JF&CS bids farewell to long time leader Aryeh Sherman

As the Jewish community prepares for Rosh Hashanah (New Year) next week, JF&CS is preparing for a change in leadership. We say farewell to our President and CEO Aryeh Sherman after 17 years of service. And we begin our journey with a new President & CEO in Dr. Jordan Golin

Aryeh has been recognized over many years with various awards for excellence in leadership and we were fortunate to have benefited from his skills and adept leadership. It is Aryeh’s generosity of spirit, kindness, and his “gentle” passion that is unique and will be most missed. We hope we have learned those qualities from him and how to preserve and nurture them. Over his 17 years here, his vision and commitment has only strengthened – that’s our legacy to treasure.

At JF&CS today, there are nearly 100 employees and over 2,000 volunteers. Last fiscal year, JF&CS served some 10,000 clients, all people facing challenges. In an increasingly stressed world, as resources dwindle, Aryeh has seen to it that our community has somewhere to turn for help.

We wish Aryeh and his family every happiness and success on their next chapter. We know that he will find new ways to help make our community and this world a better place for all people. He will take on new challenges with the same thoughtful persistence as he has given JF&CS.

So for JF&CS staff, it is indeed a time of change. JF&CS is making good use of this critical juncture to assess its direction and prepare for the ever changing future.

One more popular custom during Rosh Hashanah is eating apples dipped in honey, a symbol of our wish for a sweet new year. A bushel basket of apples and a gallon of honey to you, Aryeh.

And L’shanah tovah to all of our friends and supporters, clients and volunteers.


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When you take action and reach out, good things happen!

Seniors who want to continue living independently can sometimes struggle with isolation, if they are home-bound, or lack of mobility, particularly if they have given up driving. At JF&CS, we can help through our AgeWell Rides and AgeWell Visits programs, which recruit volunteers to provide transportation or friendly visits to eligible seniors. If you are a senior who might benefit from these services, or you know someone, please contact Ellen (or call 412-422-0400).

Both programs have helped seniors stay active and connected to our community. A recent
perusal of the feedback received by the AgeWell Pittsburgh staff produced these comments
about clients’ experiences with AgeWell Rides and Visits. We share them to let other seniors know that solutions to these challenges are available, and that taking action can make good things happen!

“You have sent me visitors who almost immediately felt like friends – they bring me
much needed sunshine. I felt that my happy feelings were mutual.”

“The visits my late husband received were extremely beneficial to him. He looked
forward to their weekly Friday afternoon visits and so did they. It was a perfect fit.
You and your volunteers are super people. I’ll always be grateful for the many hours
they spent in enriching our lives.”

“My volunteer was so sweet and accommodating. Keep up the wonderful service you
provide to people like me. With more and more people in the Pittsburgh area aging
and their families and friends at a distance, it’s caring and compassionate people like
JF&CS that provide that vital 4th wheel on the wagon!”

“I would like to thank my kind volunteer and AgeWell Rides for providing a ride for me
to my husband’s, parents’ and grandparents’ gravesides. Not only did he drive me to
the cemetery, but he made sure of my footing on the paths and was very helpful.
Most important he did the prayers in Hebrew and that would have very much pleased
the family and individuals. He truly did a mitzvah. I wish all at AgeWell Rides a happy
and very healthy New Year.”

“The time I spend with my volunteer is a gift to me. Thank you for your good “matchmaking” skills and enthusiasm.”

We at JF&CS wish to say thank YOU for these kind words and appreciation for our
work! And to heap more heartfelt thanks onto all the wonderful volunteers who bring
this joy!

AgeWell Rides and AgeWell Visits are always seeking additional volunteer drivers and
visitors. As you can see, even a few hours a month or a week, can make a huge difference.
Please contact Ellen (or call 412-422-0400) if you would like to become a volunteer.

AgeWell Rides and AgeWell Visits are programs of AgeWell Pittsburgh, a partnership between the Jewish Association on Aging, JF&CS, and Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, and is funded in part by the generous support of Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, United Way and the Jewish Healthcare Foundation.

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JF&CS Employee, once a refugee herself, honored by President Obama for service to refugee community


JF&CS is thrilled to announce that Bishnu is in Washington D.C. today, being honored by President Obama at an event celebrating refugees who have made outstanding contributions to their new communities across America. Approximately 120 representatives from local governments, NGOs, faith‐based organizations and philanthropic organizations involved with the White House’s Building Welcoming Communities Campaign will attend. Bishnu and her husband Khara were selected as two of just eight honorees nationwide.

