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JF&CS Blog

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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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July 26, 2019
Posted by JF&CS

A CHAI Works-South participant delivering flowers.

“We take care of our neighbors,” said Heidi Isler, the Manager of JF&CS CHAI Works-South in Canton, MA. “It’s as simple as that.” When Heidi found out about the recent fire at a housing complex for senior citizens in nearby Stoughton, she knew that the participants in our community-based day program for adults with disabilities would want to help.

According to WBZ News, a lightning strike likely sparked the July 18 fire at the Stoughton Housing Authority on Capen Street. Firefighters safely evacuated 53 people from the senior housing complex, but the building suffered extensive damage. “Some of the older adults affected by the fire lost everything,” said Heidi. “We had to do something to show our neighbors that we were thinking of them.”

Bringing Something BeautifulBeautiful flowers donated by CHAI Works-South.

On Monday, July 22, Heidi and a group of CHAI Works-South participants visited the two hotels where the displaced seniors were staying. The CHAI Works crew arrived with a bounty of colorful flowers that were donated by the Shaw’s supermarket in Cobbs Corner. “We brought flowers because we wanted those affected by the fire to have something beautiful during this difficult time,” explained Heidi. In addition to the lovely flowers, the CHAI Works-South group also donated a variety of board games, so the fire victims would have something to do during their hotel stay.

The guests and staff at the two hotels were surprised and deeply touched by these donations. A staff member at one of the hotels told the CHAI Works participants that they were heroes for their work that day. The participants took great pride in knowing that their volunteering had brightened the days of the people displaced by the fire. 

Cards created by CHAI Works-South participants.Part of the Community

Heidi is already planning more ways for CHAI Works-South to assist the older adults who lost their homes. CHAI Works participants have created cards for the seniors, and Heidi is in contact with the Stoughton Council on Aging and the Old Colony YMCA as they coordinate their response to the fire. The YMCA is spearheading an effort to collect toiletries for the displaced people, and CHAI Works has volunteered to deliver these items.

“CHAI Works-South wants to help in any way we can,” said Heidi. “We have been talking a lot with our participants about being grateful for what we have and the importance of lending a hand to those in need. CHAI Works is part of this community, and we are here to lift our neighbors up.” 

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 24, 2019

Posted by JF&CS

Steve Weil and Family

“Steve is the epitome of the word mensch. He has demonstrated this by his many years of selfless devotion to JF&CS, his unwavering commitment to our mission, and the inordinate amount of time and talent he has contributed to the agency,” said Janet Segal, Director of Bet Tzedek Legal Services.

Steven Weil was awarded this year’s Betsy Gross President’s Award in his 22nd year of collaboration with JF&CS. He began his long history with the agency when he started volunteering in 1997. In 2007, Steve was awarded the Simone Lottor award in recognition of his exceptional volunteer service. Today, Steve is the Vice President of the JF&CS Board of Directors, as well as the chair of the CEO Search Committee.  

Meredith Joy, Director of Community Services, described Steve as the kind of person who would always ask, “What can I do to help,” and continue to follow through on his question by helping in any way he could. As an attorney, his advice and counsel are essential to the Bet Tzedek Legal Services program, and he never steps away from the opportunity to take on a project. Steve has not only given his wisdom to JF&CS but has also provided his time and pro-bono services to aid others through his legal representation.

Jamie Grossman and Steve WeilSteve also participates in an array of programs and events to benefit those around him. Steve can frequently be found bringing his family along to Family Table South distributions, where he and his sons pack and deliver groceries for those who lack transportation. Steve is also a yearly participant in the Ride For Food, where he cycles to raise money for the Family Table program.

Steve’s selfless devotion to helping others and expecting nothing in return has led to the honor of receiving the President’s award and contributed greatly to his success as a board member for JF&CS. 

If you're interested in getting involved with JF&CS, please visit our Volunteer page. 

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July 18, 2019
Posted by Carl Zack

Carl Zack, his wife, and their young daughter.

Decades before serving as the Interim CEO of Jewish Family & Children’s Service, Carl Zack witnessed firsthand the transformative power of our programs when his wife became a JF&CS client. Below, you can read Carl’s remarks at the 2019 Women’s Breakfast, our annual fundraiser for the Center for Early Relationship Support®.

I am honored to be here celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Center for Early Relationship Support®, as well as CERS Director Peggy H. Kaufman and her many accomplishments. It has not only been a privilege to work alongside Peggy at JF&CS, but my wife Andrea and I treasure the difference she made in our lives. Allow me to tell everyone about it.

Andrea and I were married for 18 months when her parents died within 6 months of each other. She was 33 years old and very close to her mother. She was sad and fearful. Andrea didn’t think she could live without her mother. That’s when JF&CS entered our lives.

Andrea was pregnant with our first daughter when she began attending a JF&CS grief support group. She was not a person who had babysat or dreamed about having a baby. She felt overwhelmed and scared that she wouldn’t know what to do. That is when the group’s facilitator recommended that she speak with Peggy and consider having a volunteer visit with her on a weekly basis.

Providing Support and Strength

After Andrea met Peggy for the first time, I asked her how it went. There was a smile when she reported that Peggy understood what she was going through. She recalled that “talking with Peggy reassured and comforted me. Just like my mother would have done for me. Peggy has given me the strength to believe that I can do this.”

Our daughter Emma was born on May 4, 1992. The volunteer who visited Andrea was a perfect match. Peggy intuitively knew who Andrea needed and made it happen, just as she has done for so many other parents over her distinguished career. The Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms® program made a challenging time manageable. Getting Andrea and our daughter off to a great start was so important to us as a family.

Carl Zack with his wife and daughters.Four years later, Emma was joined by her little sister, Hannah. Because of Peggy and CERS, Andrea knew what to do when she came along.

