Embracing change at Rosh Hashanah and all year long

September 6 2023

The 20th-century American psychologist Abraham Maslow famously said, “In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or step back into safety.” Over the years, this powerful statement has guided me as I’ve faced challenges in both my personal and professional life. We are all confronted with change throughout our lives – some wonderful and exciting, some scary and devastating. It’s how we react to change that really counts.

Life’s inevitable setbacks can take us by surprise, but resilience can help us cope and recover more quickly. Simply put, resilience is the ability to adapt to difficult situations. It enables us to harness our inner strength and experience anger, pain, or grief while still functioning both physically and mentally. On the other hand, those who lack resilience may become overwhelmed by life’s challenges, potentially turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms. 

For almost 80 years, Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS) has existed to help community members build healthier, more self-sufficient lives. Through each of our core services – Counseling, Disability Services, Senior Services, Holocaust Survivors, and Family Assistance – JFCS helps people adapt to life’s many changes. Whether it’s mourning the loss of a spouse, caring for a parent with dementia, leaving an abusive relationship, or helping a young adult with a disability achieve independence, we are here to help our clients build the inner strength and resilience they need to thrive.

The transformative journey of Karen*, a former JFCS counseling client, illustrates the best of what we have to offer… 

“After years of letting anxiety and depression run my life, I had reached my breaking point. I had gone to counseling before, but never really connected with a therapist until I met Susan* at JFCS. At my first session, I was raw, vulnerable, sad, hurt, and scared…Yet, the second Susan spoke, something clicked. She not only listened to me: she saw me. I left that day feeling a little lighter because I was no longer carrying my baggage alone. Susan wanted me to fly on my own, so she helped me build my wings, one coping skill at a time. I learned the power of positive self-talk and slowly began to change my inner narrative. I learned how to listen to myself. After going to therapy every week for a year-and-a-half, I was able to reduce my sessions to every other week, then once a month. It was scary, but Susan reassured me that I would be okay because I now had the skills we had learned together. Today, rather than living in fear, I live in a place of empowerment. I know that I am enough.” 

This is just one example of the essential work JFCS does to empower our community. Over the last ten months, I have had the privilege of seeing many breakthrough moments among our clients, staff, and volunteers. I have had the opportunity to push myself beyond my comfort zone, and I have supported my incredible JFCS staff as they tackled new challenges of their own. Sometimes, it’s been exhilarating; other times, it’s been extremely difficult; many times, I’ve been moved to tears. And I wouldn’t change one moment of it. 

In a few short days, many of us will be gathering at our synagogues and around the dining table to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. As the beginning of the Jewish new year, the holiday calls upon us not just to accept responsibility for our deeds, or even to change our actions, but to refocus our direction in life. It is a time of deep personal and spiritual introspection, grounded in the belief that each one of us has the capacity for true change and growth. This personal transformation is not beyond us: it is within each one of us.

Our Jewish tradition provides an annual reminder of the power to change. It begins with acknowledging our challenges and making the decision to improve ourselves and the world around us. True change is available to each one of us, and while it’s up to us to take the first step, we don’t need to embark on our journey alone. Whether you reach out to JFCS, your synagogue, your community, or your family, I implore you to trust others and allow them to be part of your dream, whatever it may be.

The most beautiful aspect of our work at JFCS is that we have the privilege of accompanying our clients on their journey. More often than not, the lessons we learn and the values we develop on our journey are more important than our destination. 


*Names changed to protect individuals’ confidentiality.