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July 10, 2014

Posted by Peggy Kaufman

CERS in ScotlandIn June, I presented the development, evolution, and present structure of the Oliver, Ian, and Serenity Wolk Fragile Beginnings program to an international audience at the World Association of Infant Mental Health in Edinburgh, Scotland. I was well prepared thanks to Karin Lindfors and my colleagues in the Fragile Beginnings program, but I found myself quite nervous. The audience response to the presentation was met with overwhelming success. Participants from Greece, Poland, Australia, and Finland, among others, asked for presentation notes and our contact information in hopes of meeting some of the needs of parents of premature infants in their home countries. We know that there is no other program like JF&CS Fragile Beginnings in the United States. But after presenting about Fragile Beginnings in Scotland, we learned from this international audience that there is no other program in the world that provides the support and interventions Fragile Beginnings provides as a family transitions from the NICU to home and for the weeks and months that follow.

I felt so proud of our presence at this conference. In addition to Fragile Beginnings, our work in Project NESST, Project BRIGHT, and our Infant-Parent Training Institute were showcased, making the JF&CS Center for Early Relationship Support® the most represented community agency at the seven-day conference. The international community of more than 1,500 professionals from around the globe that were present are all committed to research, training, and clinical practice with infants, young children, and their families. Our shared goals leave me with hope for the future.

Peggy KaufmanPeggy H. Kaufman, MEd, LICSW is the founding director of the JF&CS Center for Early Relationship Support. With a background in perinatal emotional health and the growth and development of parents, her interests include the earliest relationships. Ms. Kaufman is the recipient of multiple awards for her groundbreaking programs and her commitment to increase awareness of postpartum depression and maternal and infant mental health.

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July 7, 2014

Posted by Peggy Whitbread

Joe and his daughter at her weddingJoe and I had been regulars at the JF&CS Parkinson’s Family Support dance class for close to two and a half years. We started at my prodding Joe into just giving it a try for one or two weeks and ended up planning life, including doctor appointments, around Wednesday morning outings to Waltham.

Little did I know just how important not only Wednesday PD Dance but the Parkinson’s disease (PD) support structure at JF&CS would become to me as Joe’s caregiver. I soon became a regular at PD Care Partner Support bi-monthly meetings. I also became a client of Your Elder Experts geriatric care management program when I needed guidance, support, and advocacy in placing Joe in a skilled nursing facility for long-term care.

By the end of Joe’s rapid decline in health from July 2013 to October 2013, Joe was down to 123 pounds from an overweight 196 pounds the July before. He was presenting as 5th stage Parkinson’s: bed and wheelchair bound, unable to transfer from one to the other with even a two person assist, and unable to feed himself or hold a utensil. Suffice it to say things looked very bleak for my 69-year-old husband, and he entered hospice care.

But this month, we returned to PD Dance at Joe’s request. How are we back? Prayer; placing Joe in a facility open to learning about how individual PD caregiving can be; prayer; seeking support from JF&CS Parkinson’s Family Support and other JF&CS programs; prayer; and learning from association with other PD clients at JF&CS not to stop when the light turns red.

Recently, we began to see Joe picking up a fork and feeding himself with dexterity. His bouts of agitation became purposeful leg movements: bending at the knee; lifting legs (over sides of bed and wheelchair); lifting knees in a marching rhythm; lifting his arms as if conducting the symphony while he listened to music. These signals told us that it was time to return to PD Dance.

Joe and PeggyHow could we not return? The bonus was Joe’s response to being “reintroduced” to Wednesday’s dance group. Usually reticent, he spoke loudly and clearly about how wonderful it was to be back, how much he appreciated the efforts of JF&CS to provide programs for people with PD, and shared that if there was anything he could do to aid in that goal, he would.

And the bonus bonus? He wanted to know when we were scheduled for the next dance session after our second visit. Returning to dance for Joe is giving him a sense of control over his situation. Thank you, JF&CS Parkinson’s Family Support!

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July 2, 2014

Posted by Kristen Schreck

Recipe from Nutrition ServicesDelicious fresh produce is abundant at farmer’s markets and grocery stores this time of year. This Brown Rice Pilaf with Squash and Chicken recipe makes use of the summer squash and zucchini that are in season right now. Feel free to substitute your favorite in-season summer veggies for the squash if you prefer!

Nutrition Services provides recipes for clients, community partners, and the general public. Recipes cost $2.50 or less per serving and meet nutrition guidelines consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Visit the Nutrition Services recipe page or sign up to receive the recipe of the month in your inbox.

