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JFS Senior Services Program

By Ruth Edelman, LCSW

Over the past 7 years, JFS has continued to develop its Senior Services Program based on feedback from the community, from seniors, and from family members of seniors. We welcome ideas for ways we can better serve those who find resources and services lacking. We’d like to share some examples of ways that JFS is responsive to helping seniors remain in their homes and apartments with the quality of life everyone deserves.

During the past year, JFS has been providing depression screening in the community at health fairs, senior centers, programs for seniors and their caregivers. Many seniors don’t want to acknowledge they are suffering from depression or anxiety. Those diagnoses carry a stigma, especially for older persons. They are accustomed to being in control of their lives, being independent, “toughing it out” without asking for help. And they may remember treatments of past decades that often had undesirable side effects. While JFS does not prescribe medications, we do have qualified Geriatric Social Workers that are highly skilled at identifying those with depression, and making treatment recommendations for those who might benefit from therapy, and those who might need a combination of therapy and medication.

George, age 86, has been caring for his wife of over 50 years for the past 6 years since her dementia increased to the point that he could not leave her alone. He often neglected his own health care so as not to have to leave her. When we met George, he knew he couldn’t get sick. His wife had been diagnosed with cancer and now her needs were even greater. He also was faced with losing her, and that was looming as a very dark cloud. He allowed the JFS social worker to come into his home and talk with him about his needs and his goals. Together they worked out a plan that helped support his goal of being the primary caretaker for his wife until her death, but gave him some of the help he needed and helped better ensure his own well being.

Many of the frail seniors we see have been through many life transitions: changes in their functional status and ability to provide total care for themselves, the loss of a spouse, adult children and grandchildren who may have moved away or are so busy with their own lives that their involvement with the senior seems too little. Loneliness and isolation set in as impairment to the ability to get out on their own reduces social contacts and cognitive stimulation. JFS has been offering Friendly Home Visitors for the past 7 years to homebound seniors to help them feel less alone. Our volunteers of all ages are dedicated to their volunteer work, and often find they gain as much as they give by getting to know the senior with whom they are matched. The frail senior may live around the block, or across the county, but what matters is the bond they form and the eagerness with which the seniors look forward to their visits.

It became clear that other services were needed. Some of the seniors who request our help, especially those without family nearby or involved in their care need assistance in navigating systems that can improve their daily living. Many find with the help of our case manager, that they are eligible for services they didn’t even know about. What is a case manager? A case manager is a licensed social worker, who is knowledgeable about community resources, who can work with seniors and/or their caregivers to provide information and linkages. JFS has been fortunate to receive private foundation support to be able to offer these services to improve quality of life.

We learned from many seniors that we serve that they have difficulty with medications—things younger persons may take for granted-- like opening the bottles with arthritic hands, remembering to take their medications at the prescribed frequency and time, getting their medications from the pharmacy. Many frail older persons live in a home they have lived in for most of their adult lives. These may not have had the upgrades required today such as carbon monoxide detectors, working smoke detectors (because they can’t change batteries any longer), conditions which may lead to falls in the home. When JFS sends a social worker out to the home to assess the referred senior, part of the assessment with the senior involves looking at their living environment, and with the senior’s permission, asking our nurse consultant to come in to assist with recommendations to make the necessary changes to help us with the common goal of staying in the home and being safe.

There is another group that we have become responsive to based on feedback from those who call us for services. That is those who have lost a spouse. They may be younger, they may be older, but they are struggling with the life changes that come from the loss of a long term partner—emotionally, socially, financially, and physically. JFS now has two active bereavement groups supporting the life changes brought about by their loss.

We encourage you to contact us at 908 725-7799 with a referral of someone you know who is interested in receiving our services, or if you would like to become involved yourself as a volunteer Friendly Visitor—we are always seeking volunteers for this rewarding work, and have orientation and training scheduled several times throughout the year.

