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JF&CS Blog

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October 4, 2019

Posted by JF&CS

JF&CS is excited to recognize David Rosenberg as one of our 2019 CHAI Champions. As a successful business leader, David believes in letting his team members define the culture of their workplace. He has a long history of encouraging a workplace environment where individuals of varied abilities can contribute and play a role in the success of the company.                

David was inspired when he was introduced to Transitions to Work, a CJP program that helps adults with disabilities develop job skills. Transitions to Work was his first introduction to this community and he wanted to spread that same inspiration throughout his workplace. He saw first-hand how infectious the motivational attitude of adults with disabilities was, and he decided to make a change and actively include these individuals in his company.             

By creating a friendly and inclusive work environment, David has opened the door to people of all abilities to create new experiences and develop skills that will improve their lives. “I was brought up to give back to the community that gave so much to me,” David said.

To learn more about the CHAI Champions event, visit our event page.

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October 2, 2019
Posted by Journey to Safety

A woman holding a purple ribbon for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

This year, October begins right between the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. These are days when many people in the Jewish community are thinking about what in their lives they might want to change in the coming year.

Usually, at the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the JF&CS Journey to Safety team speaks to the whole community about offering help to abuse survivors and breaking the silence around abuse in the Jewish community. This year, as the Jewish New Year and Domestic Violence Awareness Month arrive almost in the same moment, we are writing instead directly to people who have controlling or abusive partners or ex-partners. If this article doesn’t speak to you, we hope that you will share it widely to help us reach anyone who might need some help or support.

To those of you who are experiencing or have experienced life with a controlling partner or spouse, we are writing to tell you that you are not alone, what has happened to you is not your fault (no one “asks for” or “deserves” abuse), and that help is available.

Please know that we understand that abuse is not only physical and that some very abusive people never use physical violence at all. Abuse is often day in and day out. People we work with tell us stories of being blamed for everything that goes wrong, shamed for who they are and the choices they make, and coerced or forced into things they didn’t want to do. They talk about feeling disrespected and “less than” when with their partner. Some can’t access money or must produce receipts for all expenses. Some must explain or recount the details of every phone call, text, email, and social media post they make or receive. And the stories go on and on.

So, we are writing directly to you today.

We want you to know that…

  • You are not invisible.
  • Things can be different.
  • It's not too late.
  • You have options.
  • Journey to Safety and other programs are here for you.

 If you contact Journey to Safety (or many other domestic abuse programs)…

  • We will listen.
  • We won't judge you or question your decisions.
  • We won't pressure you to leave or ask you why you have stayed this long.
  • We will understand that what has happened to you is not your fault.
  • We will understand that you have made many difficult decisions while trying to be safe and (when applicable) to keep your kids safe. We also know that many of you have either made these decisions secretly or without support from other people in your lives.
  • We will understand that you cannot prevent your partner from acting abusively toward you, no matter how many changes you have made in your life hoping the abuse will end.
  • If you want to talk about it, we will share your sadness and anger that someone who promised to love and care for you could treat you this way.
  • We will see you as someone who might want healing, but not as someone who needs fixing.
  • We will ask you what you want, and we will be there for you even if you can’t answer that question right away.
  • We will support you and see your tremendous strength in holding so much together under such difficult circumstances.
  • We won't pressure you to tell us more than you want to share.
  • We will see you as a whole and complex person, not only as someone who has experienced abuse.
  • And again, we will listen.


  • We are free.
  • We are confidential.
  • We welcome all survivors and have culturally/religiously-sensitive services for Jewish survivors and services in Russian for survivors from Russian-speaking parts of the world.
  • We are here.
If you are thinking about giving us a call – either seeking support for yourself or to talk about supporting someone else – we hope you will. If this blog isn’t relevant right now, we hope that you will both share it widely and hold on to it in case you have the opportunity to pass it along to someone who needs help in the future.   

