Posted by JF&CS

We all know that 2020 has been a uniquely challenging year. Yet during these tough times, we continue to find inspiration, celebration, and joy in so much of our client work. As we observe the eight nights of Chanukkah, we want to share eight “bright lights” from the past year. Just as the miracle of the oil kept the Temple’s menorah aglow, uplifting moments like these have been our fuel as we work to bring light to those in need. We are grateful for your continued partnership in this vital work, and we wish you a bright and healthy 2021.

1. Family Table Takes It Outside

An outdoor Family Table distribution.

When COVID made it impossible for volunteers to prep grocery orders indoors, our intrepid food pantry team quickly improvised a new, socially distanced system of packing grocery orders in the JF&CS parking lot. Since that first outdoor food distribution in March, we have efficiently and safely provided over 27,000 bags of groceries to our clients.

2. Seder Goes Virtual for Adults with Mental Health Challenges

The virtual Chaverim Shel Shalom Passover Seder.

Many adults with mental health challenges struggle with isolation, and this has been especially true during the pandemic. To bring our community together, our Chaverim Shel Shalom social group took their annual Passover Seder to Zoom. Guests at the “Zeder” (Zoom Seder) connected with friends, read from the Haggadah, and drew parallels between the Passover story and their own present-day struggles.

3. An Unexpected Haven for Kids With Special Needs

A music therapy session in the JF&CS parking lot.

The JF&CS parking lot has become quite the happening spot this year! We’ve hosted music therapy sessions for children with autism, water balloon baseball for kids who have siblings with special needs, and an amazing fall carnival for all of the children in our Respite and Recreation programs. During these stressful times, we are thrilled to provide a safe and welcoming place for families to relax and have fun.

4. New Parents Build a Supportive Community...Without Ever Leaving Home

A mom and her two young children using a tablet on the couch.

Having a new baby or toddler can be an isolating experience under the best conditions. Months of social distancing can make parents feel even more alone. Our Zoom parenting groups were a life-saver for many parents — reducing isolation and building parenting skills. Our experienced group leaders have supported and connected more than 330 parents since March; helping to build relationships that last long after sleepless nights and potty-training are distant memories.

5. Holocaust Survivors Stay Connected in the New Year

Masks decorated with apples for Rosh Hashanah.

For the Jewish New Year, we sent our Schechter Holocaust Services clients beautiful masks decorated with images of apples and honey. Over 20 generous volunteers sent us 450 hand-made masks from all over, including Brookline, Florida, California, Ohio, and even India! This is just one of the many ways our case managers have been in close contact with survivors during this challenging time — along with regular phone calls and a monthly group gathering on Zoom, complete with Yiddish and Russian music. 

6. Saluting Our Very Own Frontline Heroes

A masked Residential staff member at JF&CS holding a Heroes Work Here sign.

Throughout the pandemic, our Residential staff has gone above and beyond to ensure that our residents with disabilities remain healthy, safe, stable, and happy. While many of our agency staff have been able to work from home, our Residential staff has been on location 24/7, steadfastly supporting our clients through this challenging time. Their commitment to our residents has been nothing short of heroic, and we are so grateful for their courage and commitment! 

7. Geriatric Care Managers Make Sense of Chaos for Older Adults

An older man smiling with his adult daughter.

Since March, families caring for older adults have been attempting to navigate an unfamiliar and constantly shifting landscape. They have been caught in impossible situations — afraid to leave their loved ones alone in nursing homes and assisted living facilities; unable to care for them at home; unwilling to bring strangers into their family pods. Drawing upon decades of experience and a wealth of local connections, Your Elder Experts has helped older adults locate care and housing, even as regulations and availability changed on an often daily basis. 

8. Giving Tuesday Exceeds All Expectations

Thank You for Giving Veggies for Giving Tuesday.

We asked friends and supporters to help us raise funds to stock our food pantry with frozen vegetables for the coming year. Our community showed up for us — big time! Thanks to their outstanding generosity, we more than doubled our initial goal, raising over $30,000 and ensuring plenty of healthy veggies for the over 500 households we serve each month.

Do you have a JF&CS Bright Light you would like to share with us? An experience or an individual that brought comfort or joy? We would love to hear about it. Send your story to and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter or on our social media feed!