my first student placement was with the JF&CS youth office doing field work with teens.

I remember my very first case: My supervisor assigned me to a teenager and told me to take him to the movies. He liked horror movies, so we went to a lot of horror movies. There had been a shift in the focus of public service agencies at the time. As the public welfare system grew to take care of people who needed financial help, agencies like JF&CS took on more mental health cases, along with residential programs and foster care.

Today I'm still connected to JF&CS. An elder myself, I attend the JF&CS Memory Cafe, a program for people experiencing memory changes and their loved ones. Instead of going to see horror movies, I get to meet with artists, musicians, and dancers who bring their programs to us at JF&CS while we have coffee and meet new people, including students from Brandeis University. I enjoy the program very much and look forward to it every month.

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Story 6

Debra D.
Providing a Break

Providing a Break

DebraD
Debra D.

For families with "typical" children - those with full cognitive, expressive, intellectual, and physical capabilities - weekends are something to look forward to. However, when your child has disabilities that make outings - even to a movie - difficult if not impossible, weekends can be lonely, taxing, and simply not as fun or relaxing as they are for others.

The JF&CS Sunday Respite program has provided parents of children with disabilities a lovely break to garden, watch sports, dine out - even work! - while the children are engaged in a wonderfully welcoming and safe environment. The volunteers are quite simply awesome. Through this program, we've been made aware of the vast outreach of programs in so many communities by JF&CS. We cannot say enough good things about this organization and all of the help they offer to lessen the burdens of and provide assistance to all sectors of society - elderly, victims of domestic abuse, etc. Thanks for all you do!

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Story 7

Jamie G.
My Connection is my Legacy

My Connection is my Legacy

Jamie G.
Jamie G.

My connection to JF&CS is my legacy. Growing up in Philadelphia, my mother was a devoted volunteer and supporter of JFS Philadelphia. She would tutor teenage girls who were living in a JFS sponsored home because they could no longer live in their own homes. My mother, Joan Grossman, was active on many committees and volunteered for thirty years, eventually becoming President of the Board.

Fourteen years ago, when I was asked to join the Boston JF&CS Board, I jumped at the chance. Over the years I have had the opportunity to participate in so many ways, from fundraising to strategic planning and program development. I was honored to work with Ali Kaufman for several years as she built and grew the incredibly successful Hunger & Nutrition program and oversaw the expansion of Family Table, which eliminated a waiting list for clients in need.

But my proudest work is the launch of Shoulder to Shoulder, a new program offering support through JF&CS to military families living in our communities. The overwhelming enthusiasm and encouragement of the Board and staff has been a rewarding and humbling experience. I feel so incredibly fortunate to be part of this organization whose mission to improve people’s lives is accomplished every day.

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Story 8

Marion R.
35 Years at JF&CS

35 Years at JF&CS

Marion R.
Marion R.

I first came to JF&CS in 1979, working in the Mental Health Clinic and then also the Center for Early Relationship Support®. I retired from JF&CS in September, after 35 years. It has been quite an experience to share a lifetime with people.

I have had the privilege of helping young mothers and their babies come to delight in each other and I have seen old men and women come to grips with grief and return to hope after loss. During my years at JF&CS, I had the unusual experience of working with a single person throughout my entire tenure - as my role at JF&CS changed, so too did his needs as a client. I worked with him as he became a parent, greeting his first child with anxiety and appreciation, later in life as he faced the ups and downs that a full life presents, and years later when he became a grandparent and embraced his grandchildren with unmitigated joy. It has been an honor to accompany people, not just in times of crisis, but along the sometimes lonely paths of life.

My greatest joy has been my interaction with colleagues throughout the agency, and being part of an agency that serves the community with energy, creativity, and thoughtfulness.

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Story 9

Lina H.
Tools for Self Sufficiency

Tools for Self Sufficiency

Lina H.
Lina H.

As soon as my husband Jacob and I settled in Boston in the late 1860’s, we saw the need to help so many less fortunate people. We helped the Jewish poor and needy and soon found ourselves in the center of Jewish Boston philanthropy. We joined the United Hebrew Benevolent Society [precursor to modern-day JF&CS], and I started some small educational and health programs for new immigrants.

