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

February is Jewish Disabilities Awareness & Inclusion month. Like many of you, I have a close relative with significant disabilities — and I am a fierce advocate for welcoming him and the thousands of other people with disabilities into our lives, our neighborhoods, and our workplaces. At JF&CS, we serve over 1,000 adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, mental illness, and other disabilities every year, and I couldn’t be more proud of that work.
 
We call this area of JF&CS “CHAI Services,” which stands for promoting Community, Housing, Access, and Independence for people of all abilities. It is very fitting that CHAI means “life” in Hebrew, because our goal is to enable every person to live a meaningful and connected life.
 
We are proud this month to share stories about how JF&CS works toward inclusion for people with disabilities every day. Being a part of JF&CS means being a part of a movement of inclusion, and we thank you for that support.


Gail Schulman
Chief Executive Officer
"The sky's the limit for Dana"
For adults with disabilities who don’t need 24/7 assistance, but struggle to live independently, JF&CS offers an integrated suite of supports. We help our clients with a range of needs from finding housing to one-on-one coaching around the challenges of daily life to finding and succeeding in a job.

JF&CS client Dana shared her powerful story in this video of how when her parents died, she turned to JF&CS to get help becoming as self-sufficient as possible. She moved into a JF&CS residence for people with disabilities, where our staff coach her on life skills. Dana participates in social activities with fellow residents, who she calls “the crew” because they spend so much time together, including a monthly Shabbat dinner.
Suicide Loss in the Jewish Community: An Evening of Learning
Suicide exists in the Jewish community at the same rate as the general American population. But we as a community have been mostly silent in talking about it and in caring for those who have lost a loved one to suicide. That’s why on March 2, JF&CS is hosting an event in partnership with Hebrew College and CJP called Suicide in the Jewish Community: An Evening of Learning. This virtual event will feature personal stories of strength from suicide loss survivors as well as a panel of experts including Rabbi Suzanne Offit and Marjie Sokoll, founding director of the JF&CS Betty Ann Greenbaum Miller Center for Jewish Healing.
New Musical Book Club offers connection for kids with disabilities
What can kids do during a pandemic when they’re not able to socialize in person? Turns out, the answer is to join a Musical Book Club! The JF&CS Musical Book Club is available via Zoom to children with disabilities to help them develop and deepen friendships through literature, music, and movement. Now our most popular offering for children with disabilities, Musical Book Club participants read books and poetry, tell jokes, share stories, learn ASL signs, and sing and dance.
 
“Virtual programming can sometimes feel lonely, but the connections the kids have made in book club are strong and lasting,” said Valerie Maio, JF&CS Manager of Programming for Children with Special Needs. “They welcome new friends emphatically when they join, they ask about someone when they are missing, and they always remember things about their friends.”
Making friends for life
Chaverim Chaim (“Friends for Life”) is the JF&CS social group for adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities and/or autism spectrum disorder — offering a range of informal educational experiences and events with a Jewish focus. Whether attending virtual programs like Zoom Word Games Nights, or in-person events like Castle Island walks, or bowling and pizza, Chaverim Chaim participants gain a sense of connection and inclusion. Shabbat dinners are especially popular, sometimes drawing a dozen participants.  
100,000 hours
CHAI Residences Halloween Party 2021
When the pandemic first hit, our minds immediately went to the residents of our six JF&CS apartments and houses for clients with disabilities—and how to keep them healthy, both physically and mentally. Nearly two years later, JF&CS has provided over 100,000 hours of programming and services to our residents! These comfortable, community-oriented homes offer shared housing, all meals, and 24-hour supports to help residents live a self-directed life, fully engaged in their community. 
 
Even when our residents were unable to visit with family or go to their jobs at the height of the pandemic, we offered programming to keep residents engaged and happy: sewing classes, six-foot dance parties, and online afternoon movies shared with friends from other group homes. Staff helped clients keep in close touch with friends and families through phone and video calls. One hundred thousand hours later, our residents remain active, engaged, and upbeat — looking forward to whatever the next season will offer.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank you and your staff for all your efforts to encourage and support our daughter this past year. We felt very secure in knowing that she was in a place where she was getting the help she needed in order to learn to better navigate her world.” -Parent of JF&CS residential client
Back in the community -
and it feels so good
Starting this past fall, participants in our Waltham and Canton-based CHAI Works day programs for adults with intellectual and development disabilities have been able to safely return to volunteering in the community. Volunteer opportunities are a core part of helping our clients experience the gratification of meaningful, productive activity and work on their skills.
 
Highlights include compiling school supplies for homeless children at School on Wheels, delivering meals and providing cheer to seniors at Meals on Wheels, and sorting donations for low-income or homeless children at Cradles to Crayons.
 
As Kathryn Friel, director of day programs at JF&CS, put it: “Our participants take such pride in the work they do and returning has helped them feel reconnected to our larger community.”
A legacy of giving to support community, access, and independence
David & Marlene Bohn
jfcsboston.org | 781-647-JFCS (5327)
Waltham Headquarters | Brighton | Canton | Central MA | North Shore
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