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Meryl Rich Photo.jpg
March 3, 2020

Posted by JF&CS

We sat down with Meryl Rich to hear about her experience as a volunteer with our Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms® program.

*Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms is currently looking for new volunteers! If you're interested, please fill out our registration form to begin the process. Please note that all visits are being conducted by phone or video chat during the COVID-19 crisis. 

How did you first get involved with the Rubin Visiting Moms program?

For several years, I had been hearing about the Rubin Visiting Moms program from a close friend who was a volunteer. Though intrigued, my responsibilities as a mother and as a classroom teacher at Epstein Hillel School (then Cohen Hillel Academy) took precedent over most other activities. Upon retiring four years ago, I knew that this was one of a few avenues of volunteerism that I wanted to pursue. Having been a new mom once upon a time, I clearly remember the plethora of feelings that I experienced — fears, frustrations, fatigue, loneliness, and inadequacies, to name a few. I wish that I could have had someone to lend support.

Why do you enjoy being a volunteer?

The universal sisterhood of motherhood can be intoxicating. Supporting a new mom who may be insecure and doubtful of her abilities, or even doubtful of the love for her infant, is challenging and so rewarding. Guiding her toward small successes and watching her develop into a woman with a one-year-old who has bonded and nurtured her child leaves me, most often, feeling that there is good in the world.

What is your favorite memory during your time as a volunteer?

There have been a few. One involves a new mom who was so unsure of her ability to parent that she felt as though she was merely a babysitter for her infant. I like to think that with our conversations and our brainstorming to problem-solve, along with support from those who love her, she came to realize that she has all that it takes to be a wonderful mother. She and her child became inseparable during that first year.

How do you feel your experience as a teacher has helped you in being a volunteer for the Rubin Visiting Moms program?

Without a doubt, my over forty years in the classroom has had a profound effect on all that I do. In particular, it is crystal clear to me that no two people are exactly alike, that almost all individuals deserve to be respected on her/his/their own merits, whether it be a child or an adult. Everyone has a story that has led them to the time and place in which we meet. For new mothers, each will have to find her own path, certainly with some commonalities. This holds true for children as well. It is so gratifying to watch a child or a mom navigate their way toward a direction that is comfortable for them.

What is your favorite children's book?

I have three. For babies and toddlers: Runaway Bunny. For older children: The Giving Tree and Wonder.

If you're interested in volunteering with Rubin Visiting Moms, please fill out our registration form!

Supported Housing residents at a weekly group dinner.jpg
February 27, 2020

Posted by JF&CS

Supported Housing residents at a weekly group dinner.

“What do we want our community to look like?” This was the question posed to residents in our CHAI Supported Housing program during their first group dinner of 2020. In the past, these weekly dinners for adults with disabilities did not grapple with such thought-provoking concepts. Typically, Supported Housing staff members would remind residents of upcoming social/educational events and check in with them about their week.

This January, however, the Supported Housing team decided to elevate the types of conversations residents have before dinner. “We were just at the start of the new year and we had a few new residents,” said Jacob Oppenheimer, a Service Coordinator for the Supported Housing program. “So, it was a great time for new beginnings.”

Residents have responded enthusiastically to the redesigned group dinners, and the discussions they have had are already having a positive impact on the Supported Housing program. Together, residents are enhancing connections with each other, improving their social skills, and thinking deeply and intentionally about creating the kind of community they would like to be a part of.  

Taking Every Opportunity to Teach

A Supported Housing resident at a community dinner.The idea for these more structured community dinners was born out of conversations between Jessica Goudreault, a Senior Residence Manager for the Supported Housing program, and Angela Waring, our Respite and Recreation Program Manager. In the fall of 2019, Angela had created a 100-page curriculum for facilitating social groups and dealing with conflict. Jessica and Angela realized that this curriculum wasn’t just applicable to the respite/recreation groups at JF&CS; it would also be a natural fit for the Supported Housing community dinners.

