December 8, 2023

Dear JFCS Family,

“Be a Light Unto the World.” As today is the first day of Chanukah, the beginning of our festival of light, I want to wish everyone a Happy Chanukah and Holiday Season.

Given the temperature of the world today, I am grateful that I spend each day at JFCS working to improve the world for generations to come. Often, I am in awe of our clients and volunteers as they act as a beacon of light and love. Their hope, resilience and bravery brightens my world on a regular basis.

This week, our local youth group, BBYO’s Marlcrest Chapter, chose to donate their time and energy to give hope to our Holocaust Survivors.

Spearheaded by Ryan Stoopler, the President of the Marlcrest BBYO Chapter (and the son of our CFO, Melanie Stoopler), and Evan Horowitz, the spiritual leader of our Marlcrest BBYO Chapter, Marlcrest created and implemented a beautiful service project writing Chanukah Cards to our Survivors this holiday season.

In a conversation with Ryan, he expressed that their chapter “felt it was important to connect with Holocaust Survivors this winter, especially given the war in Israel and the rise of anti-Semitism across the country.” He explained that “since the Survivors have been retraumatized, my chapter wanted to bring them joy and a greater connection to those younger generations in our community.”

Each year, JFCS provides case management, emergency support, counseling, and socialization to 130 Holocaust Survivors. Our Survivors are often our frailest and most vulnerable population suffering from the emotional and psychological trauma of the Holocaust. Many are isolated and don’t have much family support and our case managers may be their only connection to the community.

Led by Gail Belfer, Director of Holocaust Survivor Services and Advocacy, our team of social workers provide compassionate care to this community. Wendy Alter, Ronda Manders, Donna Lymper, Elizabeth Mekler, and Rivka Shakow ensure that this population has what they need to age in place and advocates for each client like they were their own family. A more dedicated team of social workers and staff you will not find. Of course, we can’t do this work without the support of the Claims Conference, the State of New Jersey, the Raymond and Gertrude R. Saltzman Foundation, KAVOD SHEF, and the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, as well as a host of donors and community leaders.

The fact that our BBYO Marlcrest Chapter decided to bring light and love to our Survivors this Chanukah Season is so heart-warming! According to Gail Belfer, “the beautiful Chanukah cards were so meaningful to our Survivors. Their thoughtful and kind messages truly brought them light and hope at this time of Chanukah.”

I hope their messages, pictured below, bring you the same light and hope that they brought our Survivors. To know that the future of our community is in the hands of such kind and compassionate young adults gives me so much hope for the future, something we all need right now.

Wishing you all love and peace this Shabbat, Chanukah, and Holiday Season!

All my best,

Raechel Hammer