Kristin Pufahl SchreckKristen Pufahl Schreck, a licensed registered dietitian, is the JF&CS Nutrition Services Program Manager and the coordinator of Healthy JF&CS, the agency’s employee wellness program. She also teaches at Boston University and is on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Dietetic Association. Kristen was named the Massachusetts Young Registered Dietitian of the Year in 2012.

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June 30, 2014

Posted by Jon Federman

At our annual board meeting on June 2, JF&CS welcomed two new members to our Board, Stephen Bernstein and William (Billy) Weinstein. We are excited to have Stephen and Billy join the JF&CS Board!

Stephen BernsteinStephen Bernstein and his wife, Leslie, live in Newton. They have two daughters. Steve is a partner in the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery, LLP and is based in the Boston office. He has practiced health law since 1988 and is the head of the firm’s Health Industry Advisory Practice Group. Nationally ranked in Chambers and Partners for Healthcare, he has also been named in both US News & World Report Best Lawyers and in New England Super Lawyers. A magna cum laude graduate of Duke University, Steve received his JD from Boston College Law School where he served on the Boston College Law Review. At JF&CS, he is a member of the Disabilities Advisory Committee.

“As a member of the JF&CS Disabilities Committee for several years, I have seen the power of JF&CS and the incredible staff transform the lives of so many, and do it in a way that is a win for the individual clients and for the community. I am honored to become a Board Member and excited with the hope that I can learn even more about the JF&CS program menu, match that with my experience as a health care transactional/regulatory lawyer, and contribute wherever I can to the programs of JF&CS,” notes Steve. In his spare time, he pursues his interests in tennis and cooking. The Bernsteins are members of Temple Shalom in Newton.

William WeinsteinWilliam (Billy) Weinstein and his wife, Ruth (Boomer), live in Weston. They have one daughter. Billy has more than 25 years of experience in valuing, managing, acquiring, and selling businesses and assets under challenging circumstances. A founding partner and principal of the Ozer Group, which developed a wide array of business units, including asset valuation, asset-based lending, and asset disposition, Billy is a graduate of State University of New York at Albany. He is on the leadership council of Boston Medical Center and serves on the advisory committee of various programs at the JCC. At JF&CS, Billy and his wife co-chaired the 2013 CHAI Celebration along with Nancy and Mark Belsky.

“Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to get to know JF&CS and many of its dedicated professionals. I could think of no place I would rather be as we begin our next 150 years of making a difference in the lives of those that need us,” says Billy. His leisure activities include golf, music, and dogs. The Weinsteins are members of Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley.


Jon FedermanJon Federman is the JF&CS Staff Writer. A practicing attorney for more than 15 years, he is thrilled to bring his legal and persuasive writing skills to the JF&CS Marketing Communications department. Jon has a BA from Tufts University and a JD from Boston College Law School. In his spare time he is an exhibiting photographer and an award-winning cartoonist. Jon lived in London, England for five years before returning to Boston in 2011.

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June 26, 2014

Posted by Nancy Mazonson

Parkinson's Dance“For me, JF&CS is a safe harbor, a place where I can learn from experts and feel the camaraderie of others as I live my life with Parkinson’s disease.” This message, from one of our early participants of the Parkinson’s dance program, echoes a message we frequently hear from families who participate in the JF&CS Parkinson’s Family Support program. In all of our programs - dance, singing, support groups, or educational programming - we strive to create community. June has been an exciting month as we widened our reach to embrace larger communities in the Parkinson’s disease (PD) world. 

At the beginning of the month we hosted the first New England regional gathering of Dance for Parkinson’s teachers. This passionate group of instructors, all of whom trained with the Mark Morris Dance for PD program in Brooklyn, NY came from New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maine, and across Massachusetts to collaborate and share successes and challenges they have encountered working with PD communities where they live. We were proud to share our enormous successes at JF&CS and learn from others so that we can continue to provide cutting-edge programming. At the conclusion of the day, the teachers hugged one another and asked when we will meet again.

This month, JF&CS also hosted the Michael J. Fox Foundation and Boston University Medical Center staff for an educational program entitled, “Is Parkinson’s a Jewish Genetic Disease?” A new research effort is being launched in Boston, and we were happy to host members of the Jewish community to educate themselves about PD.

We are proud to be widening the circles of our community by creating relationships with local and national organizations as we all work to make a difference for families living with PD.