“Every opportunity we have to teach our participants social skills is so valuable,” said Angela. “And anything surrounding food is perfect because it naturally brings people together. These community dinners are a wonderful time to challenge residents and let them learn something.”

Angela was introduced to Jacob, who shares a similar interest in social group dynamics, and they collaborated on a plan to revamp the weekly Supported Housing dinners.

Defining Their Community

During the first group dinner of the new year, residents were tasked with defining the things they want from their community and determining how they can achieve these goals. The residents engaged in a lively brainstorming session, and one participant acted as a scribe, jotting down the numerous ideas that were generated. Ultimately, the residents decided on three maxims that should define their community:

1. Treat each other respectfully.
2. Appreciate each other’s differences.
3. Get to know new people.

“We were really impressed with the principles the residents came up with,” said Jacob. “They did an excellent job of identifying the values that make a community welcoming to everyone.”

Making a Motto

While Jacob led the first group dinner of 2020, the next session was led by Dana, a resident who had volunteered to take the reins. “What a wonderful confidence boost for her,” said Angela. “It is so great when our participants can take a leadership role.”
Residents enjoying a Supported Housing community dinner.
For this session, Jacob asked the residents to create a motto that encapsulates their community. Once again, the participants worked together to brainstorm and combine their diverse ideas into one shared vision.

As they worked on their motto, the residents were able to put the principles they had identified the previous week into practice. “Sometimes, the residents disagreed with each other about what should and shouldn’t be included in the motto,” said Jacob. “But they tried to do so in a respectful way, without interrupting or being overly negative.”

After much discussion, the residents finally agreed on the following motto: “Living together, thriving together. Independence is possible.” The participants took tremendous pride in coming up with this slogan, and the Supported Housing team is planning creative ways to weave it into the fabric of the program. “We would love to have the community expectations and motto hanging around the building in pieces of artwork,” said Jacob. “We’re also going to order T-shirts with the slogan.”

Independence is Possible

The goal of the Supported Housing program is for residents to live as independently as possible, and it is already clear that the restructured community dinners are furthering this mission. “Society often underestimates people with disabilities,” said Jacob. “Well-meaning people think they are helping by doing things for them. So, I think it means a lot for residents to take ownership of their experience.”

Having defined their own community expectations, the residents now have the language they need to remind each other to live up to their shared principles. Supported Housing staff members can be less involved if residents are prompting each other to be empathetic and respectful.

Supported Housing residents smiling together.The dinners themselves are a microcosm of society, where the residents can practice important skills that they can apply outside of the walls of their apartment complex. “The residents have always taken the lead with preparing the food for the community dinner,” said Jacob. “If, eventually, they could also run most of the meeting themselves, that would be an over-the-moon success.” As the community dinners evolve, Jacob and the rest of the Supported Housing team look forward to seeing how residents continue to grow and learn from these weekly discussions.    

Learn more about our Supported Housing program.

Judy and Abbe at the JF&CS Memory Memory Café.
February 25, 2020

Posted by Beth Soltzberg, Director of Alzheimer’s/Related Disorders Family Support Program
Judy and Abbe at the JF&CS Memory Memory Café.

Friends matter. They’re the people we have fun with; the people we can confide in and lean on when we need to. Research even shows that friends improve our health. When a dear friend develops dementia, however, it can test even the strongest relationships. What can you do when the activities you used to enjoy together don’t work out so well anymore? Many friends drift apart. In the 2019 World Alzheimer’s Report, over half of respondents in the Americas reported difficulty making or keeping friends. As one respondent said, “I call it the friendship divorce. I have lost a fair amount of people in my life that at one time I considered friends.”

