Caring for Generations

JF&CS Blog

JF&CS Blog


JF&CS Blog

Specify Alternate Text
February 19, 2014

Posted by Alyssa Laser

SibshopsWhat is one of the most important relationships in the life of someone with disabilities? Their sibling! Although many services focus on the child with a disability, their brothers and sisters also need support around their experiences and challenges of having a sibling with special needs.

JF&CS recognized the needs of siblings of kids with disabilities, so in April 2013, JF&CS sponsored a Sibshops training. Led by Don Meyer, Director of the National Sibling Support Project, this training taught providers how to run their own local Sibshops groups. Sibshops are lively programs focused on the needs of brothers and sisters of kids with special needs.  The training was a huge success – there were nearly 100 participants including parents, professional providers, adult siblings, and young siblings.

In his thank you to JF&CS for hosting, Don Meyer said, “What an amazing conference in Massachusetts! I have been all over the country and the world and this was the largest conference I have ever conducted. I am not surprised Massachusetts is the leader in this effort. The energy and commitment JF&CS was able to bring together, to focus on sibs, should be recognized and followed by states throughout the USA.”

This year, JF&CS and Wayland Youth and Family Services are hosting our first Sibshop since Don Meyer’s training in April. January 12 was the first of four sessions of this inaugural Sibshops workshop. Attendees were sibs (ages 8-12) of kids with disabilities. These workshops consist of mixers for sibs to make new friends, fun games, and discussion-based activities.

The first session included ice breakers and active games including push pin soccer, last sib standing, and triangle tag. Sibs also participated in an activity called "Dear Aunt Blabby," a bogus advice columnist who receives letters from brothers and sisters who have concerns similar to those participants may experience. The participants - experts on the subject of being a sibling of a person with special needs - provided the letter writer with advice, drawing from their own experiences. We weren’t sure how much the sibs would open up in this first session and in a group of people they did not know well, but once the letters were read they were all excited to share their stories and tips on having a sibling with a disability.

Overall, our first Sibshop was a great success, and we look forward to the next sessions. The sibs made new friends, shared experiences of having a sibling with special needs, and, most importantly, had fun!

Alyssa Laser is the Community Programs Manager for a cluster of homes including two new houses in Newton and Malden. As the Community Programs Manager, Alyssa oversees the efficient and effective operation of the services provided by the JF&CS Community Programs and works with individuals with mild to moderate developmental disabilities and their families in community living.

Specify Alternate Text
February 14, 2014

Posted by Peggy Kaufman

HeartsSeveral weeks ago, my husband and I took care of our two-month-old grandson for the evening. When our son came to pick him up at the end of the night, he turned to us and shared that the look on our faces after taking care of his baby was priceless. He added that he cherishes who we are to him and now who we are to his son.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, the stores and media bombard us with messages about appreciating those around you. Perhaps a Hallmark holiday is a good reminder not only of what we feel but of what we can say about what we feel. The affirmations I read on February 14 are the messages that give my relationships greater meaning every day of the year: communicating not only what we do, but who we are.

Valentine’s Day reminds me of how our relationships can be an opportunity to share with another the experience of valuing our relationship, a declaration of my positive feelings, and a confirmation of who others are to me. I wonder at this time of the year if I really want to wait another 364 days to share my experience directly with those I appreciate and cherish like my son did with me last month. Chocolate is delicious and flowers are lovely, but there is nothing as precious as the gifts from the heart and the words that communicate appreciation for being who we are.

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.

Specify Alternate Text
February 11, 2014

Posted by Elyse Rast

Tablet MagazineI’ve worked with Holocaust survivors for many years, but until I began working at JF&CS Schechter Holocaust Services (SHS), I had no idea what was happening behind closed doors. The survivors with whom I worked were always well dressed, kept lovely homes, and had appropriate medical care. They seemed to enjoy speaking to groups of children, going out for coffee, and talking about their grandchildren. Underneath that façade, however, is a group of people living in conditions that I’m embarrassed by. The statistics vary but roughly 25-50% of Holocaust survivors in the US live 200% below the poverty level. This means many are deciding between food and medicine or a gift for their grandchild and winter boots. They are heating their homes by opening the oven door and saving money by reusing toileting products, creating unhygienic situations that can lead to infections and pain.

Tablet Magazine just published an article bringing attention to the plight of survivors and a follow-up story highlighting New York agencies that are helping them. In addition to their wonderful work, JF&CS offers an array of services to Holocaust survivors and their families in Greater Boston.