In 1878, I revived the Hebrew Ladies Sewing Society, where we taught immigrant women to sew and earn wages. These generous women took donated cloth and sewed it into clothing and blankets for other, needier Jewish immigrants. I also organized fundraising activities – including an annual charity ball - to help raise money for the poor. We started summer outings for needy children and even a small business loan program.

Firmly believing that education is the key to empowerment, I helped start the Hebrew Industrial School for Girls in Boston’s North End. The school’s mission was to educate young female immigrants in a trade (sewing, cooking, millinery) so that they could provide for themselves. We opened a partner school for boys shortly afterwards. I wanted so much to see that children would grow up to be self-supporting, with a respect for both their American and Jewish histories and cultures!

In all of my charitable work, my passion was to educate people and give them the tools they need for self-sufficiency.

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Story 10

Sandy S.
A Dream Come True

A Dream Come True

Sandy Slavet
Sandy S.

Twenty-eight years ago my daughter was born and my husband, and I were so happy to welcome our fourth daughter into our family, into our lives…but life doesn’t always unfold the way we think it should. Marie has Down syndrome and at the time, we were confused, overwhelmed, afraid of the unknown and very much in love with our beautiful daughter.

It wasn’t easy for my daughter, Marie, to watch each of her older sisters leave home for college and beyond. So when Marie was 24 years old, she had an opportunity to move into a JF&CS supported living situation. Even although her dad and I were not ready to let her go, she was MORE than ready!

In August of 2010, the Yellow House opened and we moved Marie into her new home. It was a day of great joy but in all honesty is was a day of fear as well. The fact that the house was being opened by JF&CS was a huge plus for us, but we were all facing a moment of transition that was simultaneously scary, exciting, overwhelming, and a dream come true.

Marie now lives in that beautiful home with six housemates. She attends Pathways to Employment during the week, works part time, volunteers in the community, and hangs out with friends.

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Story 11

Marie S.
Busy Making Plans

Busy Making Plans

Marie and Robbie
Marie S.

When I was about 10 years old, I came home from school and the house was very quiet. I have three older sisters and the house was never quiet! I asked my mom where everyone was. She said told me where each of my sisters were. I threw down my backpack and said, “DARN- I have no plans!”

I think my mom laughed but she felt bad too. Even though I was usually very busy with special Olympics, softball, and lots of other things still I wanted what my sisters had - a full life with plans that I got to make myself - plans of my own. And my mom and dad wanted that for me, too.

When I was 22 all my sisters had gone away to college and were living away from home but my mom and dad were still making plans for me. When I graduated high school I started to go CHAI Works at JF&CS. I was lucky because I loved going to CHAI Works and that was how I heard about the Yellow House. The Yellow House was going to a special house where seven young people like me would get to live with some staff. The Yellow House was also a program run by JF&CS and it sounded great to me!

I love the Yellow House. I love my housemates. I love that I am learning new skills all the time to be even more independent. But most of all, I love Robbie.  Robbie and I met when we both moved into the Yellow House.  When Robbie and I are together, we laugh A LOT. On weekends, we go out for lunch or dinner together. 

Robbie and I are happy. We spend a lot of time dreaming about our future together in the Yellow House. And we are very busy making plans.

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Story 12

Ellenjoy F. Moving Into a New Life

Moving Into a New Life

Ellenjoy F.
Ellenjoy F.

When I lost my husband 13 years ago, I wasn’t sure how to handle to the sadness and the hurt and I was unsure how to proceed without someone so pivotal in our family. A close friend at JF&CS happened to lead the Jewish Healing Connections bereavement groups.

Everyone walked into the bereavement group hurting and not knowing what to do with that hurt. There were ten of us in the group - and we were all in the same boat. We had a fabulous facilitator, Barbara, who helped us help each other and ourselves. She knew exactly what to ask and how to make it real for us. She was a champion at knowing the kinds of feelings we were experiencing and in knowing how to move us from one place to the next; it was just intuitive for her. Each week we moved ahead, maybe just an inch or two, but never back. It was truly a wondrous experience and it had a huge impact on the way we grieved and handled ourselves in that process.