Abbe and Judy’s Decades-Long Friendship

Abbe and Judy met thirty years ago when their daughters, Alissa and Becca, were just ten years old. Abbe needed someone to pick up Becca at Hebrew school and look after her until Abbe got home from work. Judy offered to help, and a wonderful family friendship was born. Over the years, the two families took trips to Martha’s Vineyard together, shared dinners, and attended a movie club that Judy created. Abbe’s husband David and Judy’s husband Gil, both musicians, became close friends and still play in a band together. To this day, Alissa and Becca are best friends.

In the midst of planning Alissa’s wedding, Judy shared some unexpected news. She told Abbe that she had been diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), which often leads to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. At first, Abbe couldn’t believe it, but over time the symptoms were undeniable. Judy had to retire from her career as a psychotherapist.

When a person develops dementia, friends may not know how to keep a conversation going, or how to enjoy time together. The person with dementia may find him or herself increasingly isolated, along with a spouse or another close family member, who may end up shouldering the entire responsibility of providing both care and human connection, more than one person can really do. This is where memory cafés can help. Memory cafés are social gatherings for people living with dementia, along with friends, family members, and professional caregivers. They are free of charge, and no one is asked if they have a diagnosis.

Making Memory Cafés a Monthly Routine

Concerned that Judy needed something social to do, Abbe’s daughter Becca had heard about the JF&CS Memory Café, and Abbe persuaded Judy to give it a try. On their first visit, musician Doug Schmolze was singing and playing guitar. “We were blown away,” said Abbe. “The lyrics were up on the screen at the front so everyone could be reminded of the words. I looked down the row of seats, and everyone was singing along.” Judy and Abbe have become regulars at the JF&CS Memory Café, have gotten to know other café guests, and have started inviting their friends to attend the café as well.

There are over 125 memory cafés in Massachusetts, and Abbe encourages others to make memory cafés part of their routine with a friend who lives with dementia. “I think many friends are nervous about the commitment,” Abbe said. “But it’s not hard to come to a program where there are kind people and a facilitated activity. It’s a 2- or 3-hour commitment once a month to be with your friend. And it’s so pleasant!”

There’s nothing like a good friend. The smiles on Judy’s and Abbe’s faces say it all.

Find a memory café near you in our Massachusetts Memory Café Directory!

Faye, Mitchell, Doris, and Steven Robbins.
February 21, 2020

Posted by JF&CS

Faye, Mitchell, Doris, and Steven Robbins.

Steven Robbins and his family are no strangers to philanthropy. Their father taught them the importance of giving back to their community. “My dad always said it was better to give than to receive. He was a big proponent of giving back,” shared Steven. When Steven’s father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, the Robbins family directed their passion for improving the lives of others to those who are affected by the disease.

The Robbins family was first introduced to the Charlotte & Richard Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support program at JF&CS through family friends. After visiting, they saw the unique services that exist to help those with Parkinson’s. Through therapeutic programming, such as chorus, dance, and family support groups, JF&CS provides unique and invaluable services that address day to day life with Parkinson’s. “This service really wasn’t available when my dad was diagnosed,” Steven said. “When we visited JF&CS for the first time, we felt so hopeful after seeing how happy and friendly all the participants were,” said Doris Robbins, Steven’s mother.

Social Connection and Family Support 

“Our program gives people a chance to be together without focusing on the disease,” said Anne Muskopf, Director of Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support. “The groups are therapeutic and designed to address symptoms, but the experience of simply having fun is more prominent.” Social connections are an important aspect of living full, meaningful lives with Parkinson’s, and participants can help their bodies while also enjoying the value of arts and music in a social setting.

The Okonow Parkinson's Family Support program provides support for the whole family. “JF&CS gave us a much better understanding of the disease through the educational programs that we participated in,” said Steven. “They helped us understand what was going on, and we want other families to have the same opportunity.” Through weekly support groups for care partners, family members can share their experiences with others who are in the same situation. “This group is my lifeline,” said a care partner attendee. There are also quarterly education and networking groups, where all family members are welcome to hear from expert speakers in the field of Parkinson’s disease.