From all of us at Journey to Safety, we wish you a sweet, happy, healthy, and peaceful new year.  

To reach us, please call 781-647-5327 and ask for Journey to Safety. We are here weekdays from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and will return your call within one business day.  To find your local domestic abuse program, you can call SafeLink (877-785-2020) in Massachusetts or the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233). In Massachusetts, you can also go to Jane Doe Inc.’s interactive tool to find the service provider(s) in your community.

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September 26, 2019
Posted by JF&CS

JF&CS is excited to announce that our friend Ruth recently celebrated a major milestone. On September 19, Ruth, who we know through our Schechter Holocaust Services (SHS) program, turned 100 years old!

To mark the occasion, JF&CS reached out to the Governor’s Office, which provided an official certificate from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts signed by Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. JF&CS also created a beautiful framed piece with a special birthday wish for Ruth.  

Both of these gifts were presented to Ruth on her birthday by our own Inna Lyubimova, a Case Manager for SHS. After Inna left, Ruth’s family came over to celebrate the big day with a party.

Long Lives for Survivors

Believe it or not, SHS has had many opportunities to recognize survivors on their 100th birthday. Ruth is the third survivor to turn 100 this year, and another survivor will turn 100 in October. SHS keeps track of the birthdays of all the survivors they encounter and sends them handmade cards each year.

Interestingly, studies have found that Holocaust survivors live longer than their peers. In fact, a study from the American Medical Association publication JAMA found that, on average, survivors live 7.1 years longer than their counterparts who were not in the Holocaust.

Although survivors live longer, they suffer from more cancer, hypertension, and dementia than those who did not experience the trauma of the Holocaust. Nevertheless, in spite of these health problems, survivors have been found to have stronger immune systems and to be more optimistic than the general population. “The thing about survivors is that they don’t give up,” said Lora Tarlin, the Director of SHS. “They have this incredible will to keep moving forward.”

Older Survivors Need More Support

As survivors live into their 80s, 90s, and beyond, they typically require more support in their everyday lives, which can take the form of financial help, food assistance, or home care. Schechter Holocaust Services works to fill these needs for survivors while upholding their dignity and maintaining their social-emotional well-being.  

If you would like to help survivors living in your community, SHS offers several ways to get involved. We are always looking for volunteers to drive survivors to medical appointments, assist with grocery shopping, and provide companionship. Volunteers are also welcome to work in our Waltham office or lend a helping hand with our monthly social gatherings for Holocaust survivors, known as Café Hakalah.

To start volunteering with JF&CS, please fill out our Volunteer Registration Form and be sure to check the box for “Holocaust survivors and their families” under Assignment Interests. Donating to JF&CS is also a wonderful way to help survivors. Thank you so much for your support!

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September 24, 2019

Posted by JF&CS

JF&CS is excited to recognize Julie O’Brien as one of our 2019 CHAI Champions. At this year’s CHAI Champions event, JF&CS will recognize five individuals who share our mission to care deeply about promoting community, housing, access, and independence (CHAI) for people of all abilities. Julie is a Family Support Clinician at Massachusetts General Hospital Lurie Center. There, she helps children and their families prepare for their transition into adult services.

Julie’s inspiration for her career choice came when she met a young boy named Mike. Mike’s persistent and quirky personality convinced Julie that this was the career for her, and she has since worked to support kids just like Mike and their families.

Julie’s family has also been a source of motivation for her work. Two of Julie’s own children are on the autism spectrum, which makes her work feel that much more meaningful. Julie understands the challenges and triumphs that come with raising children who are on the spectrum, and her career as a Family Support Clinician lets her share her experience and knowledge with other families.

She strives to gives individuals and their families access to the resources and knowledge they need to feel the support they deserve. “I love my job and I love what I do every day. I’m part of a team so when I’m recognized individually, I’m humbled. And coming from JF&CS, knowing their history, just makes me so proud. Proud. Thankful. Honored,” Julie said.

