Caring for Generations

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JF&CS Blog


JF&CS Blog

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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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August 14, 2019

Posted by JF&CS

Decades ago, individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease were often told to take it easy. They heard, “Don’t push your body, just sit down and don’t try to get active anymore.” But if you ask Art Sullivan, instructor of the JF&CS Parkinson’s Dance group, he won’t hesitate to tell you that “sitting is the new smoking.”

Art was a professional dancer for years, teaching a variety of dance groups designed to enhance the physical benefits of dancing, ranging from therapeutic dancing for cancer patients to dancing for memory disorder. In 2010, he had the opportunity to lead the JF&CS Parkinson’s Dance group for the first time and he’s been choreographing PD-friendly, therapeutic dances ever since. Art uses his years of experience to create dances that stretch and test the muscles often focused on in physical therapy, but he puts these movements to a broad range of music that makes each class different and fun.

A few years ago, Art saw Michelle Obama appear on the Ellen show performing her dance to Uptown Funk. Art accepted her challenge to get up and get active and applied it to the Parkinson’s Dance group. He pared down the elements of her original choreography and taught his class how to dance to the energetic and fun song.

“I think the general population has a complete misconception of what Parkinson’s is. People think of Parkinson’s and they think of that uncontrollable tremor, and that’s all they think of, and there’s so much more to it,” Art said. Art aims to get people active. He believes the worst response you could have to a Parkinson’s diagnosis is to become inactive due to the disease. “We’ve taken videos of people coming into dance class and leaving and then we show it to them, and it’s amazing how they come in dragging their feet, shoulders hunched over, and when they leave their heads are up, their shoulders are back, and their feet are coming off the floor.”

In October, Art will be attending an international dance instructors’ convention to teach others PD-designed dances. By sharing his choreography with a larger community, Art is hoping to spread not only the positive health benefits of dance for Parkinson’s, but also the positive social benefits. “By coming to the dance classes, all of the participants have made new friends and they’re countering their social isolation. They’re getting out and circulating again, which is further improving their health,” Art said. People who attend these classes are making connections that carry over to other activities, whether it’s attending Shakespeare on the Common together or meeting up for coffee.

Art is always thinking up new ideas for the Parkinson’s Dance group. From the choreography, to the songs, to new ways of getting their family involved, Art is rarely taking a break from his PD-designed dances. And as he puts it, “I have the best job in the world, and I have a blast.”


For more information about our Charlotte & Richard Okonow Parkinson's Family Support program, visit us online.

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August 9, 2019
Posted by Beth Soltzberg

A volunteer and a guest at a memory cafe.

JF&CS is excited to announce that our Percolator Memory Café Network just released an updated version of our Memory Café Toolkit! Memory cafés are welcoming social gatherings for people who are living with dementia and for the people who care about them. Our Memory Café Toolkit provides step-by-step instructions to help organizations launch and sustain their very own memory café.

Promoting Inclusiveness

The original Memory Café Toolkit, which was released in 2016, has been downloaded by over 700 individuals across Massachusetts, the U.S., and in several other countries. The new Toolkit adds a section about inclusiveness. It provides examples of what various Massachusetts cafés are doing to serve café guests with specific needs, such as guests with younger onset dementia, as well as guests with hearing loss or intellectual/developmental disabilities. It also discusses ways to make cafés inclusive and welcoming for people of varied linguistic/cultural backgrounds and LGTBQIA+ guests.

The new Memory Café Toolkit can be downloaded free of charge in English and in Spanish.

History of Massachusetts Memory Cafés

The memory café movement began in Holland in 1997 and has since spread all around the world. However, when JF&CS started its monthly memory café in 2014, it was only the second one in Massachusetts. Our guests wanted more – more locations and more meeting dates. So, JF&CS launched the Percolator Memory Café Network to help other organizations start their own memory café. There are now over 110 cafés in Massachusetts, in four languages – and counting!

Building Community

Memory cafés are good medicine for social isolation, one of the problems that often comes along with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. The symptoms of dementia may make it hard for people to manage the activities they used to do, and stigma and lack of awareness may cause friends to turn away. Memory cafés bring people together. Here is what some of our guests have said about the JF&CS Memory Café:

  • “I’ve made so many friends here. This is what we need – a place where we’re treated like everybody else.”
  • “Starting the day at the memory café just puts my husband in good spirits that carry through the day.”
  • “It gives me an anchor to my week – a reason to get out of the house!”
  • “It gives me a feeling of home.”
JF&CS is so proud to provide this feeling of home here in Waltham, and to help organizations around the U.S. and the world to do this for people in their community!

To find a memory café near you, check out our Directory of Memory Cafés in Massachusetts.

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August 7, 2019
Posted by JF&CS

A volunteer serving food to children in a school cafeteria.

Last school year, participants in CHAI Works-Waltham, our community-based day program for adults with disabilities, started volunteering at MetroWest Jewish Day School (MWJDS) in Framingham. 

The exciting partnership between JF&CS and MWJDS began through word of mouth. The staff at Maimonides School, another CHAI Works volunteer site, spoke highly of the support provided by the CHAI Works participants and staff and shared their experience with their friends at MWJDS, who then invited us to help them with their volunteer needs as well.

At MWJDS, CHAI Works participants prepare lunch for early elementary age students and then serve the meal to them. Throughout this process, CHAI Works participants practice skills related to kitchen safety, food prep, hygiene, customer service, and professionalism.

The MWJDS students are always excited to see our participants and give them lots of high fives. The parent volunteers at the school have mentioned on several occasions that the support from CHAI Works volunteers has made the hot lunch process go much more smoothly and has even prompted them to consider serving hot lunch more often. We're so pleased to share our skills with these students, and we can’t wait to return to MWJDS this fall!

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.

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July 30, 2019

Posted by JF&CS

JF&CS is once again participating in this year’s Ride for Food, organized by Three Squares New England. The money raised by the Family Table team will go directly to helping provide fresh fruits, veggies, and other healthy foods to more than 500 families served each month by Family Table.  

This will be the sixth year JF&CS is entering the Ride for Food to raise money for those who struggle with food insecurity. Cyclists can choose between ten, twenty-five, and fifty-mile routes. For those who prefer spinning to cycling on the road, there’s an option to participate in a spin class and still raise money for Family Table. This year, we’re looking for a team of thirty-five riders and spinners to help us reach our goal of $40,000.

The cycling routes all start and end in Dedham but will wind through different neighboring towns depending on the route length you choose. The Ride for Food takes place on Sunday, October 6, while spinners can participate in the Spin for Food on Saturday, October 5 at Rev’d in Dedham. The fundraising minimum is $350, but all riders and spinners are encouraged to set a goal of raising at least $1,250 to support Family Table. Participants who achieve that level of fundraising will receive an official 2019 Ride for Food bike jersey. Encouraging friends and family to donate to your ride will bring us another step closer to our team goal.

We also welcome all donations to support one of our riders or spinners. Whether it’s cycling, spinning, donating, or volunteering at the event, there’s a way for everyone to help provide food to those in need.

To learn more about our Ride for Food team

To support the JF&CS Family Table team with a donation

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