“JF&CS is in a unique position. First, we offer programs for the whole family and, secondly, we are able to follow along with the progression of the disease because of the other resources we have within our agency,” added Anne. Participants can access the free advice of CJP SeniorDirect and the care management of Your Elder Experts, for example, as part of the surrounding support for the challenges that arise with Parkinson’s.

Supporting Parkinson's Outreach 

After seeing the unique service that JF&CS provides, the Robbins family was inspired to help make a difference. They decided to fund Parkinson’s outreach at JF&CS in order to leave their mark on the agency that inspired them. The Robbins want other families to experience the same support they have witnessed. “I always had this feeling of wishing my husband could have experienced that, but I’m so happy that I can help others in some small way,” said Doris.

In supporting Parkinson’s outreach, the Robbins are spreading awareness of the impact of the Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support program. With a focus on outreach, program staff are able to connect with providers and people living with Parkinson’s through individual meetings, presentations at symposia, and participation at community wellness fairs. “These programs are a true gem; we want to make sure they’re not a hidden gem,” said Anne.

To learn more about our resources for people living with Parkinson’s disease, visit our Charlotte & Richard Okonow Parkinson's Family Support program page.

Judi Fanger.jpg
February 20, 2020

Posted by JF&CS

For Judi Fanger, volunteering is a family tradition. “I grew up in a small Jewish community where everybody contributed their time. Now, I want to help those in need just as my family did when I was younger,” shared Judi.

Judi was first introduced to JF&CS when she started volunteering for our Family Table Marketplace. The Marketplace allows families to pack their own groceries and choose whichever produce they wish, as opposed to having their groceries delivered monthly. Volunteers help clients select what they want, bring groceries out to the client's car, and clean up after everyone has picked out their food.

Judi’s desire to give back has gone beyond just volunteering for JF&CS. She currently volunteers for the Friend 2 Friend program through Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters. As a volunteer for the Friend 2 Friend program, Judi is partnered with an adult with disabilities to share their hobbies and passions. Her husband also volunteers with Jewish Big Brother Big Sisters serving as a mentor to a teenage boy and he serves as a member of the JF&CS Bet Tzedek Legal Services Advisory Committee. These hands-on volunteer opportunities have given Judi and her family the chance to take an active part in helping build a strong foundation for those around them.

By working with two agencies, Judi has seen firsthand the vast number of services provided by different organizations in the area. She has become more aware of how nonprofits can work together to help a single client in all aspects of their needs. For example, if one agency provides services to counter social isolation, that same client can go to another agency for support in acquiring benefits or financial assistance.

So, when Judi's friend needed some additional help, Judi directed them to JF&CS. “There’s a huge benefit when multiple agencies help one client,” said Judi. “When a client accesses services from several places, there’s a better understanding that they’re not alone and there are services available to help them with many different needs.” 

In some cases, those who need the most help are not always aware of the services that are available. Judi’s unique position gives her the opportunity to be on the lookout for resources that can help the individuals she works with. “Some people don’t know what’s available to them. It can be difficult for them to figure out whether or not they have to pay for a service,” said Judi. “As soon as I found out that my friend needed more help, I contacted the appropriate agencies and determined how to get the services they deserved.”

Two agencies collaborating to build a foundation of well-being can help a client feel like they have a support system behind them. By partnering with one another, organizations can truly fulfill a client’s every need. “As volunteers, it’s important to be aware of the different agencies in the community who can provide a multitude of services for those we’re serving. Too often, the people we’re helping don’t know what services are available or how to access them,” said Judi.

If you're interested in getting involved with JF&CS, visit our Volunteering page!

February 18, 2020

Posted by JF&CS

Welcome to Humans of JF&CS! Periodically, we will be featuring different staff members to highlight the amazing work they do.

Behind our 40+ programs are compassionate, committed, and dedicated staff who care deeply about our mission and our agency. With this broad range of programs comes a team of staff members with diverse interests, passions, and skills, who all share a deep commitment to building a strong foundation of well-being and resilience for our clients. We hope these staff spotlights give you a taste of the incredible individuals behind our services and a sense of the deep compassion and dedication they bring every day.