To learn more about the CHAI Champions event, visit our event page.

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September 18, 2019
Posted by Elizabeth Schön Vainer, Director of Journey to Safety

Burgers cooking on a grill.

One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence.

It's time to change this startling statistic.

Journey to Safety's TeenSafe program helps teens (as well as parents and adults who work or volunteer with teens) recognize controlling or abusive behaviors in intimate relationships. We are asking for your help in finding our next group of TeenSafe peer leaders.

What Do TeenSafe Peer Leaders Do?

TeenSafe peer leaders are in grades 10 - 12. Peer leaders begin in the fall by learning about healthy and unhealthy behaviors in an intimate relationship and exploring some of the ways an abusive partner might make controlling or coercive behavior sound vulnerable, kind, or loving.

As the peer leaders build their knowledge and skills around recognizing and responding to dating abuse, they also consider ways to raise awareness among their peers. Whether it's designing and implementing workshops or creating flyers and social media posts, they passionately and enthusiastically share the important information they have learned. TeenSafe satisfies many high schools' required community service hours.

As a domestic abuse program serving the Jewish community, we feel urgent in our goal to raise the visibility of this issue in our synagogues, havurot/minyanim, schools, youth groups, social groups, and other Jewish spaces. TeenSafe empowers and educates youth to lead our community in these efforts.

How to Get Involved with TeenSafe

Please help us spread the word by sending this flyer to any teens, parents, advisors, guidance counselors, or educators you think might be interested.
If you are interested in joining TeenSafe, please fill out this application. For more information, contact us at or 781-647-5327.

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September 17, 2019
Posted by JF&CS

Laurie and Paul Gershkowitz

We sat down with Laurie and Paul Gershkowitz, our chairs for the CHAI Champions event, to learn more about them and their connection to JF&CS.

Tell us about your involvement with JF&CS. 

Our involvement with JF&CS began when our three oldest children were in elementary school! Our family spent time sorting, organizing, and delivering food to families in need. This was our kids’ first introduction to philanthropy and giving back to help others in need.

Our connections to JF&CS continued to grow through the years. Both of us have served on several committees within the organization. Laurie has donated her time on the Women’s Breakfast event committee for many years, and put together backpacks for children in need with CJP Women’s Philanthropy to help them start school feeling good about themselves. She also put together baskets in the winter with items of warmth and comfort for older adults and Holocaust survivors living alone.

Paul has served on the committee to help place JF&CS clients with disabilities into local companies, giving these individuals the ability to build their self-esteem by contributing to society. In addition, being the son of a Holocaust survivor, he has supported programming within the agency, as well as helping survivors and their families. He is especially honored to have been installed as a new Board member this past June.

We have given our time and resources to the agency, but when our fourth child Jake was born with severe special needs, we realized that instead of giving to the agency, the agency was there to support us. Jake was able to take part in recreational programming where he was able to swim, listen to music, and meet new friends. This program provided respite for our family. In addition, the agency has important resources and advocates that work with families to navigate the complexities of how to best help our child. This includes not only social opportunities, but making us aware of the legal and educational pieces involved for Jake as well.

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s CHAI Champions event?

We are most excited about chairing the CHAI event this November. It is our mission to introduce our family, friends, and community to the important work that this organization does. It is also important that we honor individuals and companies outside JF&CS that are making differences with the inclusion of individuals with special needs or mental illness in our community as well. Our committee for the CHAI event has also been invited to take part in volunteer activities within the organization, and several of us volunteered at a Passover Seder for adults with mental illness. In addition, we will be making centerpieces for the event with JF&CS clients with special needs. 

To learn more about the CHAI Champions event, visit our event page.

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September 13, 2019
Posted by Angie Waring, CHAI Services Respite and Recreation Program Manager

Burgers cooking on a grill.

