February 16, 2024

Dear JFCS Family,

Inspiration comes in all different ways. Sometimes we are inspired by positive interactions and the success of our clients, and sometimes we must find inspiration through the tears and sadness that come with losing a client. Today, this comes to you through tears of sadness.

Over the last two months, our Holocaust Survivor and Advocacy staff has suffered tremendous losses. As our Survivors age in place, the issues they struggle with become more complex. Our role expands beyond the provision of service and support. We often become a lifeline for clients – preserving their independence, reminding them of the joy they encounter in life, and making sure they have what they need to age with dignity and respect in their eldest years.

In the last two months, we have lost four of our Survivors. This week, we lost our beloved Joshua, who was 98 years old and a former French resistance fighter. I knew he was not well, but I didn’t know how close he was to leaving us.

I have fond memories of Joshua playing the harmonica at our Hope and Healing lunches and leading us in Hatikvah. He’d get so upset if some of our participants didn’t pay attention or sing along with him. His pride and love of Israel and the Jewish people emanated from every pore of his being. Joshua had recently lost his beloved wife and had been in mourning ever since. It was only three weeks before that we attended a funeral of one of his friends and colleagues, Ethan, a gentle soul whose kindness and love was so apparent to everyone he met. Two days after that we lost a beautiful soul, Emily, also in her nineties – a woman (who survived Auschwitz at the age of 17) whose strength and vibrance resonated so clearly with so many in our community and has since left us with a void in our lives. They rebuilt their families and their lives. They authored books, created plays, and taught the next generation about our history. They were a light to so many people and a shining example of the good in this world.

These losses are extremely hard for all of us, as you can imagine. In this community, our clients become our family. Growing up as the daughter of a Survivor, these are my people. I know some of their stories, their lives, and sometimes even their trauma. Equally so, I know their resilience, their strength, their love of people, and their commitment to life.

To our team of social workers and staff, these gentle souls are our family. Our staff escort our clients through the end of their life. They hear their stories, share their memories, and help them maintain and retain the greatest quality of life possible. They do this with open hearts and open minds, knowing that sometime soon, they may experience heartbreak and lose these dear souls.

There can be no greater service than caring for our Holocaust Survivors. They lived through traumas that most of us can’t imagine. The least we can do is provide joy, comfort, and peace toward their end of life. This is sacred and holy work, but it is not easy.

To Gail Belfer, Rivka Shakow, Donna Lymper, Ronda Manders, Elizabeth Mekler, Tricia Alvarez, and Wendy Alter, I thank you! There are no words that can do justice to the gratitude I feel toward each of you. Our clients are not the only ones who are blessed to have you in their lives: our agency and our community are better and brighter because of all that you do and who you are.

Wishing you peace and love this Shabbat and always.

All my best,




 * Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.