I’m the Assistant Manager of the CHAI Works Day Program, which is our community-based program for adults with developmental disabilities. I came to JF&CS about four years ago through the recommendation of John Wills, the Director of Employment Programs.

I take care of all the scheduling for our twelve staff members and fifty-five participants, so who goes where, when, and what they’re doing. I make sure the programming runs efficiently and the participants are engaged in what they’re doing every day, whether it’s groups about social skills, life skills, or other fun groups and activities. We’re always trying new things and looking at how we can improve the program. We tend to try new things a lot, so we get the chance to see what’s working and what’s not. We recently started accepting volunteers into the program for the first time in years, which is really exciting.

I love my job and getting to interact with the people here, whether it’s staff or our participants. It’s never a chore to come into work and I get to see participants be successful with the goals they set for themselves. Seeing daily successes, big or small, makes my job worth it. Goals look different for everyone and it's great seeing people progress every day.

JF&CS Day Programming and Employment Services create meaningful and fulfilling opportunities for individuals with disabilities to lead productive and integrated lives in their communities and increase their feelings of self-worth and confidence. For more information, visit us online or call 781-647-5327.

Boston Neighborhood.jpg
February 11, 2020

Posted by JF&CS

Man walking in Charlestown

Billy, a CHAI Services client, meets with a clinical case worker from JF&CS each week to identify and work on goals he would like to achieve in the future. With the help of his case worker, Mary, he makes new steps towards improving himself every day.

Although Billy is shy at first, once he gets to know someone, he is talkative and full of laughs. “He’s really sweet and witty,” Mary shared. Mary has gotten to know him well over the course of working with him and has helped him identify skills to improve on, many of which are now focused on increasing his independence. Some of these tasks are things he's never done, like going to the store on his own, or finding his way around the community. Billy currently lives with his mom, but he’s working on skills that would allow him to move into a new setting.

By working with Mary, Billy is seeing improvement in walking to the store himself and meeting up with Mary at a different location. Because he lives in a busy area, this can be a daunting and difficult task, but he is making strides towards accessing his neighborhood. Going to the grocery store ties together all of the skills he’s working on, like cooking and cleaning, into a series of big accomplishments. These tasks will also lead to fun activities that Billy looks forward to. “He's excited to walk to his favorite pizza place on his own. We walk past other pizza shops, but he loves that one,” said Mary.

While going on these trips, Billy also has the opportunity to practice his photography, one of his favorite hobbies. “Billy is very artistic. He takes photographs and puts a calendar together every year as a holiday gift. It’s full of flowers and sunsets; he’s very creatively minded,” said Mary. Billy’s independence gives him the ability to be more self-sufficient, and it also opens new paths to exploring the hobbies he enjoys.

JF&CS CHAI Services provide support, strategies, and solutions that strengthen individuals and families, build community connections, and enhance independence. To learn more, visit us online or call 781-647-5327.

The 2019-2020 TeenSafe peer leaders with Samantha Walsh.
February 7, 2020

Posted by TeenSafe Cohort, 2019-2020

The 2019-2020 TeenSafe peer leaders with Samantha Walsh.

This article was written by our TeenSafe peer leaders in collaboration with the program’s Youth Educator. TeenSafe, a program of Journey to Safety, is the JF&CS response to dating abuse in our community.

This year, the Jewish holiday of Tu BiShvat falls in February, which is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Since Tu BiShvat is a day dedicated to planting trees, we started thinking about how growing a healthy relationship is similar to growing a tree.

Just like a tree, a relationship needs different elements to ensure it grows to be strong and healthy:

1. Trust (The Seed)

A budding plant. To grow a healthy relationship, you need trust as the seed that is planted in the soil. Without trust, a relationship can be shaky and the tree won’t grow.