“We couldn’t be prouder of Bishnu and all she’s accomplished in the Bhutanese community and for all local refugees,” said Aryeh Sherman, JF&CS CEO. “Bishnu exemplifies every value that this organization strives to live by.”

Bhutanese refugees resettled in America beginning in 2007 were already refugees from their homeland years before. They had fled ethnic cleansing in Bhutan and were living in camps in Nepal, where they were not allowed to become citizens. Several countries, including the United States, agreed to accept them as refugees, and some 77,000 have been resettled in the U.S. since then. Of those some 6 – 8,000 reside in Pittsburgh.

Bishnu and her family lived in a refugee camp in Nepal for nearly two decades. She taught English there. Then they came to Pittsburgh in 2009.

At JF&CS, Bishnu coordinates youth programming, including after-school activities for refugee high school students and the “Learn and Earn” summer internship program. She translates documents and advocates for refugee children, teens, and parents in school settings. Bishnu works with youth to help them prepare for college and employment; 95% of the students with whom she has worked over the past five years (more than 100 youth) have gone on to college or received training and transitioned into the workforce.

But her influence in this region’s refugee community goes far beyond her work at JF&CS. Both she and her husband are very active in the Bhutanese community. She has been involved in first aid mental health trainings and peer counsels families experiencing stress, helping to link them to resources.

As a volunteer, Bishnu has organized and conducted women’s leadership training, breast health programs, pre- and post-partum education, and nutrition classes for members of the Bhutanese, Burmese and Iraqi communities in partnership with Magee-Women’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.

In refugee communities, it is most often older people who have the most difficulty making a new life. They speak no English and usually have little work experience. Bishnu works to connect elderly people with resources and with others in the community so they are not left out.

“More than anything, I feel good when families, children, and youth come and tell me that my service has helped them at some point in their life, and to see them prosper,” Bishnu says.

That statement embodies the mission and values of all of JF&CS, trying to make a difference in the lives of often marginalized populations, like immigrants and refugees, seniors, people living with disabilities and those struggling to find work. We’re grateful to have Bishnu as our colleague, and wish her heartfelt congratulations on her success!


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Six ways you can help the hungry in our community

Feeding America, the national organization of food banks, designates September as Hunger Action Month. People are asked to take some action to alleviate hunger in their own communities at some time over the month, and to help spread awareness all month long. September was chosen because it begins the fall, the busiest season at most food banks.

Fall is indeed the busiest season at Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry (SHCFP), and October, the month of the important Jewish holidays Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, is the busiest month.

The High Holidays are steeped in food traditions. Lots of family and feasting. As you prepare to spend time and share food with friends and family, it’s almost impossible not to think about those who experience hunger right here in our community.

All these holidays also emphasize sharing, charity and doing for others. So put the two together, food and helping others, and what do you get? Six great ideas to help the hungry:

  1. Donate some produce from the Squirrel Hill Farmer’s Market: Volunteers are collecting fresh produce at the Squirrel Hill Farmers Market every Sunday through early November. Buy a few extra items, and help Pantry clients get some healthy food.
  2. Donate produce from your own garden: Those zucchinis are out there, multiplying overnight, and there’s only so much zucchini one family can eat! Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry would be delighted to have any extra produce from your garden. Call Kathy at 412-421-2708 to arrange a drop-off.
  3. Volunteer: You can volunteer with your family, your colleagues, just once or once a week. SHCFP is always in need of helping hands. Call Kathy or email her to schedule.
  4. Have a food drive: Food drive collections are especially great. Not only do they supplement the food supply, but usually food drives produce favorite brands and special items otherwise rarely available.
  5. Have a high-holiday food drive: As you know, SHCFP is the only kosher food pantry in the region, and the holidays are coming. Help make sure all of your Jewish neighbors are able to honor the holidays with dignity.
  6. Make a donation to Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry: not everyone has time to volunteer or collect food. But that’s OK because your generous gift will help the Pantry purchase most-needed items, like eggs and peanut butter.

Every effort we make, large or small, to help eliminate hunger in our community helps. Hunger is an uncomplicated issue with an easy solution: feed people in need. The more difficult part is making sure we are providing enough food, and that we are there year-round, any time we are needed. That’s where you come in. The generosity and activism of this community continues to make the difference in maintaining a strong, dependable resource that served nearly 3,000 people last year.

If you have been a supporter of the Pantry in the past, please accept our continuing gratitude. If you should need food assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us. And if you want to honor the holidays by helping others, come join us!