I’m so glad I found this group. It was the best thing that happened to me at that crucial time and it was a big part of my healing process. It helped move me into a new life filled with good memories. In fact, I have been married to another wonderful man for five years. I’m thankful for this group every single day and I am proud to be a supporter of Jewish Healing Connections.

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Story 13

Andrew B.
A Profound Impact

A Profound Impact

Andrew B.

When I was a little boy I remembered my mom taking me to deliver groceries to people who needed a little extra help and while I was too young to fully appreciate the ins and outs of what we were doing, it left a big impact on me.

Nearly 20 years later I decided to take part in the Family Table program as a volunteer and it wasn't until after I got involved that I realized it was the same program I had participated in as a little boy. Either as a child or an adult, this is a program that has a profound impact on me, my outlook on the world, and my engagement with my community. With an infant niece and nephew a few weeks old, I look forward to the day when they're old enough to join me in taking part in Family Table as well.

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Story 14

Eunice S.
The First Agency I Contact

The First Agency I Contact

Eunice S.
Eunice S.

JF&CS is the first agency I contacted and I don’t know where else I would have gone to get help. Where else would I turn?  They helped put me in touch with and complete the forms for organizations that helped fund the repairs to my scooter.

If I hadn’t received the help and funding, I don’t know where I would have gotten the money. It would have been a terrible hardship.  I rely on my scooter to get in/out of my apartment. If it weren’t for JF&CS and the help I received, I would not have been able to repair my scooter. It was a godsend.

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Story 15

Nancy J.
Grounding Force

Grounding Force

Nancy J.

To be honest, I do not know where I would be without my Visiting Mom. Sheila was such a grounding force during that first year. I was very alone, very terrified, and very fragile. She buoyed my hopes and my confidence. She pointed me towards resources and places where I could gain even more support. Having a Visiting Mom meant that I had someone to proverbially hold my hand during some of the hardest things I have had to face in life.

I feel truly blessed to have had this supportive resource. And what a treat to look at her on day 365 and say, boy, I was really a mess back then wasn't I? And compare that to how solid I feel today. Thank you!!

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Story 16

Gladys S.
A Light to the Community

A Light to the Community

Gladys S.
Gladys S.

July... somewhere between 1942 and 1945, I had the privilege of attending Camp Kingswood in Bridgeton, Maine. I was a young child at approximately the age of seven. I went there two years in a row. That experience of learning about Judaism had a strong effect on my love of the religion. Celebrating Sabbath has always remained in my heart and brought me great comfort. I was an inner city child living in Roxbury. My family was unable to provide me with my needs both physically and emotionally.

In 1948, at the age of 12, JF&CS became by legal guardian by the way of the courts. I was in several foster homes and at the age of 18 the agency funded additional monies for me to study at Chandler School for Women... giving me the tools to be able to support myself and become financially independent. I left the care of the agency in 1954 at the age of 18. ALONE... My experience in the foster homes and with the social workers put me on the road to whatever I was going to be. I am close to 80 now... In looking back, I realize what a blessing the agency was to provide a way out of that lack and poverty. I went on to have a successful career and after having two children was capable of becoming the mother that I never had. It was a difficult healing journey, but all that counts is that I stay in this day only... I guess sometimes it is still difficult to do the healing journey. I shudder to think what would have happened to me without the concern and services of JF&CS. Many God continue to bless the agency as it continues to be a "light" to the community.

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Story 17

Rimma Z.
So Much More Than Just a Job

So Much More Than Just a Job

Rimma Z., CEO

They say that “what goes around comes around.” More than 30 years ago, I was at a critical point in my life. Along with my mother, I emigrated from St. Petersburg to find a new life in America. We left the former Soviet Union as refugees with nothing – no money, no credit cards, no identification documents, and with whatever few possessions we could fit into our suitcases.

Even before we left Europe, we received assistance from Jewish agencies – so many that I cannot even remember all of them. The Joint Distribution Committee met us in Vienna and helped us through the immigration process. As soon as we stepped off the plane in America we were helped with money and guidance from the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society (HIAS), the Hebrew Free Loan Society (HFLS), and ORT, just to name a few. HFLS gave my husband a loan when we, as new immigrants, couldn’t just go to a bank for a loan because we had no credit. That loan allowed us to purchase a car so my husband could drive to his new job – which he had found through the Jewish Vocational Service (JVS). We are still to this day so appreciative of the help we received at such a pivotal moment in our lives. The help we received wasn’t unique; Jewish agencies helped entire populations of Soviet immigrants.

