December 1, 2023

Dear JFCS Family,

“Change is the only constant in life.”

Today is Moving Day!

Some days I have no words to express my gratitude but while my words may fall short, my feelings certainly do not. This morning, I paid a visit to TOPS (To Our Positive Success) Program, our day habilitation program that provides life skills support for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities through educational and recreational programming. Over the next year, the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey will be renovating the permanent home of our Disability Services Department – including TOPS – at 1721 Springdale Road. We are so excited for all that is to come. The plans are beautiful, and the newly renovated building will elevate our clients and our services.

Renovations are slated to begin soon and today is moving day! As I walked into the building, I was immediately greeted by Beth Rosenthal, one of our TOPS Facilitators, and Melissa, one of our clients. Bright and cheery, surrounded by boxes and moving tape, Melissa* gave me a huge hug. Nothing feeds my soul more than a hug from a client. Melissa’s joy and enthusiasm were palpable as she greeted her fellow TOPS participants at the door. The community that TOPS has created is truly a blessing!

While our movers were loading cabinets and supplies into the moving van, I stole away for a few minutes to speak with Jane Abesh, our TOPS Program Manager, and Jacqui Kinney, one of our TOPS Program Coordinators. I am sure you understand that transitions are not always easy, especially for our clients, and it falls on our staff to help guide and lead them. What a teachable moment – but not always an easy one.

Our staff continue to transform challenges into teaching opportunities as they help our clients become the best possible version of themselves. They continue to look forward and “vision” the future with us. Melissa was filled with love, support, and excitement for her our new temporary TOPS home at Virtua’s William G. Rohrer Center in Voorhees. And I was filled with gratitude for our staff, who have helped Melissa and so many others find the strength and the skills to cope with this big change and find excitement within uncertainty.

Every day, I am inspired by our clients and our community. Some days, it feels like our staff holds the world on their shoulders. They make miracles happen – caring for all those in need and so many. They are the hope and love that we need to see in the world – now more than ever!

Now for a few words of thanks! It takes an entire community to band together to undergo a major move like this one. I want to thank Oriel Weinberg, our Director of Disability Services, and his entire team for their hard work, tenacity, and compassion – especially Jane Abesh, Jacqui Kinney, Benjamin Green, Pam Litwack, Dee Gokey, Beth Rosenthal, Terry Howell, Dina Sassano, and Elise Vincoff – who helped make it all happen. Rob Kiewe, Jewish Federation’s Chief Operating Officer, has been there every step of the way to support our move. We wouldn’t have found our new home at the Rohrer Center without our board member, Stephanie Fendrick. Moreover, the legal team at Hyland Levin Shapiro LLC helped make it happen, and Sharon Barnes of Virtua Health has guided us along the way.

Finally, I want to thank Rabbi Amy Memis-Foler and the entire team at Adath Emanu-El team for hosting our Soups and Sweets culinary training program during this temporary transition, as well as Nancy Lewis and her team for managing the move! I am sure that there are so many more people to thank. If I have missed you, please accept my apologies and that know that we appreciate you and thank you.

Wishing you peace and love this Shabbat and always.

All my best,

Raechel Hammer


* Name changed to protect clients’ confidentiality