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Six Ways to Support a Partner Who Has Lost a Job

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At the Career Development Center (CDC) of Jewish Family & Children’s Service, clients from all walks of life are experiencing career transitions and unemployment because of many different circumstances; Perhaps they were laid off or downsized, maybe they are older workers, women who are returning to the workforce, recent college graduates, immigrants or refugees…we see any number of life experiences every day.

The actual loss of a job, regardless of the circumstances, is one of the top five most stressful life experiences. When a job loss is unexpected, the trauma can understandably affect someone’s self-esteem, self-worth and confidence. Routines are upended, the future is unknown and there is a sense of loss.

For individuals conducting a full-time job search, the uncertainty can last for 6-9 months, the typical time it may take to find a job in the Pittsburgh market. Fortunately, at the CDC has an excellent record for this turnaround period – an average of 17 weeks as opposed to the national 30-week average. The CDC also employs counselors and offers workshops covering up-to-date best practices for resumes, networking, technology, social media and interviewing—everything a jobseeker needs to boost their confidence and prepare for their next job.

As a partner or spouse of someone who is experiencing a job loss, you can play a significant support role throughout this process. Betty Berkely, Career Counselor at the CDC, suggests the following tips for how to best support a partner during this difficult time.

  1. Be a Supportive Cheerleader: Individuals often define themselves by their work and what they do professionally. With a job loss, an individual suddenly no longer belongs, they aren’t part of a team, and they no longer have a place to go from Monday-Friday. Understand that your partner’s emotions may fluctuate from anger to frustration to sadness. Recognize that he or she will need a grieving period to process these emotions.  Bear through this and be patient. Resist the temptation to pepper your partner with job leads until they can regain their footing before starting something new.
  2. Maintain Communication with Your Partner: Listen without judgement before you respond. As a listener, it’s helpful to be patient, ask questions and show empathy. Understand the need and communicate in a respectful way.
  3. Encourage Him/Her to Go Out and Network: Today nearly 80% of the jobs are found through networking, not sitting at a computer reviewing job boards.  Your partner needs to connect with individuals who can advocate or provide useful information about organizations, a company’s culture, or other networking contacts.  Encourage them to do so.
  4. Adjust Your Finances: A job loss affects the entire family and open communication about spending and lifestyle adjustments is helpful. Focus on priorities, budgeting and resolving financial issues.  Include your children in the discussion so that they understand what resources are available. Discuss how to find creative ways to balance the budget.
  5. Be Willing to Adjust: Your routine and roles may also change. That said, you need to take care of yourself so that you have the emotional and psychological strength to withstand pressure over the long term.
  6. Stay in Touch with Family and Friends: Your social and familial circles can be a welcome “anchor” during this time. Accept their support and stay connected.
    As a life partner, you’re part of this journey. For many, the experience can help the marital relationship grow stronger. Focus on what you have, rather than what you don’t have.  Maintaining a hopeful outlook during a time like this enables you to expect that good things will happen and allows you to keep a long-term perspective.If this time becomes too difficult, we are here to help. While the CDC offers career counseling, workshops and valuable networking opportunities, additionally, Squirrel Hill Psychological Services (SHPS), another program of JF&CS, is available to provide counseling services for you and your spouse individually or as a couple. Contact the CDC at 412-422-5627, and/or SHPS at 412-521-3800.
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Imagine ahead to make aging easier

As you may already know, JF&CS covers an entire realm of services for older adults; from
counseling to guardianship to food assistance, through its affiliation with AgeWell Pittsburgh and more.

But here’s some food for thought: Matthias Hollwich has just written a book that asks if we can make aging easier before we get there. New Aging: Live Smarter Now to Live Better Forever offers the theory that how we feel about the future can influence how we experience it. So it might be less stressful if we think about it now and lay some groundwork, from our physical space (he’s an architect) to our habits to our relationships. Hollwich wrote the book from his 40-ish perspective, but we can think ahead at any age, can’t we?