With fall fast approaching, our Chaverim Shel Shalom (CSS) group soaked up the last lazy days of summer with a fun BBQ! CSS participants gathered at Center Communities of Brookline to enjoy a gorgeous August evening with residents of Hebrew SeniorLife (HSL). The aroma of (kosher) burgers and hotdogs on the grill, the sound of laughter from the dining area, and the feeling of newfound friendships in the air made this event the perfect summer sendoff.

A Perfect Partnership

Chaverim Shel Shalom is our Jewish social group for adults living with mental health challenges. We were thrilled to partner with Hebrew SeniorLife, which provides housing and health care for older adults, for this awesome event. CSS was introduced to HSL by our very own Chaplin in Residence, Hali Diecidue, who recognized a unique opportunity to foster a connection between two local Jewish organizations.  

Hebrew SeniorLife graciously hosted the BBQ at their Center Communities of Brookline location, and Chaverim Shel Shalom provided the food. About 150 guests, both CSS participants and residents of the senior living community, joined together in the newly renovated dining area to share a meal, make new friends, and swap stories and experiences. The residents and staff at Center Communities of Brookline were incredibly kind and welcoming to our group.

Feeling Connected

The BBQ was especially enjoyable for many of our CSS participants because it offered the chance to socialize with peers and make new friends in the Jewish community. Individuals living with mental health challenges often lack invitations to social events and access to religious programming that is welcoming and responsive to their needs. Without access to social, recreational, and educational events with Jewish content, people feel excluded from their community and their own religious heritage.  

Chaverim Shel Shalom is dedicated to decreasing this social isolation for people with mental health challenges and creating meaningful connections to Jewish traditions and the Jewish community. We are so grateful to Hebrew SeniorLife for partnering with us to pull off such a special and inclusive event, and we hope that this is the beginning of many future collaborations between our communities!  

If you’re interested in attending upcoming events organized by Chaverim Shel Shalom, please email Danielle Lubin, Jewish Life Coordinator, at or give her a call at 781-693-5004.

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September 10, 2019

Posted by JF&CS

Beth Soltzberg

Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JF&CS) congratulates Beth Soltzberg on her invitation to speak at TEDx Waltham. Beth will have the opportunity to share her knowledge on the importance of social connection, comfort, and feeling of belonging for those living with dementia. Her talk will take place on Saturday, October 5, at the Boston Biohub.

Beth’s work with older adults is a perfect representation of this years TEDx Waltham theme: going places. Providing opportunities for individuals with dementia and their care partners to make social connections helps counter the isolation that many struggle with.

During Beth’s time as the Director of the JF&CS Alzheimer’s/Related Disorder Family Support Program, she has focused on addressing the needs of people living with cognitive changes by going beyond the health care sector. After learning about the memory café movement that began in Holland, Beth started the JF&CS Memory Café, and then founded the Percolator Memory Café Network. The Percolator serves as a resource for those interested in starting and sustaining memory cafés across the country, allowing members of the group to share their knowledge with others interested in supporting those with dementia.

Memory cafés give those with cognitive changes a resource to move beyond the stigmas and challenges they face. Dementia can often lead to loneliness due to social isolation, but memory cafés present the opportunity to form connections in a welcoming and supportive environment. When Beth launched the JF&CS Memory Café, there was only one other café in Massachusetts. Now, Massachusetts is leading the movement with 111 memory cafés in four languages thanks to Beth and the Percolator Memory Café Network.

For more information about the JF&CS Memory Café, visit our Alzheimer's/Related Disorders Family Support page.


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September 9, 2019

Posted by JF&CS

JF&CS is excited to recognize Jeffrey Karp as one of our 2019 CHAI Champions. At this year’s CHAI Champions event, JF&CS will recognize five individuals who share our mission to care deeply about promoting community, housing, access, and independence (CHAI) for people of all abilities. As President and Founder of LAZ Parking, Jeff believes it’s important to invest in his team and their priorities by bringing humanity to his business.