Nancy MazonsonNancy Mazonson, MS, OTR/L, has coordinated the Parkinson's Family Support program of JF&CS since its inception in September 2006. The program is a leading resource in the Boston area with its unique programs, including Parkinson’s Dance, Adult Child and Care Partner support groups, and Tremble Clefs choral singing group. Prior to her work at JF&CS, Nancy worked extensively as an occupational therapist in inpatient and community-based rehabilitation settings, specializing in helping people with degenerative neurological conditions.

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June 24, 2014

Written by Evette and Ari Ronner
Presented at the 2014 JF&CS Benefit

Ari, a 10th grader at the Maimonides School, and his sister Evette, a senior at the Maimonides School, shared their JF&CS story at the 2014 Benefit on Wednesday, May 21.
Evette and AriWe, along with our amazing mother, Janet, are honored to be here to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of JF&CS. Unfortunately, our sister, Adina, could not be here with us. Adina has developmental disabilities and is with her caretaker this evening. We are here tonight to tell you about our long-standing relationship with Jewish Family & Children’s Service.

In 2002, our dad passed away after being ill for just a short time as the result of a brain tumor. He left our mom with three young children to care for. Evette was only six years old at the time and Ari and Adina were only four. Our situation was fragile. This was when the Jewish community stepped in.

We remember very distinctly our family’s initial experience with JF&CS: that first Chanukkah after our dad died. We knew we could no longer light the menorah with our father. Our dad traditionally gave us gifts all eight nights, but given that our mother was struggling financially, she would not be able to keep up that tradition. But the holiday turned out to be a joyous one after all. Unbeknownst to us at the time, we were already receiving food from Family Table. JF&CS volunteers arrived with bags full of gifts as a result of our relationship with the agency. There were enough gifts to cover almost all eight nights of Chanukkah for the three of us! At the time, we were overjoyed, having no idea that they came from JF&CS. JF&CS allowed our family to enjoy Chanukkah the way we would have had our dad still been with us.

Over the years, JF&CS has provided us with camp scholarships, which enabled us to attend summer camp. After many years of attending camp at the Chestnut Hill School, this summer we will be returning to work as camp counselors. Adina has enjoyed time at Camp Jabberwocky on Martha’s Vineyard for the past several summers, thanks to the support of JF&CS.

Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters also has played an influential role in our lives. We have developed strong, nurturing relationships with our Bigs over the years, who have also been a huge support to our mother. Ari has been together with his big brother, Paul, for the past six years, and he is the best Big Brother Ari could ask for.

In January of 2013, our life circumstances took a turn for the worse - our mother was admitted to the hospital for what would turn into an extended stay. We were devastated, scared, and alone with no parents to take care of us. Our aunt managed for a week but was unable to care for both our family and her own. Evette was sixteen at the time. Between running the household, caring for Adina, and visiting our mother, we barely had time for schoolwork, let alone social activities. We knew that if we didn't find someone to care for us soon, the state would likely place the three of us in separate foster homes, especially given our sister’s special needs. The last thing we wanted was for our family to be torn apart again.

Just when our lives were falling into crisis, Eve Youngerman from JF&CS entered our lives. She began working around the clock to arrange for overnight care for the three of us, recognizing how important it was to keep us at home together. By the end of the week, we had loving nannies coming into our home each night to take care of Adina. Eve coordinated efforts with several Jewish organizations to provide funding to cover the cost until our mother came home from the hospital. This in-home support allowed us to focus on schoolwork, participate in school activities, and lead a somewhat “normal” teenage life. It was an amazing feeling to know that, once again, the Jewish community was able to help our family during some of our toughest times.

In the middle of February, as our mother was continuing to improve, we realized that caring for Adina, given her disabilities, would be impractical. JF&CS helped find a foster placement for Adina, ensuring our mom’s ability to get better. Throughout the placement process, we received a lot of support from JF&CS. Eve took us to meet Adina’s new foster family and helped us move her in. She even took us to visit Adina a few days later. Today, Adina is thriving in her foster home. Her caretaker, Catherine, is truly amazing; she specializes in caring for kids with disabilities, and we couldn’t have asked for a more loving, knowledgeable person to take care of our sister. We speak to Adina almost every night and visit her every weekend.

While at the hospital, our mom was visited by a JF&CS case manager whose role it was to coordinate her services when she returned home. The case manager helped sort through complicated health insurance and other benefit issues, ensuring that she received the assistance she needed to continue her recovery. The support she received was invaluable.