As Chief Executive Officer of JF&CS, I feel blessed to have so much more than just a job. I get to give back to the community, remembering the generosity given to me by American Jewish organizations. I don’t know what my life would have been like without that help. At JF&CS, we try to be there for people at those critical moments in their lives – when their lives could go either way. We’re here to tip the scales in their favor, just as the scales were tipped in my favor some 30 years ago. Perhaps it’s karma that I get to help others like that every day.

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Story 18


A Gift that Goes on Giving

A Gift that Goes on Giving

Elizabeth D.C.

In 2002, at my home in Washington D.C., I came across an article written by the JF&CS Center for Early Relationship Support® (CERS) clinical director, Eda Spielman, describing the work of JF&CS in clinical intervention with mothers and infants. As I am quite familiar with the field of infant mental health and specifically with Healthy Families America, I decided to learn more about CERS.

I truly understand the importance of the work: nurturing relationships are at the center of the infant’s life and form the basis for healthy development and learning.

A call to Eda resulted in our meeting for breakfast in Marblehead, MA where I was visiting friends. Since this visit, I have gone out of my way every year to meet with staff and hear about the growth of the programs through individual conversations and by attending the CERS supervision groups.

I truly understood that infancy is a sensitive and critical period in child development and that the work of CERS can make a difference that lasts a lifetime. In response I make a major annual gift, continuing to this day. In 2006, I made CERS a beneficiary of my estate. I believe in the work and a gift that goes on giving.

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Story 19

Jon D.
Why JF&CS Matters

Why JF&CS Matters

Jon D.
Jon D., Board Member

When you go to JF&CS, you meet with people like yourself: the lucky. But in the hallways in our Waltham Headquarters you also see the unlucky — people from young to old with all manner of troubles, usually physical and mental hardships. And you think of all the other people whom JF&CS helps: The hungry. The sick. The old. The troubled and lost. Battered women. Holocaust survivors. And so many others.

You feel proud to be even a trivial part of this gem, this place with the brains and grit to make the ethical imperative of our people stand for something beyond words. JF&CS is a mission of wonder, turning the dictates of Scripture—to help the stranger, the weak, the poor—into an institution for over 150 years. JF&CS matters—matters in making concrete the words of Psalmist: to lift the poor out of the dust, and raise the needy from the rubbish heap.

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Story 20

Benita S.
A Memoir to My Visiting Mom

A Memoir to My Visiting Mom

Benita S.
Benita S.

You held my hand through the darkest of my days and the weakest of my moments. The strength you gave me is a gift to stay with me forever. The gratitude and love I feel for you make me want for you to stay with me forever, too. You gave me the very strength that I need to say this goodbye, which makes it almost as hard as you have made me strong.

I know I cannot hold onto you, as you have other mothers to carry across. But I can join you. I can give that strength to others as you gave it to me. I can carry them shore to shore as you carried me. We'll be together in that way. Working side by side in that darkness new mothers find themselves in. I know you are not leaving me behind, as you return to that darkness to carry another across. No. It is I, who have left you behind. You are returning to where we both began, I have moved beyond, grown past, and found my way through to this strange and beautiful new shore.

My heart breaks at losing you, but it overflows with joy in the knowledge of the strength you will now offer to a new mom who is lost on her journey through that never-ending dark. You have been such a gift to me, and now you will be a beautiful gift to another.

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Story 21

Dr. Robert Berger
A Big Dose of Chutzpah

A Big Dose of Chutzpah

Robert Berger
Dr. Robert B.

My first contact with JF&CS took place 66 years ago in 1947 when I came to Boston from Germany as a child survivor of the Holocaust and was assigned to the care of JF&CS. Let me give you a glimpse of the challenges that JF&CS of Boston faced during the early postwar years when it assumed responsibility for the care for 50 or 60 children freshly arrived from Europe, alone, without parents, after surviving Holocaust.

