November 23, 2023

Dear JFCS Family,

When I woke up this morning, I was overwhelmed with emotions! I am filled with an immense feeling of pride and gratitude inspired by the work of JFCS in the last seven days. While every day at JFCS is filled with caring for our clients and meeting the needs of those who are vulnerable, our work increases exponentially during the holiday season. Below is just a short overview of the hundreds of people we have served in the last seven days through our JFCS village of caring and compassionate staff, volunteers, and community partners – including many of you!

A SAIL Thanksgiving Celebration

Our Thanksgiving celebrations started on November 15 with our SAIL Friendsgiving Event, where thirty of the “SAILORS” from our Disability Services Department joined us for a potluck dinner. Our SAILORS were joined by our amazing volunteers such as Past President Judy Love and our current President Stacy Asbell Levin, as well as our dedicated staff. My favorite part of this evening was watching the interactions between this community and how they have grown so close to one another. The friendships, bonds, and relationships they have created were palpable and their laughter, smiles and appreciation for each other and their community was felt by everyone.

Driving with Gratitude: Holiday Meal Deliveries

We continued to “drive” our Thanksgiving message forward through our Thanksgiving deliveries made by our amazing board members and volunteers. Almost 50 volunteers helped pack, distribute, and deliver 343 meals to 195 households on both Wednesday and Thursday of last week. Among the volunteers were our own Senator James Beach and Sabrina Spector, Executive Director of JCRC, who delivered to one of our veterans living in Cherry Hill. Many of our clients are frail, homebound, and socially isolated. This may be one of their only connections this Thanksgiving holiday. In addition to the Thanksgiving deliveries, our Betsy & Peter Fischer Food Pantry provided 50 families with Thanksgiving baskets, complete with a whole frozen turkey, all the sides, fresh produce, and dessert!

Serving our Survivors: A Love Café Europa Celebration

Of course, a holiday wouldn’t go by without celebrating with our Holocaust Survivors, a community that has been significantly impacted and re-traumatized by the October 7 massacre and explosion of hatred toward our Jewish community. Just yesterday more than 40 Holocaust Survivors gathered in the Katz JCC Social Hall to share a traditional Thanksgiving meal with our staff and volunteers. The atmosphere was festive, and the clients had the opportunity to dance and sing with their friends and greater community. Joined by a cadre of volunteers and staff including board members such as Joyce Feder and Judy Love, an amazing display of hope, happiness, and healing truly shined through our celebration.

A Community Response: Food Drives and More

For many, Thanksgiving is a time to count our blessings, but for some it is a reminder of what they may be missing. Over the last year, our Betsy & Peter Fischer Food Pantry has experienced a tremendous growth in need. Our weekly food distributions have increased from 70 households to 100 households, a 43% increase. Meeting this need day in and day out is a constant struggle and one that we don’t do alone. It truly takes a village. While hundreds of people donated food, several corporations and communities led the charge. This year, we were once again privileged to receive support from Wolf Commercial Real Estate (WCRE) through their Thanksgiving Food Drive, with over 150 bags of food and $3,700 in gift cards and financial donations collected from over 40+ friends, colleagues, and business associates of WCRE. In addition, amazing community partners like Cherry Hill Township and ZZ Dance each provided more than 150 and 250 bags of food, respectively.

This season thousands of families both young and old have received hope and healing through JFCS and our Thanksgiving outreach. I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the immense dedication of our dedicated team of staff and volunteers, who truly make miracles happen. There are too many to mention, but they know who they are!

Our work is supported by so many donors, partners, and community leaders, including all of you. A special shout out to the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey and its family of agencies, and the Raymond & Gertrude R. Saltzman Foundation who support all we do!

Wishing you peace and love on this Thanksgiving Day and always,