Our Hakalah program is designed to provide confidential and comprehensive assistance to all victims of Nazi persecution and their families. The services vary depending on need but include home care subsidies, emergency financial assistance, advocacy, and help with community resources and Claims Conference reparations and restitutions. Even though some survivors are financially secure, others are unwilling to ask for help or show that they are in dire financial need. . People may feel there is a stigma attached to asking for help but our staff work hard to help them realize there is no reason to be embarrassed.

Due to past trauma and continued mistrust of government agencies, the majority of survivors are unwilling or unable to leave their home and move into an assisted living facility or nursing home. This may lead to feelings of loneliness or isolation as many will go several days without seeing another person. In order to help combat this problem, SHS provides a monthly social gathering that ranges from a speaker on the history of radio to a Berkeley trained, Russian-speaking musician.

We all should do our part to help survivors understand that they are not alone and that the Jewish community has not forgotten them. When we say “never forget” we need to remember that the 14-year-old boy who survived concentration camps is now an 84-year-old living in poverty. We have to remember him now as he and many others still struggle for survival.

Elyse RastElyse Rast is the Manager of Outreach and Education for Schechter Holocaust Services. For the past 20 years Elyse has taught children ranging in ages from 3-18 and specializes in Holocaust education. Currently, Elyse runs Jewish teenage empowerment classes at Prozdor Hebrew High School and is working on her PhD in Education at Lesley University. Elyse has two kids and two cats and lives in Westwood.

Specify Alternate Text
February 6, 2014

Posted by Marjorie U. Sokoll

Hands in a circle“There is nothing so wise as a circle.”
~Rania Maria Rilke

When Sue Stellick, Director of Day Programs, Services for People with Disabilities, shared with me the sad news of a young staff member who had died, she asked whether I might provide a healing circle for people who knew him. Healing circles offer a source of support in sharing rituals for healing. For the past 15 years I have been privileged to facilitate a monthly healing circle for JF&CS staff members. Sue was familiar with the healing circle and thought the participants in the residential disabilities program would benefit from one at this time.

I was moved by Sue’s compassion and concern for people in the program and her wish to provide solace and comfort. Our staff healing circle follows an open format that creates space for reflection and contemplation, and fosters an opportunity for self-care. I was honored to bring this healing ritual on the road to these participants living in our residential homes in Brighton and Norwood.
In one of these unique healing circles, one of the participants offered a beautiful song in memory of the young man. We listened in awe, his voice exquisite. We spoke of the participants’ sadness over the loss of their staff member and shared fond memories. They also shared memories of other painful losses in their lives; sadly most were very familiar with terminal illness and its impact on their loved ones. The participants were also interested in the ritual objects I brought, and as our time together was ending, I invited several who were familiar with the Tibetan singing bowl to strike the bowl. A beautiful healing sound was created as we closed the circle of support.

Dr. Kenneth Doka, a renowned author in the field of bereavement and an expert in disenfranchised grief, states that among the many groups who feel disenfranchised are those with intellectual disabilities. He writes, “In each of these situations a person has experienced the loss of a meaningful and significant attachment. And in each situation this loss may not be recognized or validated by others. The grief subsequently experienced is then disenfranchised: The loss cannot be openly acknowledged, socially validated, or publicly mourned.”

I was profoundly moved to have had the opportunity to lead a healing circle for our program participants in order to “acknowledge, socially validate, and publicly mourn” this significant person in their life.

Source: Disenfranchised Grief: New Directions, Challenges, and Strategies for Practice. Kenneth J. Doka, Editor

Marjie SokollMarjorie U. Sokoll, MEd, Director of Jewish Life and Healing, is the founder and director of JF&CS Jewish Healing Connections, which helps ensure that people feel a sense of connection when facing the challenges of illness, loss, or isolation by offering spiritual and communal supports to provide hope, comfort, and wholeness guided by Jewish tradition. “It is not good for people to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18). Marjie also provides spiritual support for the JF&CS Parkinson’s Family Support Program, is a founding partner at the Kalsman Institute for Judaism and Health, and holds a certificate of thanatology from the National Center for Death Education.

Specify Alternate Text
February 3, 2014

Posted by 11th grade TeenSafe Advisors Sasha, Annie, Ella, and Rebecca

TeenSafeFebruary is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. We encourage you to talk to your teens about healthy relationships and to think about what to do if they or their friends feel unsafe or not able to make their own choices because of someone they are dating.

What would you do if you found yourself in one of these situations?

  • Your teen is crying and says it's about her boyfriend but she won't tell you any details. During your conversation you notice bruises on her arms. 
  • You overhear your teen’s friend say they never spend time together because your teen is always with his girlfriend. Your teen seems offended by the comment and defensive in his response.
  • You notice your teen is changing her style drastically over the period of the time she has been dating her girlfriend. When you ask about it, your teen tells you it is just part of growing up.