Here are just a few of his ideas about making aging easier, and how we can get started:
1. Treat aging more like you might any trip to a new land. What fascinating things might
you discover? Start today: go someplace or do something you’ve never done before.
2. Get up and out: It gets easier to stay home-but don’t. Create new experiences and keep
touch with the world: get some exercise! Start today: make a list of reasons to go out. Go
3. Keep your peeps: don’t let life’s chores and worries crowd out the people in your life. There’s always time for some personal outreach. Start now: call or arrange to meet up with somebody you’ve been meaning to connect with.
4. Simplify: some of us are happy to lighten up and let go. Others hold on to happiness and good memories through stuff. If you are the former, pass on the important things to the important people, and donate the excess. Less to tote, less to dust. If you are the
latter, think about how your stuff might really help somebody in need, or maybe that
your garage sale will finance your next adventure. Start now: take one item that you
have not used or worn in a year and part with it. Repeat.
5. Keep learning: now that you don’t have to study, you can do it just for fun. Research
says the brain stays sharper longer only if you learn new things. Start now: take a free
class, download a language app, or watch a “how-to” YouTube video and go fix
something (start small!).
6. Eat your vegetables: eating healthier is a good idea at any age. Explore the farmers
markets. A potluck with a healthy theme lightens the work. Start now: Google your
favorite food and find a healthier way to prepare it.
7. Go digital: you are not too old to learn to use digital devices. Technology offers shopping, information, books, contact with others and much more. Your grandchildren can teach you; create great family time. Start now: Explore the camera on your smartphone; go take some pictures. If you are device-less, use the computers at the library – Google something!

As an architect, Hollwich also promotes his “New Aging” on bigger scale: age-friendly living spaces, city planning, transportation, safety and community. Hollwich is saying we don’t have to equate aging only with loss. He’s turning the concept of “plan ahead” into “imagine ahead,” hoping that we will get more enjoyment out of these precious years.

Remember, Hollwich started at 40, but we can all imagine and improve our senior years at any age. JF&CS is a resource than can help you access a wide array of services that assist seniors, so that you can make these precious years fulfilling. If you need some help locating or accessing services, please call Maxine Horn, Information & Referral Specialist for AgeWell Pittsburgh (412-422-0400) or email her.

As the architect says: “Aging is a gift that we receive with life.” Let’s all make the most of it – starting now!

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Back to school tips for special kids

While going back to school can be stressful for everybody, kids with conditions like autism, anxiety or ADHD may have more difficulties coping with the changes of schedule,
expectations and routine. April Artz of Squirrel Hill Psychological Services is a therapist and director of Quest Camp, JF&CS’s summer program for kids with complex needs. From her very experienced perspective, she offers parents some suggestions for a happy, healthy transition back to school.

1. Emphasize the positive. Encourage optimism, and cultivate a sense of calm and
confidence. Discuss the worries openly, but don’t feed them.
2. If your house is still on summer “sleep-in schedule,” start working your way back to a
weekday sleep schedule. Moving bedtimes in small increments over a couple weeks makes
the move smoother.
3. Starting in a new school this year? Nobody wants to get lost on the first day in a new school. Visit the school in advance, and go over all the relevant routes: classroom, locker, cafeteria and bathroom. Take the cell phone along and take pictures your child can refer to, if necessary.
4. If your child has difficulties with organization, create an organizational system to help them stay on track, especially as they grow older and face more challenging work at school. Some families color-code folders for each subject; others use a large binder with individual folders inside. The point is to work out a system that makes sense and works for your child.
5. If your child is eligible for special education services, schedule an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting early in the school year. School districts’ tendency to “wait and see” how a child is doing can work against kids with executive functioning deficits (difficulty with time management, organization and/or planning) or alternative ways of learning. They can easily get disorganized and fall behind. A proactive IEP meeting allows for teachers to be informed of the student’s strengths and deficits, and it is a good time to assess and incorporate goals.
6. How are students expected to keep track of their assignments? Will they have to write everything down, or is there an online system that can be accessed daily? Keeping track of assignments and when they are due is a crucial skill that each and every student needs to master.
7. Many of these children lack skills in discerning nuance or understanding different behaviors and expectations from different teachers. Learn as much as you can about the people your child will be spending the day with, and calmly talk out as much as possible beforehand.

April’s final reminder is most important: all kids want to be successful at school. Those
children who have a history of struggling in school, whatever the reason, too often get labeled “bad”, “lazy” or “stupid.” “Parents of kids with complex needs probably already know all about the extra effort it takes to develop, practice and reinforce effective strategies that will give their children the tools to succeed,” she says. “But they just need to remember that the extra time and effort is well worth it. Positive experiences at school lead to more academic achievement, improved personal development and hopefully, a lifelong love of learning!”

JF&CS holds a Quest after school program during the school year, and provides clinical
consultation services to several local schools and early childhood centers. Contact April if you would like more information about either of these programs.

Posted in Counseling Services, Quest, Special Needs, Uncategorized | Leave a comment