Making Connections
Your Monthly Update on Our Work and Impact
Dear Friend,

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we planned for this month’s Making Connections update to focus on JF&CS efforts to serve our broader Greater Boston community. Then, Colleyville happened. We wondered if the horrors of that day, where Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker welcomed in a stranger for a cup of tea and ended up a hostage along with his congregants, made the message of outreach feel insensitive or inappropriate.

Jewish tradition teaches us that Abraham actively sought out strangers whom he could help with food, rest, and companionship. And so, even in the face of terror, we decided to find strength in that tradition.

We are sharing here stories of JF&CS reaching out to serve members of our community who speak different languages, celebrate different religions, come from different racial backgrounds, and immigrated from different countries – as well as those in our own Jewish community. Thank you for making these acts of service possible, especially during these challenging times for the Jewish community.


Gail Schulman
Chief Executive Officer
Improving the mental health of the youngest kids in Boston
When preschool teachers or daycare providers care for children who experience difficult life circumstances, such as homelessness or COVID, they need skills that go far beyond standard curriculum development and behavior management. To be effective in connecting with these children, teachers need sophisticated early childhood mental health skills.  
 
That’s where the Center for Early Relationship Support at JF&CS comes in. Fifteen years ago, we launched our early childhood mental health consultation practice in partnership with Horizons for Homeless Children in Roxbury. More recently, we expanded our work to serve the Dimock Center in Roxbury, Epiphany Early Learning Center in Dorchester, and the Waltham Family School.  
 
A child experiencing loss, for example, can show it by exhibiting more aggressive behaviors. This can be very stressful to a teacher trying to manage a classroom. Our staff helps teachers see the sadness instead of the behavior, so the teachers can meet the child’s needs and help change the behavior. After such an intervention, one teacher told us, “Instead of thinking about what the child is doing to me, now I think about what they need from me.” We are proud to have supported more than 110 teachers and 220 students this year.
Helping Holocaust survivors
who are living longer
Holocaust survivor Ruth Zweig celebrating her 100th birthday
To mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th (the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau), Kara Baskin featured Schechter Holocaust Services in JewishBoston. She wrote:

“Had she lived, Anne Frank would be in her early 90s today. It’s not hard to believe she’d still be alive, either: At Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JF&CS), Schechter Holocaust Services is one of the fastest-growing areas of need. Over the past six years, the decades-old group—which allows Holocaust survivors to age with dignity, fostering meaningful connections with one another and the broader Jewish community—has increased the number of survivors served by 119%. They’re expecting a 30% year-over-year increase in the next three years.”

Baskin interviewed 95-year-old survivor Frima Iosilevich, who now lives in a small Brookline apartment. She writes, “Iosilevich was born and raised in Odessa, Ukraine. When World War II started, her family tried to escape by boat. When they arrived at the pier, there was a bomb—and they had to flee. As it turned out, the boat was bombed by Nazis. Had they boarded, she would’ve died. When her husband died, she reached out to JF&CS for help.

‘I can’t even describe to you: It was such a big relief. They said, ‘Don’t worry. We’ll try to help you. It was like they gave me a second life,’ she says.”
A Note From Schechter Holocaust Services:
As survivors live longer, we needs more volunteers, money, and resources to ensure clients are comfortable and safe. Right now, the Claims Conference funds 80% of our services, but the funding isn't enough to support all of the survivors in Greater Boston's needs. Learn more about SHS and how you can support the vital work we do with survivors!
Demystifying dementia in 9 languages
Changes in mood, cognitive function, and behavior of people with dementia can often leave families and community members unsure of how to help, or even how to interact. JF&CS launched a chapter of the Dementia Friends program in Massachusetts to help everyone in our state understand what dementia is and how it affects people, increasing public awareness and reducing stigma.

JF&CS is working to open conversations about dementia in more and more linguistic and cultural communities. We now offer our Dementia Friends materials in nine languages: English, Arabic, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Khmer, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese. We are working on a version for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities. Just as important, we now partner with nine community organizations so that members of the community are the ones to deliver the sessions.
Our holiday gift card drive
was a big success!
The 2021 JF&CS Holiday Gift Card Drive was a great success for hundreds of children and their families from all religions who faced economic insecurity this holiday season. Thank you to everyone who participated, donating nearly $12,000 to provide $25 gift cards for 471 children, empowering their parents to buy them a holiday gift and make their holidays a special memory. Here is what two parents that received the cards this year had to say:

“Getting a gift card to use at Target reduced the stress of shopping for Chanukah this year. I used it to purchase a metal Thermos bottle for my daughter, which she brings with her to school each day, as well as a new doll that she loves to snuggle with. Thank you!"

“The holiday season is a time of celebration and joy especially in young children. Covid hit my family hard, and I am so thankful for the gift cards I had received to help make my two boys’ holiday special!”
A legacy of support for children
When Elizabeth des Cognets died in 2016, she didn’t know that the Center for Early Relationship Support at JF&CS would be expanding to meet the mental health needs of more children in Boston’s early childhood centers. But she did understand the value of working with young parents and children in the earliest years.
 
After years of donating annually to JF&CS, Elizabeth made JF&CS a beneficiary of her estate, eventually leaving more than $1 million to us. That gift has enabled the innovative, responsive work such as our early childhood mental health consultations.
 
You too can make a gift that lasts a lifetime. When you include a gift of any size for JF&CS in your estate plan or name JF&CS as a beneficiary of your retirement or life insurance plan, you invest in improving the lives of individuals and families for generations to come. 
jfcsboston.org | 781-647-JFCS (5327)
Waltham Headquarters | Brighton | Canton | Central MA | North Shore
Support our work!