Unhealthy and/or abusive behavior in teen relationships is a complicated issue. Talking to teens about it is even trickier. As members of the TeenSafe Advisors group, we would like to offer the following suggestions for adults who want to talk to their teens about their concerns.

  • Make this a conversation, not a confrontation.
  • Let your teen know about the changes you observed and why you are concerned.
  • Listen to your teen to find out how she feels about what’s going on.
  • Encourage your teen to consider all options to ensure his health and safety (including ending the relationship).
  • Reassure your teen that you are on her side. Offer to help connect her with professionals in the community who can help.

Abuse is a pattern of behaviors that one partner uses to gain and maintain control over another. It is not just physical but also mental, emotional, verbal, sexual, cultural, or financial.  We encourage you to be aware of what is going on in your teen’s relationship and give your teen the opportunity to talk to you about it.

In recognition of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, follow JF&CS on Twitter to view our #TeenSafe Twitter campaign. For general information and support, contact JF&CS Journey to Safety at 781-647-JFCS (5327). Read additional tips on talking to teens about dating abuse and learn more about the issue.

Funded by a generous grant from the Boston Jewish Community Women’s Fund, TeenSafe uses a peer education model to inform and educate teens on the issues of teen dating, healthy relationships, and teen dating abuse.

Specify Alternate Text
January 31, 2014

Posted by Jon Federman

What challenges do our older immigrants and refugees face in trying to survive in a strange and foreign land? How do we protect them from discrimination and from feeling lonely or isolated?

On January 10, Irina Rutman, Program Coordinator for New American Services and Case Manager for Schechter Holocaust Services, represented JF&CS at a conference at Boston College, entitled, "Diversity & Aging: Perceptions, Perspectives, and Populations." Sponsored by the Boston College School of Social Work, the conference explored the intersections of diversity and social work practice as well as the challenges social workers face in meeting the needs of older immigrants and refugees.

Irina was part of a panel called, "The Invisible, Unheard, and Underserved Minority Elders." Along with two other speakers from the Asian and African elder communities, Irina gave a passionate and thought-provoking speech based on her experiences with Russian-speaking elderly immigrants from the former Soviet Union, many of whom were also victims of Nazi persecution.

The majority of Irina’s clients came to America when they were already elderly. They had never worked here, so their understanding of their children's lives is minimal and their grandchildren do not speak Russian. As a result, their most significant problem is isolation in an unfamiliar environment, followed by language barriers, diminished connection with their adult children, and even discrimination. All of these can quickly lead to depression and physical illness.

Irina went on to discuss her clients' distrust of any kind of social services, because acceptance of help such as counseling is not a part of Russian culture. Also, social services are perceived by her clients as a dangerous governmental intrusion. Problems arise due to misunderstanding, lack of communication, unclear guidelines, fear, and mistrust.

As an example, Irina spoke about the Social Security Administration and Department of Transitional Assistance workers who do not understand her clients' geographic origins. One worker requested certain documents from the Russian government. The client, who was born in Belorussia, had to explain that the Soviet Union no longer exists, that Belorussia is not part of Russia, and that the Russian government would not have any of those documents.

Ending on a more hopeful note, Irina emphasized the importance of advocating for these clients, adding that "advocating for the less fortunate is the most challenging and rewarding part of [her] job." Irina also noted that the collaboration of the many different departments at JF&CS has been the key to serving her clients successfully, from pro bono legal services to assistance for Holocaust survivors to New England's only kosher food pantry.

Finally, Irina explained that perhaps the most important solution was to involve schools in teaching students social values and respect for the elderly. "No matter what your age, you are always moving forward to becoming elderly,” she added.

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.

Specify Alternate Text
January 29, 2014

JF&CS News Winter 2014

The Boston GlobeThe Boston Globe recently launched GRANT, a new subscriber-driven community program.

Over the next two weeks, subscribers will receive a silver envelope in the mail with a GRANT voucher that they can designate to their favorite nonprofit. (Online subscribers will receive an email). Each voucher will entitle the nonprofit to GRANT dollars, which can purchase print advertisement space in the Boston Globe.

We hope you will designate your voucher to Jewish Family & Children's Service and help us to raise awareness of the critical services we provide to the community. Please also share this information with friends and family, so they'll know to do the same.

Thank you for your support!

For more information, call 781-647-JFCS (5327) or email your questions via our contact us page.