Standing here today, I know my family is not unique. I know the tremendous impact of our work, and I am proud to share that under Peggy’s continued leadership, CERS will impact the trajectory of families for generations to come.

To learn more about all of our home and community-based services for parents and infants, visit our Center for Early Relationship Support® page.

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July 16, 2019

Posted by JF&CS

Lora Tarlin with Jeff Cotton

This year’s Lottor award was presented to Jeff Cotton, who exemplifies the values and qualities that Simone Lottor’s family wanted to showcase when they created the award in 2001. The idea behind the award was to leave a lasting memory of Simone Lottor and her exceptional volunteer work with JF&CS. Jeff’s dedication to the community made him stand out as a worthy recipient who deserved to be recognized.

Over the past five years, Jeff has been a volunteer with JF&CS Schechter Holocaust Services. He dedicates his time to help with various aspects of the program, from tasks around the office to helping clients get to and from appointments.

Jeff takes pride in writing birthday cards to Holocaust survivors. When Jeff had surgery this past year, he was so concerned that the cards would not get written without his help, that he requested them to be dropped off at his house while he recovered. Even when he had to take a month off for surgery, his passion for bettering the community never took a break. Lottor Award 2019

Two years ago, Jeff participated in Ride for the Living in Poland, where people pledged money in support of Jeff riding over sixty miles from Aushwitz to the Jewish Community Center of Krakow. Jeff is also a yearly participant on the JF&CS Ride for Food team, a cycling fundraiser organized by Three Squares New England.

Jeff’s commitment to his community and his willingness to go above and beyond has earned him the honor of receiving the Lottor award in recognition of his exceptional service.

If you're interested in getting involved with JF&CS, please visit our Volunteer page. 

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July 12, 2019
Posted by Danielle Lubin, CHAI Services Jewish Life Coordinator

Chaverim Shel Shalom participants in front of Barry's Village Deli.

It was a beautiful Sunday in June, when 20 of our Chaverim Shel Shalom (CSS) participants met at Barry's Village Deli in Waban, MA. Chaverim Shel Shalom is a Jewish social group for adults with mental health challenges. Our big group was accommodated in the small deli by sitting upstairs, overlooking the rest of the restaurant. We took up the entire upstairs room/section and sat at two large tables reserved for our group.

An Authentic Jewish Deli Experience

Participants paid $5.00 and then were able to order whatever they liked for lunch. Our table was full of traditional Jewish deli fare: Ruebens, corned beef, pastrami, knishes, latkes, pickles, kugel...even pickled tongue! We also enjoyed sipping Dr. Brown's Cherry Soda and Cel-Ray and digging into some tasty rugelach for dessert. The food and the atmosphere sparked a lot of reminiscing about favorite delis of the past, ranging from those in Mattapan and Dorchester to the famous delis of New York.

We couldn't have asked for better service. Our waiters were attentive, patient, and welcoming to our big group. They ran up and down the stairs, bringing us our orders, condiments, and drink refills. We were exhausted just watching them!

Adding New Friends to Our Community

Participants in Chaverim Shel Shalom at Barry's Village DeliWhen we first arrived, one of our participants was unable to climb the stairs to our seating area. In a true gesture of friendship and community, another participant (who didn't know the first participant) offered to sit with them and keep them company. Later on, another participant arrived and joined this pair. The three participants didn't know each other at first but left as new friends!

Speaking of new friends, there were several new participants at this event. It was really special to see how those newer participants were made to feel welcomed to the Chaverim Shel Shalom community. “Veteran” CSS members spoke about past and upcoming CSS events and made sure I included the new participants in our next newsletter.

Our lunch at Barry's Village Deli was full of delicious food, friendship, and community — a true reflection of the spirit of Chaverim Shel Shalom!

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

Participants in Chaverim Shel Shalom at Barry's Village Deli.

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July 9, 2019
Posted by Peggy H. Kaufman, CERS Director
The Infant-Parent Training Institute (IPTI) is excited to announce our new partnership between the JF&CS Center for Early Relationship Support® and the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute (BPSI).  BPSI provides high-level post-graduate training and education in psychoanalytic therapy and psychoanalysis and sponsors multidisciplinary programs to foster the development of highly specialized, trained, and compassionate practitioners and teachers of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy in the community, as well as programs of interest and service to the broader community. Through our new community partner relationship, CERS and BPSI intend to build connections between psychoanalysis and other disciplines that support the needs of new parents and their infants and young children. 

It is our hope that this partnership will offer enriching opportunities for both organizations, their members and trainees, including:
  • A “two-way street” in terms of educational/training programs. BPSI trainees and graduate members may want to pursue training in parent-infant work at CERS, and CERS/IPTI trainees may want to pursue psychotherapy training or psychoanalytic training.
  • A section of Infant Observation offered at BPSI starting in the Fall of 2019. The teaching of Infant Observation (IO) is an integral part of the IPTI Infant Mental Health Fellowship. Infant Observation is taught in relatively few institutes in the United States, and IPTI is the only site in New England offering the course.
  • Increased visibility of CERS and BPSI programming via the websites of each organization.
  • Volunteering opportunities for BPSI members across a variety of CERS programs.
  • Increased opportunities for BPSI members who are interested in research to partner or receive mentoring to look at outcomes of different CERS interventions.

The ties between CERS and BPSI go back to three of BPSI’s founding faculty members, Sarah Birss, Ann Epstein, and the late Judith Arons. Sarah Birss continues to teach IPTI’s Infant Observation course, and Ann Epstein is faculty in the IPTI Fellowship.

We look forward to sharing more opportunities resulting from this partnership in the coming months and years.

To learn more about all of our home and community-based services for parents and infants, visit our Center for Early Relationship Support® page.

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