2. A Safe Place (The Right Environment)

Planting the tree in the right environment is important too. Having a tree or relationship in a safe place ensures that it can grow and be healthy and strong. A safe place for a tree might be where it gets enough sun, water, nutrients, etc. A safe place for a relationship might be when two partners are committed to communicating, sharing, respecting, and supporting one another. A safe place for a relationship to flourish can also mean being around strong role models and a culture that demonstrates and talks about what a healthy, positive relationship should look like.

3. Communication (Water)

Trees along the water. Communication, like water for a tree, is another essential component of a healthy relationship. This means that while not always easy, each person can talk openly and listen to the other and especially be able to compromise when there are different thoughts about how a relationship should move forward.

4. Honesty (Sunlight)

A tree also needs sunlight to grow and develop. Being honest and supportive helps grow the relationship and keep it strong.

5. A Community (Strong Roots)

Beautiful tree roots. Trees flourish when they have strong roots to keep themselves in place and extract moisture and nutrients from the soil. Similarly, relationships are at their best when they are rooted in a community. It is important for both partners to feel a connection to a larger social group, both individually and as a couple. Each partner should feel that they are able to stay with their community and expand their community.

If your relationship has all of the essentials we discussed above, then just like a tree, it can keep growing strong and become amazing and beautiful. But if something is beginning to feel off or unhealthy in any way, find a safe and trusted friend and adult you can speak with.

Check out these great resources on the TeenSafe page and read previous TeenSafe cohort blog posts for more information. The most important thing is to keep sharing your concerns with others who listen and respect you. Our message to you is that it’s not your fault if someone you are in a relationship with isn’t nice or is abusive in any way.

Participate in #Orange4Love Day

Looking for a great way to show your support for healthy relationships? On February 11, “Wear Orange 4 Love Day”, thousands of people across the country will wear orange to raise awareness about the prevalence of teen dating abuse. Through wearing an orange shirt, shoes, jewelry, or even nail polish, you can easily foster conversation and spread awareness to others. All of the members of the TeenSafe cohort are very excited to participate in this event, and we encourage you to also wear orange on February 11!  

Eli with his father and brother.
February 5, 2020

Posted by JF&CS

Eli with his father and brother.

Eli with his father and brother in 2016.

For Donna Roman’s family, meeting the needs of their youngest son, Eli, has been a years-long struggle. “It has been a difficult and, at times, devasting experience,” said Donna. Eli is on the autism spectrum and faces significant mental health challenges, along with learning disabilities. Additionally, Eli sometimes wrestles with his identity as a child who was adopted. 

In early 2017, Eli and his family were in all-out crisis. Within a period of six months, Eli was in the hospital three times for a total of 10 weeks, and that was after five previous psychiatric hospitalizations. 

Charting a Course 

At this point, Eli was already receiving in-home support from JF&CS, which he had been referred to through MassHealth. After his recent spate of hospitalizations, Eli’s in-home team suggested that he work directly with Joan Munnelly, the Autism Navigator at JF&CS. Eli and his family at The Albert Einstein Memorial.

“Joan was able to help us chart a course,” said Donna. “Eli is lucky to have an amazing team of professionals that are experts in their respective areas. Joan, who is an expert in special education advocacy, quickly became an integral part of Eli’s team.” 

Joan works with Eli and his family to improve his educational goals and access. She closely coordinates her efforts with Eli’s school and his team of professionals to ensure that his services are implemented effectively. Together, Eli’s team has fought to make sure that he receives the correct type of therapeutic placement. 

“When Joan attends meetings with Eli and us, she adds crucial input,” said Donna. “She represents Eli’s voice, and encourages Eli to advocate for himself.” Joan also reviews Eli’s Individualized Education Plan, reports, and evaluations directly with his parents to improve their understanding of what Eli needs and help them adjust their planning when problems arise. 