Specify Alternate Text
January 28, 2014

JF&CS News Winter 2014

Rimma ZelfandA friend of mine recently told me that he is researching his family history on several "ancestral" websites. So far, he has traced one branch of his family tree back 11 generations to Lithuania in the late 1600's. As he described his findings to me, I started to think about how many generations JF&CS has helped since it began 150 years ago this month.

As we get ready to celebrate the 150th anniversary of JF&CS this year, I wonder if we might have helped anyone in the family trees of some of our clients today. Could the adorable baby being welcomed through our Welcome Baby! program have had a great-great grandmother who was helped with a loan from our predecessor agency when she arrived in America from Eastern Europe in 1910? Did she have a great-grandfather who was placed into a loving family upon coming to America as an orphaned "displaced person" after World War II? Has her grandmother been helped by our Visiting Nurse Association or by one of our programs for people with Parkinson's disease? Do her parents receive food from JF&CS Family Table, New England's largest kosher food pantry?

Through the years, we have evolved to help people in many challenging situations, but our mission - our soul - stays the same throughout: We help vulnerable populations. In 1908, we assisted thousands of recent Jewish immigrants who were left homeless by the Great Chelsea Fire. Exactly 100 years later, during the economic crisis of 2008, we paid rent for at-risk families through Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing grants. Although the causes of these crises might have been different, the effects, the outcomes, and our mission stayed the same.

Over time, JF&CS has adapted to new situations and the needs of the community. One of our unique talents is the ability to determine who in the community needs us most, and then to come up with a plan of action, emphasizing self-sufficiency and empowering our clients. In the 1890's, our predecessor organization did more than hand out money and clothing to needy immigrants. Disadvantaged women in the Hebrew Ladies Sewing Society were taught how to sew and earned wages, making and repairing clothing for those even less fortunate than themselves. Today, we teach young adults with developmental disabilities job and life skills so that they can live and work independently.

Last year, JF&CS helped more than 17,000 people, with nearly 40 programs in more than 100 communities - and that was merely one year in our 150-year history! When we consider that multiple lives are touched by helping a single person, we estimate that JF&CS has improved the quality of life for more than five million people throughout our 150-year history! Please look out for our special 150th Anniversary website section coming in early 2014.  It will contain a fabulous timeline of our history, as well as numerous stories demonstrating how we have touched the lives of so many people, young and old.

We look forward to another 150 years of helping, strengthening, and empowering our communities when they are at their most vulnerable, and adapting to whatever situations might arise in the future.

For more information, call 781-647-JFCS (5327) or email your questions via our contact us page.

Specify Alternate Text
January 27, 2014

Posted by Elizabeth Schön Vainer

purple ribbonLanguage matters. How the media and all of us use language to describe incidents of violence relates to how we understand what actually happened.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence says it for us all: A violent double homicide should never be called a “domestic dispute.” Calling abusive, violent, threatening, or lethal behavior "disputes" or "fights" – as if both parties are equally involved – redirects attention away from the abuser’s actions and minimizes the life-threatening danger of domestic violence.”

The media continues to speculate that today’s (Saturday) shooting was the heartbreaking result of a “domestic dispute.” While the shooter’s motive remains unknown as of this writing, the media has the responsibility to use language and terminology that adequately reflects the reality of this case.

JF&CS joins the nation as we mourn these senseless deaths. We and many other domestic violence programs are available to help you or others who are victims of domestic abuse or violence. Call or email us and we can offer information, resources, and support.

And call a spade a spade – domestic abuse or violence is when one person repeatedly exerts control over another and when it results in murder, it's murder.

Domestic violence related homicides can be prevented.

Elizabeth Schön VainerElizabeth Schön Vainer is the program director of Journey to Safety, the JF&CS response to domestic abuse. Elizabeth is pleased to bring her many years of experience collaborating with multidisciplinary teams to investigate child and domestic abuse to Journey to Safety and JF&CS. She believes that only through collaborative efforts can we truly serve our clients. Elizabeth has a BSW from the University of Tel Aviv and a MS in Organization and Management from Antioch University.

Specify Alternate Text
January 24, 2014

JF&CS News Winter 2014

Share Your StoryHelp JF&CS commemorate 150 years of service to the community by sharing your story. Through our programs, volunteer opportunities, and fundraising events, we have touched hundreds of thousands of lives. If your life has been touched by JF&CS, we want to hear from you!
Your story may appear on our website, blog, in an anniversary book, or we may contact you to share your story on video.

Please help us tell the story of JF&CS by sharing your experience.

For more information, call 781-647-JFCS (5327) or email your questions via our contact us page.

Contact Us

781-647-JFCS (5327)
Email Us

Find Us

1430 Main Street
Waltham, MA 02451

Join Our Email List