Planting the seeds for a vibrant future

January 24, 2024

“Man is a tree of the field.”–Deuteronomy 20:19

As Tu B’Shevat approaches, I find myself examining the world around me. The traditional celebration of this holiday harkens back to our literal roots. We celebrate a New Year for the trees by remembering nature and all the beauty and serenity it gives to us. We honor the interdependence between humankind and the earth, and we express gratitude and appreciation for all that we have. We also vow to take better care of the precious gifts of land and water (and so much more) that G-d has bestowed on all of us.

More recently, we have seen the birth of Eco-Judaism, a movement that draws direct connections between our concern for the earth and our Jewish responsibilities to care for the land, in the same way we care for each other. This movement is steeped in the belief that we are trustees of Gd’s creation and an understanding that all life is interconnected, like one long line of dominoes. If we forsake one part of our community, the rest of the world can crumble.

Extending the concept of caring for the earth to caring for one another is an easy and simple translation. The value of “Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh” all Jews are responsible for one another–is core to our Jewish traditions. Rabbi Harold Kushner said it best. When discussing prayer, he simply stated that “we don’t pray for people, we pray with people.” Since we are so dependent on the natural world for shelter, food, water, and so many other precious gifts, it leads me to this question: If we don’t care for our world–who will? It reminds me of Rabbi Hillel’s quote, “If I am only for myself, what am I?” We are all inextricably linked to each other, and our fellow man’s success can be heralded as our own success.

Our responsibility to care for one another is central to the mission and vision of Jewish Family and Children’s Service (JFCS). This interconnection is steeped into our value structure. It is built into our daily operations, and it guides our long-term planning.

This leads me to think about our community’s older adults, who are truly a precious human resource! Our parents, teachers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and mentors have given and taught us so much. The fact of the matter is that each of us bears some degree of responsibility for the welfare of our older citizens (and ourselves) as they age. As individuals, we must ask ourselves if we are planning responsibly for our own future while at the same time helping our own family. As families, we must ask ourselves if we are doing all we can, to the best of our ability. And finally, as a community, we must ask ourselves if we are offering sufficient services to ensure the well-being of our oldest members.

Each year, JFCS provides hundreds of seniors with vital supports that help them live with dignity and grace: Case management, volunteer services, weekly kosher meals and holiday meals, financial assistance, support groups, transportation, medical advocacy, and so much more. Our geriatric social workers offer a lifeline to vulnerable seniors who don’t have a robust support network. These supports are especially important to our local Holocaust survivors–many of whom are vulnerable, frail, and financially fragile.

Each of these offerings is designed to connect, engage, and elevate our clients. We know that by reducing their isolation and increasing their support from the wider community, our clients will live longer, happier, and healthier lives. We also know that when our clients are happier and healthier, they will continue giving to our society in ways we cannot measure. Their knowledge, love, and expertise will change the world. Just as we plant, tend, nurture, and care for our planet, we care for our community to ensure that what is most precious—life–is not lost. I encourage you to learn more by visiting or calling us at (856) 424-1333.

Service to our community, our clients, and the greater world around us is at the heart of everything we do at JFCS. A commitment to service guides our staff, lay leaders, and volunteers in all they do. By caring and nurturing what is most important to us, we will bring hope and healing to those around us. That is the most important piece of the puzzle: What we deem most important and how we prioritize our service.

In this new year, I encourage you to think about service for yourself (self-care), your family, your community, and beyond. If you feel so moved to provide service to the greater community, I would love to hear from you. Not only does JFCS have volunteer opportunities to support those vulnerable individuals, but we also have opportunities to serve on committees–helping to guide and steer our agency’s future. If you are interested and want more information about our committee structure, please reach out to me at