Looking Toward a Brighter Future 

Eli’s life has transformed dramatically since 2017. With coaching and encouragement from Joan, Donna and her husband made the difficult decision that Eli needed a residential placement to make progress. “It was agonizing,” said Donna. “But the results have been amazing.”Eli and his friend at a zipline course.

In the last 2½ years, Eli hasn’t been in the hospital or ER for mental illness issues at all. He has been able to access his education and has earned almost all As and Bs. “When Eli first met Joan, he had no self-confidence and had told us that he thought he was stupid,” said Donna. “Now, he identifies goals for his future and even said that he would like to go to some type of college program.” 

Donna credits JF&CS and Joan for Eli’s progress. “At some of the worst moments for us, Joan was there to help pick us up, dust us off, and cheerlead so we can keep going,” said Donna. “She’s an essential resource, friend, and ally for us, but even more importantly, for Eli.”

Visit our Autism Services page to learn more about the resources we offer. 

Older Couple hands.jpg
February 3, 2020

Posted by JF&CS

"Jewish victims of Nazi persecution should never feel forgotten,” said Lora Tarlin, director of Schechter Holocaust Services. Too often, survivors are left to suffer due to financial insecurity, social isolation, and age-related difficulties. Their increasing physical, emotional, and cognitive challenges often revive traumatic events they endured as children and young adults, which exacerbate their difficulties. Poverty-related stress can also be triggering for survivors, as it reminds them of their deprivation during the Holocaust. 

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany funds 78 percent of our Schechter Holocaust Services (SHS) program, which provides services and advocacy that lightens this stress for survivors and aims to support their physical and emotional well-being. JF&CS is the only agency in Massachusetts funded by the Claims Conference and is also the only agency that works directly with survivors. While some agencies provide educational resources about the Holocaust, JF&CS offers individuals person-centered, trauma-informed care. 

For Sasha*, an SHS client, a case manager stepped in to help her in her time of need. Sasha had broken her pelvis, but due to her poor financial situation, the hospital wanted to send her home after only a couple of days. Sasha also had dementia and faced a language barrier when communicating with others. She spoke Russian as her primary language and had no family living in the area to translate for her when she needed to speak to doctors. 

Had Sasha gone home, she would have been unable to care for herself. She was injured and only received a few hours of homecare a week through JF&CS. These few hours of homecare were enough to help her when she was healthy, but with a broken pelvis, she would need around the clock care. Sasha had already suffered a lack of medical care as a child, and now the hospital was attempting to send her away in a state unfit to take care of herself. 

When SHS heard about her situation, they knew they had to advocate for her. Sasha’s case manager reached out to a pro bono attorney in order to convince the hospital that their patient needed and deserved care, despite her financial situation. With the help of her lawyer and advocate, Sasha was able to stay at the hospital for the duration of her six-week healing process. Her advocate helped translate her needs to doctors and nurses and got her the legal help she needed. Although lengthening her stay was a huge accomplishment, the hospital refused to move Sasha to the rehab wing. Each day, someone had to bring Sasha to her physical therapy, which still put unneeded strain on her by moving her farther distances than necessary. 

This struggle is not uncommon for survivors. Poverty effects the resources they’re able to access, such as medical care, which harms their well-being. “It shows how the system falls short, even with MassHealth assistance. There is so little help for those who need it in navigating the system,” said Lora. 

Victims of Nazi persecution also struggle with social isolation that inhibits their connections to those who could assist them as they age. In addition to advocating for survivors, SHS also holds a monthly social gathering that helps counter isolation. By giving survivors access to events where they can socialize with other survivors, they are able to build friendships and know that they are not alone. 

“Survivors started their lives scared; they shouldn’t have to end their lives frightened. We want to bring peace to them and their families,” shared Lora. By standing up for those who can’t advocate for themselves, SHS drastically improves the lives of those who need it most. 

More than 270 survivors are helped by JF&CS each month, enabling survivors to live full, happy lives and age with dignity. 

*Name changed to protect privacy.

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