October 6, 2023

Good afternoon JFCS Family,

Today, I want to tell you a story about Debbie*, a new client of our Betsy & Peter Fischer Food Pantry. Debbie walked into our offices after living in her car for the better part of two weeks. She needed help. She was referred to us from Virtua Hospital. This client was deaf and could only communicate via sign language. As Meri Seligman and Deena Neuwirth sat with her to help her fill out our intake forms and determine the best way to provide aid, Debbie continued to sign. Deena, fluent in sign language, understood that the client was so hungry that she couldn’t focus on anything. Meri sprang into action and assembled a sandwich, a drink, and snacks and escorted her outside to our Donald Love and Susan Love Memorial Picnic Area. Debbie sat for the better part of 30 minutes, eating, and signing with our staff. From a distance, I am sure this would have looked like a friendly lunch among friends – that is, if you didn’t know Debbie’s story.

After sitting together for a bit, Meri and Deena resumed the intake process, helping Debbie to clarify her situation and ensuing needs. Due to their patience and assistance, Debbie felt relief at being able to communicate her circumstances and hopeful that she would receive the support she so desperately needed, which included resources for affordable housing.

How many of us have needed a fresh start at some point? It could be over economic circumstances, a career pivot, a relationship that needs mending, or even a conversation that took a wrong turn. I am sure there are moments in all of our lives where we would have loved the opportunity to take a deep breath and start over. I am here to tell you it is possible. Take a pause out of your fast-paced life. Take a moment to consider your situation and ask for what you need. Take a moment to tell those closest to you how much they mean to you. Advocate for yourself and communicate with those around you. Trust that those who love you will understand and that you will feel better because of it.

This weekend, we celebrate Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, the beginning of a new year – a fresh start. We celebrate and commemorate the beginning of the yearly cycle of learning and growth. A new opportunity to grow and learn as people and as professionals is something to be applauded.

Every day, our clients teach us something new. From serving those with intellectual disabilities and mental health challenges, to veterans and older adults, or those who are financially at risk, our clients are our best teachers.

As this year is just beginning, I invite you to listen and learn with us. We would love to provide you with an opportunity to tour our Disability Services Department and our Betsy & Peter Fischer Food Pantry or learn about our services for Holocaust Survivors by having lunch with us one day. There are so many more opportunities to listen and learn – these are just a few.

If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll consider joining us at our Annual Celebration on Thursday, October 12. The registration link is https://jfcssnj.org/annualcelebration.

Wishing you peace and love this Shabbat and I hope to see you next week,



* Name has been changed to protect confidentiality.