A new year can bring a fresh start…

December 27, 2023

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” Rabbi Hillel’s powerful questions are some of the most influential in our Jewish tradition. They represent a hierarchy of responsibility for ourselves, our community, and the world at large that guides me both personally and in my work at Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Given the temperature of the world today, I am grateful that I get to spend every day working to improve our world for generations to come.

Time after time, client after client, our JFCS staff and volunteers rise to every challenge, delivering critical services and programs that are needed by so many in our community. Through their work, through our clients’ grit and perseverance, and through the support of our donors and community partners, we collectively strive to ensure that no one in our community falls through the cracks. This sacred work is guided by our mutual values of chesed (kindness), tzedakah (righteousness), and tikkun olam (repairing the world), which bind us together with the understanding that we have a shared responsibility to one other.

As 2023 comes to a close, I am truly looking forward to the New Year. It’s a great time for each one of us to create a fresh start for ourselves, our children, and our families. It’s the perfect time to reflect upon what we are doing well, what we need help with, and to identify potential areas of growth in our own lives. Looking honestly at our weaknesses is an opportunity to improve ourselves and the world around us. This is an exercise that works equally well for individuals and organizations such as JFCS.

As we review our service figures, it is clear that we have seen a significant increase in counseling sessions through our Faye Manger counseling department. I am so happy that more community members are taking charge of their mental health–a key ingredient to a healthy, productive life. With the addition of new counselors and new funding sources to make mental health more affordable and accessible to all, we have immediate openings for mental health counseling across the lifespan. If you or someone you love is struggling, I urge you to reach out to us and schedule an intake appointment!

In our Senior Services Department, we are exploring new models to help seniors age in place safely and with dignity. Our goal is to build a stronger safety net for our community’s older adults before a crisis sets in. This past year, we launched a new program to help seniors understand their Medicare options before signing up, and in 2024 we will be launching new modes of partnership with area synagogues and community organizations ensuring that more seniors have access to case management, in-home supports, and other services to help them thrive.

In 2024, we are seeking solutions to offer more culturally competent care for Russian speaking Holocaust Survivors in our community, a vulnerable population that has historically been underserved. Along with new programming comes the need for new streams of revenue, and we are actively seeking corporate sponsors and individual donors to help support this important initiative.

In our Disability Services Department, we are actively growing our Self-Hired Respite program, which offers families of children with disabilities short-term relief from their day to day care duties. For families who care for their loved one with intellectual and developmental disabilities at home, the physical and emotional demand can be overwhelming. Self-Hired Respite provides a much-needed break and allows parents or guardians to recharge their batteries and maintain their own health and well-being. This amazing program gives families the option of hiring someone of their choosing–including a friend or family member–to care for their child. It’s a vital lifeline for folks who are worried they will “wear out their welcome” with unpaid caregivers. If you think you may benefit from this service, please reach out to us at respite@jfedsnj.org

We are in the process of forming a volunteer-based committee to help guide our Rhona Fischer Family Assistance Program as we strive to address poverty and alleviate food insecurity, which are on the rise in South Jersey. We are also seeking new community partners and volunteers to help ensure that the shelves of our Betsy & Peter Fischer Food Pantry are always fully stocked–something that has become more and more challenging given our community’s increased need for food support.

If you want to make a difference immediately and receive tax benefits for 2023, I encourage you to contribute to our Betsy & Peter Fischer Food Pantry Supermarket Gift Card Fund. Gift cards enable our clients to buy perishable groceries, personal care items, and cleaning supplies to supplement the monthly food distributions they receive from JFCS. Our goal is to raise $36,000 to support families this year, and we are almost halfway there! Your support will enable us to take advantage of a dollar-for-dollar challenge match by Betsy and Peter Fischer, who have a longstanding commitment to fighting hunger in our community .

To make a donation, visit jfcssnj.org/donate-now and select the first option in the dropdown list. You may also mail a check, payable to JFCS, to 1301 Springdale Road, Suite 150, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003.

For those who want to donate their time and expertise, we have a place for you! Community members may volunteer to work directly with our clients, to share their professional expertise by serving on a committee, or by joining our Stepping Out committee and helping to plan one of the signature events of the social season. We are always looking to grow our ranks and engage more community members!

Our world is filled with uncertainty, but I do know one thing for sure. It would be impossible for JFCS to alleviate hunger, foster mental health, help seniors thrive, and help people with disabilities reach their full potential on our own. We must–and we do–perform this sacred work together! Whether you need help or want to get involved, JFCS wants to hear from you!

Please reach out to us at (856) 424-1333 or jfcssnj.org. Wishing you all a New Year filled with happiness, health, and renewal!