When we arrived in America, we were happy to leave the past behind but were bewildered on arrival to a totally new world. Our prospects looked bleak. But the staff at JFCS had another perspective. Mrs. Carter, Director of Social Work, frequently expressed her view that each one of us had a nugget of gold hidden inside and it was the task of the staff at JFCS to dig for that nugget, bring it to the surface and to let it grow and glow. Her sentiments were infectious and staff followed by digging for the nugget. They were interested, warm, kind, compassionate and ready to help. The results were amazing. The fear gradually faded, we came alive, began to adjust, to speak English, and even to enjoy the blessings America held for us. We turned into the semblance of ordinary children who eventually became citizens, blue collar workers, businessmen, teachers, lawyers, doctors and other professionals.

We eventually married, formed families with children. I came to Boston alone with the equivalent of a seventh grade education and spoke no English. Within a year, I finished high school, was admitted to college and eventually became a heart surgeon. I cannot explain how this was possible. I must have had a big dose of Chutzpah but without JF&CS, this would not have happened.

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Story 22

Kate Weldon LeBlanc
Early Connections

Early Connections

Kate W.L.B.

To say that my husband and I were excited to be parents is a huge understatement. I had a healthy pregnancy and delivery, and was even happy during labor, if you can believe that. And those first few weeks at home were tiring and challenging as they are for most parents with a newborn, but nothing out of the ordinary.

We were getting to know and enjoying our little girl. But then about three weeks after her birth, I began to feel increasingly overwhelmed and anxious about caring for my baby, to the point that I felt incapable of doing even the simplest tasks with her. My usual expressive personality was replaced with just flat emotion. And then I couldn’t sleep – for nearly a week. I would just lay there with my mind spiraling around about all different things and could not make it stop. I had never experienced insomnia like this and it was like torture - to be awake while my baby was sleeping and to be exhausted but incapable of resting.

I did not recognize these symptoms as postpartum depression and anxiety because I didn’t know much about it, and from what I did know, I didn’t expect it to “happen to me.” Because I was overjoyed to become a mom. Because I had never been diagnosed or treated for depression before. Because I had lots of support from family and friends. But I realize now that nothing guarantees that someone will, or will not, suffer from postpartum depression, and that no two mothers will experience it in the same way.

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Story 23

Meredith Joy
Integrating My Work Self and My Jewish Self

Integrating My Work Self and My Jewish Self

Meredith Joy
Meredith J.

I was consciously assessing a job change and was at the point in my life when I wanted to choose a place to work where I could contribute a wider range of my skills, have the ability to grow and be part of a team that approached ideas and challenges in creative ways and through a social work lens and perspective. I was also very interested in working in the Jewish community if I could find a place that would have the whole package.

In my research I stumbled across JF&CS and through some personal connections was put in touch with Peggy Kaufman, Director of the Center for Early Relationship Support just as they were hiring a new position. I began working at JF&CS as the Administrative Director of CERS and during the last nine years have directed and supervised many programs and had the opportunity to work on and be part of a variety of projects and teams. I have been in my current role as Director of Basic Needs since June of 2009.

I can still recall when I first began working at JF&CS and how impressed I was by the agency. Every person I met was thoughtful, enthusiastic, wise, dedidated and truly excellent at whatever their role was. I have appreciated working in a Jewish agency that serves the Jewish community and beyond and able to provide services to clients according to Jewish values. I also enjoy being able to integrate my work self and my Jewish self and that they can complement each other and the work I can do here.

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Story 24

Doreen Cummings
Bringing a Family Together

Bringing a Family Together

Doreen C.

My wife and I had been married for three years and we were just beginning to think about starting a family. One day I was at work at JF&CS, helping a disabilities client use the copier.

Adoption Resources and the Disabilities program shared space, and as we made their way to the copier, we noticed a beautiful baby girl in the office. While my client and I oohed and aahed over the tiny four-week old girl, we learned that her name was Angelina, my mother’s name, and that the family that was supposed to adopt her couldn’t after all.

Within an hour, Adoption Resources staff had asked me if I wanted to look into adopting Angelina. It happened so fast. I ran upstairs and looked up cystic fibrosis, then called my wife.