Jeff strives to build a culture that celebrates the human spirit and gives every team member the opportunity to reach their personal goals and potential. By creating an inclusive environment for adults with disabilities, Jeff gives people of all abilities the opportunity to participate in a supportive workplace. He strives to make every employee feel like they can bring their passions to leadership.

His company, LAZ Parking, has become a consistent and generous supporter of the Special Olympics through their donations and support. Jeff is grateful for the opportunities he’s had and strives to create those same opportunities for others. His focus on helping people has created an inclusive environment for all employees.

“I am grateful beyond means that we are all living our mission of creating opportunities for our employees and value for our clients,” Jeff said.

LAZ Parking is a strong supporter of the disability community and a place where passionate and devoted staff share the same commitment to individuals of all abilities.

To learn more about the CHAI Champions event, visit our event page.


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August 23, 2019
 Posted by JF&CS

Participants singing together at a Tremble Clefs Summer Sing.

Although the JF&CS Tremble Clefs are officially on summer break, that didn’t stop some of the group’s members from making music together! On June 24 and August 5, members of our choral group for people with Parkinson’s disease met for two informal sessions, dubbed “Summer Sings.” Held in members’ homes, these meetings were a great opportunity for friends to catch up during the Tremble Clefs’ summer hiatus.

Putting the Band Back Together

“We missed getting together each week,” said Marilyn Neault, who has been singing with the Tremble Clefs for two years. Neault hosted the first Summer Sing at her home after Jane Knuttunen, another group member, proposed the innovative idea.

“I had been thinking about doing something like this for years,” said Knuttunen. “When the Tremble Clefs are on summer break for three months, we miss singing together and keeping our voices strong. So, this summer, I started talking with other people in the group to see if they would be interested in getting together.”

Around 16 people came to the Summer Sing in June, which included group members, their spouses, and volunteers. “There are five volunteers from the Cambridge Community Chorus who sing with us and keep us on pitch,” explained Neault.  “All five of them came to the first Summer was incredibly kind of them.”

During their typical rehearsals, the Tremble Clefs are conducted by their musical director, Marilyn Okonow, and accompanied by live piano music, provided by Joe Reid. Since Okonow and Reid couldn’t make it to the Summer Sing, attendees made use of prerecorded music and read song lyrics from Neault’s TV screen.

“It was more of a sing-along,” recalls Neault. “It wasn’t as disciplined as our normal sessions.” The looser agenda of the Summer Sings prompted some toe tapping, hand clapping, spontaneous harmonization, and generally "hamming it up," as Neault puts it.  

In addition to oldies and show tunes, the group sang Greg Rice's original song "It's Up to Us," which was performed by the Boston Civic Symphony after the Marathon bombing, to honor the victims of recent mass shootings. The group also tried out a new song Neault is working on called "Pirouette," and helped her by offering some suggestions after giving it a spin. After one of the sessions, Karen Sauer, a professional singer-songwriter, treated the group to a few of her songs.

Maintaining the Community Connection

The two Summer Sings filled a void for many Tremble Clefs members. While singing has been linked with therapeutic benefits for those living with Parkinson’s disease, the social aspect of the choral group is just as significant. “It is so important to be with other people with Parkinson’s and do something together,” said Marilyn Neault.

While the Tremble Clefs usually meet at a church in Newton, members enjoyed visiting each other’s homes for the Summer Sings. Speaking about the August gathering, which was held at Greg Rice’s home, Neault noted, “It was nice to visit the house of someone else with Parkinson’s to see all the creative ways he had adapted his home.”

Although the Summer Sings were hugely successful, group members are looking forward to the return of regular Tremble Clefs rehearsals on September 9, 2019. “The Summer Sings really made us appreciate our professional musical director and accompanist,” said Neault. “They are terrific!”

JF&CS provides arts-based therapeutic activities, education, resources, and a supportive community for people with Parkinson’s disease and their families. For more information about all of the services we offer, visit our Charlotte & Richard Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support page.

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