We are happy to say that today we are in a much better place than when we met Eve a year and a half ago. Our mom is doing well, as is Adina. We know our dad would be grateful to the Jewish community that helped support us through difficult times. He would also be very proud of our strength. Ari adds that the family is very proud of Evette who will be attending Harvard University as a member of their class of 2018 in the fall. He noted that, even though their family is really going to miss Evette, they know she has such a bright future ahead of her.

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June 19, 2014

By Lisa Katz

Family TableI have a deeply rooted passion for working at Jewish Family & Children’s Service Family Table as Volunteer and Food Coordinator because when I first walked in these doors, I needed the help.

Three years ago my husband and I each faced unemployment and we were struggling to climb out of debt. On top of that we barely could afford to keep kosher but because it is so important to us, we found a way, which often meant turning to others for help and meals. We felt embarrassed, stressed, and completely alone in our situation.

The JF&CS website walked me through all of the services offered and my heart sprang with hope. I contacted the Center for Family Assistance and applied for a Hebrew Free Loan for a looming tuition bill. We were connected with other services, including Family Table, which brought us such relief. Receiving a gift of monthly groceries was amazing. We especially appreciated being able to have Shabbat meals in our own home again since we were getting challah, kosher chicken, fresh produce, and many other items. As the Family Table Marketplace pantry started, I tried that and really enjoyed being able to come in and pick out my own groceries. However, after I had a baby it was difficult to travel and come in to Marketplace so I missed several months. Thankfully, the Family Table Case Manager reached out to me and made sure we had the support we needed and arranged for us to receive deliveries.

In addition to everything else, when I became pregnant, JF&CS staff encouraged me to sign up for the Lauren and Mark Rubin Visiting Moms® program. It was wonderful having an understanding mom who could come each week to my home to talk and listen, especially since my parents live far away. My son is 20 months old now and I still think back fondly to her visits.

JF&CS case managers worked together extremely well to make sure that my family received all the relevant services we needed. We were so fortunate to have found JF&CS.

When I heard about a job position opening at Family Table, which exactly fit my background as I had been a Volunteer Coordinator at Cambridge Family & Children’s Service, I eagerly applied. When I learned about how Family Table actually operates, I was completely impressed. As a client I had no idea so many other families were being served. I couldn’t believe the complexity of this program and how it can successfully serve more than 400 client households through a network of public and private funding, and food donations from 69 area synagogues and schools.

My experience as a client helps me train volunteers, educate the community, and serve clients better. I want to make sure both clients and volunteers have as smooth and positive of an experience as I had. JF&CS has made a tremendous impact on my life and I am so glad I have the chance to pass on what I have gained to others in need.

Lisa KatzLisa Katz is the Volunteer and Food Coordinator for Family Table, the largest kosher food pantry serving Greater Boston and the North Shore. She joined JF&CS one year ago after having worked as Children and Family Services Coordinator at The Second Step, a domestic violence program, and Volunteer and Mentor Coordinator at Cambridge Family & Children’s Service. She also worked in Jewish communal service in religious schools, Jewish camps, and as Program Coordinator at MIT Hillel. Lisa is excited to bring together her passion for supporting clients, volunteers, and the Jewish community. Lisa also enjoys dancing around the kitchen with her toddler.

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June 17, 2014

Posted by Hannah Hiam

Hannah HaimAs a closing to my senior year, my school, Gann Academy, gives students the opportunity to gain experience in a particular occupation that may help their future goals or develop their interests. As a granddaughter and great granddaughter of innocent people affected by World War II and anti-Semitic oppression, I grew up hearing stories about the painful adversities my family faced in Soviet Russia. Additionally, I feel an obligation to address the needs of European senior survivors in my community.

For six weeks I helped the hardworking team of Schechter Holocaust Services, who devote their utmost attention and support to those who have been through humanity’s worst era. I assisted Café Hakalah in late April, a luncheon that brought together Israeli Defense Force soldiers and over eighty survivors. In addition, I spent time researching, filing important documents, speaking on the phone with individual clients, making holiday gift bags, and giving a helping hand to the diligent staff who have numerous tasks to complete. Towards the end of my internship, I joined my supervisor on a home visit. The home visit put all the work I did in the office into perspective. It was special to connect to the people who benefit from my help in the office.