It’s scary to think that I could have missed her if I didn’t go to the copier that day!

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Story 25

Maxine Rosenthal
Proud to be a JF&CS Board Member

Proud to be a JF&CS Board Member

Maxine Rosenthal
Maxine R., Board Member

As JF&CS celebrates its 150th year anniversary, many of us will be writing about why we came to be involved with the agency. Growing up in the Boston area, I was only vaguely aware of Jewish Family & Children’s Service. While working and raising my family, I spent most of my life volunteering in some way.

I attribute that to the example my parents set. Even when they had very little themselves, I can always remember my mother sitting at the table writing out checks to organizations helping those who had even less than we. My father was the first one to lend a hand to help a neighbor or friend with a project. They set a powerful example.

I came to JF&CS to help raise funds for Journey to Safety (formerly Kol Isha), the domestic abuse prevention program. It is one of 35 programs under the umbrella of JF&CS. I soon became a member of the Advisory Committee for JTS and three years later a member of the Board of JF&CS. Spending time in the building in Waltham gave me a “fly on the wall” view of the incredible work being done. JF&CS does indeed address the needs of people from cradle to grave. From the receptionist to the CEO, the staff treats everyone - clients, volunteers, and board and committee members - with kindness, dignity and respect. I am proud to say I am a Board member of Jewish Family & Children’s Service.

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Story 26

Beth S.
Creating Opportunities to Give Life Meaning

Creating Opportunities to Give Life Meaning

Beth Soltzberg
Beth S.

I came to JF&CS six months ago, after working as a social worker in a traditional hospice and home care setting. The hospice and home care agency's response to Medicare's increasingly stringent reimbursement regulations was defensive: to instruct clinicians to limit our work to our clients' most dire and demonstrably reimbursable needs. While this work was vital, it was often to the exclusion of helping clients to grow emotionally or spiritually, or to improve their quality of life beyond alleviating their most basic needs.

The fallout of neglecting harder-to-quantify emotional and spiritual needs showed up in the prevalence of clients' persistent depression, lack of will to follow medical recommendations, and staff burnout. What a difference to come here, and to experience the joy of choral music and dance with people who are living with a chronic illness! At JF&CS I am privileged not only to help chronically ill people with their critical basic needs, but also to help make opportunities available to give life meaning, through community and creative self-expression.

Resource limitations are real, and every conversation I've had about programming at JF&CS has incorporated this reality. But instead of shutting down creative thinking, the team here uses this challenge as a mandate to ensure that only the highest-value programming go forward.

The JF&CS team brings the ideal combination of attributes to the development of new programs: open minds, broad exposure to thought leaders in a wide number of related fields and disciplines, and rigor in assessing the potential of new ventures and evaluating their impact. The team has the vision to appreciate that some high-value programming is difficult to evaluate accurately using current research methods, and that we need to listen to clients who give eloquent testimony about how participation has enhanced their life, even if we can't fully measure the impact of these programs yet. Having worked in a health care environment in which fear of shrinking resources seemed to paralyze creative problem-solving, I deeply appreciate and value this fresh, forward-thinking and humane orientation.

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Story 27

Marjie Sokoll
Blending Personal and Professional Interests at Work

Blending Personal and Professional Interests at Work

Marjie Sokoll
Marjie S.

Even as a young social work student living in Israel, I had a passion for working with older adults. During my 19 years at JF&CS, I have been fortunate to have found a place whose mission inspires me, and allows me to pursue my passions for aging, as well as healing, and Jewish tradition.

JF&CS has provided me a profound opportunity to blend my personal and professional interests, and to truly live the Hebrew word for work, "avodah" - which also means "to serve."  For me, my work/avodah is truly a calling; and being at JF&CS has enabled me to to actualize this calling and serve the community.

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Story 28

Beth B.
Living Independently

Living Independently

Beth Budner
Beth B.

In the early 2000’s, I wanted to live on my own so I could be independent and hang out w/ clients around my age!

While it took me a while to get used to living on my own including painful lessons from my overspending habits, I learned from my mistakes and I’ve been living on my own for almost 12 years!

Whew! Best part is spending time with my CHAI friends at the Wednesday night dinners and Sunday brunches.

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