The work I completed for Schechter Holocaust Services has impacted me momentously. It is a comfort knowing there are professionals working to better the daily lives of survivors and those affected by Nazi persecution. I believe other young people like me who feel passionate about connecting their lives to the brave and commendable generations before us would feel the same way if they had such a powerful experience. I am grateful for the experience I had working with a warm and intelligent staff. In the future I hope other young people will be inspired to take the opportunity to volunteer and provide services for survivors and elderly immigrants.

Hannah HaimHannah Hiam interned with Schechter Holocaust Services before graduating from Gann Academy this month. She will be attending Trinity College in the fall.

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June 13, 2014

By Kate Weldon LeBlanc

Women's Breakfast 2014Wednesday morning was the annual Women’s Breakfast, supporting the JF&CS Center for Early Relationship Support® (CERS) and celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Lauren and Mark Rubin Visiting Moms® program. It was our most successful Women’s Breakfast ever, with more than 350 people in attendance and raising more than $260,000. We are enormously grateful.

This year, we were joined at the Breakfast by filmmaker Josh Seftel and his mother, Pat, who shared their reflections about the importance – and joy – of staying connected via their sweet, entertaining FaceTime chats.
This was only my fourth breakfast (many people there have been attending for more than two decades!) but based on this relatively small sample, I have made some unscientific observations about things that are “always” true about our Women’s Breakfast:

  1. The weather will be gorgeous. Not just a little bit nice but “nicest day of the week” gorgeous. It seems like even if clouds, cool temperatures, or rain are forecast, the morning of the Breakfast will be sunny and you’ll walk in the door already with a spring in your step.
  2. The whirlwind of friendship, generosity, and energy will be palpable and contagious.
  3. It will be emotional but not sad. Many eyes fill with tears (mine ALWAYS do) because it is profound to bear witness to the impact that the support provided by CERS has made for a quarter century. I am also moved by my admiration and affection for all my colleagues, especially our CERS Director Peggy Kaufman.

Yesterday’s event had all of the above and more. During the program, Peggy described her first conversation with our amazing Event Chair and Visiting Mom, Audrey Schuster. When Audrey asked about her goals for the Breakfast, Peggy explained she wanted it to increase awareness of Visiting Moms and CERS; to build a legacy and sustain our programs financially so we can continue to provide these vital services into the future; and to honor all the women who have served as Visiting Moms in the last 25 years. This Women’s Breakfast fulfilled all of these wishes! We welcomed many attending for the first time, and I am confident they left with a wonderful sense of the JF&CS community.

One of the most inspiring moments for me was when Audrey asked all the women who had ever been Visiting Moms to stand and be recognized. They have such a strong bond to each other and have literally changed the lives of thousands of parents and babies. This was reflected in the powerful remarks shared, in person and on video, both by mothers who received visits by Visiting Moms and by mothers who are Visiting Moms. One mom said, “Having a little extra love come into your life when you need it most is what Visiting Moms is.” It may sound simple enough but it is transformative. I’ll never forget a mom using that lovely and uncommon word to describe CERS. I think it is perfect. As Audrey herself said beautifully, “What matters most is to be in the moment and present for each mom.” The power of “just being with” other people is something we can all take away and bring into our own lives. What a legacy indeed!

kate weldon leblancKate Weldon LeBlanc has been the associate director of CERS since August of 2009. Kate is passionate about child and family issues, particularly on building communities of support for parents. Prior to her arrival at JF&CS, she spent nearly ten years working in the departments of Child Advocacy and Government Relations at Children’s Hospital Boston. She holds a BSW from Skidmore College and a MPA from UMass Boston.

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June 10, 2014

JF&CS Benefit 2014

JF&CS has been providing support, guidance, and emergency assistance for people facing economic hardship throughout our 150-year history. At the JF&CS Benefit, we shared stories of how JF&CS improves the lives of people and families in need.

HandsElise*, a 62-year-old woman with a disability, was living with her 93-year-old mother and had received financial assistance from JF&CS in the past and was currently receiving groceries from our food pantry. Unable to pay an assessment on their condominium and fearful about what would happen to her and her mother, Elise reached out to JF&CS for help. JF&CS provided financial assistance to prevent eviction proceedings. With the stress of possible eviction put aside, JF&CS staff began to research housing regulations and client rights to prepare for future advocacy. The JF&CS staff member connected Elise and her mother to a free JF&CS geriatric care manager to help with long-term planning. When it became apparent that getting to JF&CS to pick up food was a challenge, JF&CS provided them with monthly deliveries. JF&CS helped avert a financial crisis that might have resulted in homelessness and connected them to long-term support to address the issues of aging and housing stability.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

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