JFS thanks the following private foundations for their financial support to allow us to provide these services for no fee or for a low fee: The Grotta Fund for Senior Care, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, The ERS Family Fund, The Sadie Sussman Fund at JFS, The Wallerstein Foundation for Geriatric Life Improvement, The Rummel Foundation. Our work with seniors is also supported by the Jewish Federation of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties and the United Way of Northern New Jersey and our individual donors through our Friends Campaign. We thank all of you.


Help for Job Seekers

by Elise Prezant, Career Counselor

Jeff has been coming to the Job Seeker Support Group at Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties (JFS) for the past 8 years. He hasn’t been unemployed for that long nor is he unable to keep a job.

Jeff is just being proactive given the current job market. He understands that very few people are fortunate to have long term jobs and many more people, like himself, are hired on short term, contract or consulting bases.

Nationally, the unemployment rate is 7.7% and there are over 4.8 million long term unemployed individuals (those who have been unemployed for over 27 weeks). An additional 8 million are working part time because their hours have been reduced or they are unable to find full time work, and 885,000 have stopped looking for work because they no longer believe they can find a job.

The unemployment rate in New Jersey is 9.3 and for the past year continues to remain significantly above the national level (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Many unemployed individuals have families to support or are single and have no other source of income. A growing number are immigrants or have barriers to employment such as a disability. Nearly all of these individuals have never experienced being unemployed and have not had to conduct a job search in many years or even decades.

Women returning to the workforce and recent high school and college graduates constitute addition segments of the unemployed population that are particularly vulnerable in this economic climate.

Well aware of these facts, Jeff keeps coming to the JFS Job Seeker Support Group on a regular basis, even when he is gainfully employed, because he doesn’t know when he will need to resume his job search and he wants to keep expanding his network, keep up with changes in the job search process and meet recruiters and hiring managers.

At the monthly JFS Job Seeker Support Groups presenters speak on different job search related topics. Although there are many similar groups throughout New Jersey, the JFS Job Seeker Support Group is unique in that, in addition to holding the group, JFS offers individual career counseling to assist job seekers in all aspects of their job search, from where to look for a job, how to look for a job, resume critique, interviewing and networking skills.

JFS can also help job seekers struggling with the emotional aspects of job loss. Losing a job impacts not only the job seeker, but their family, as well. Licensed clinical social workers can work with job seekers and their families to navigate the feelings of loss, stress, depression and worry that often accompany a period of unemployment.

If you are you unemployed, underemployed or seeking a career change? If you are struggling with the impact of job loss please contact JFS at 908 725-7799 or visit our website, www.jewishfamilysvc.org.

 


Featured Article Archive

Articles are displayed in reverse chronological order — the newer articles are closer to the top of the page.
For the full list of articles, please see this page.

JFS Senior Service at Work

by Jerry Starr, Executive Director

Mr. B. is a 90 year old married man referred to JFS due to his increasing frailty (multiple health problems and recent history of falls) and isolation and signs of depression. Mr. B was increasingly afraid to leave his home due to a fear of incontinence and anxiety related to several recent losses in his support network (his sister died tragically in an accident).

In addition, his 88 year old wife was becoming impatient with him because of his fear of going out of the home and tension between them was increasing. The local Office on Aging contacted JFS to get involved. After assessing Mr. B and his wife, the social worker began to offer Mr. B regularly scheduled counseling in his home and referred Mr. B to a consulting nurse to evaluate him for medication management and home safety.

The consulting nurse and social worker were able to make a joint recommendation pertaining to home safety issues which included a motorized stair seat to facilitate movement within the home and lessen the risk of falls on the stairs. The nurse saw Mr. B on several occasions and continued to monitor his medication management and safety needs, and offered encouragement.

As the social worker continued her regular visits exploring Mr. B's fears and frustrations about feeling homebound and emphasizing the things he could do for himself to improve his quality of life, Mr. B reported less falls and began to take better care of his incontinence problem and eventually gained enough confidence to venture outside his home. His wife indicated to the social worker that tensions between her and her husband were diminishing and the mood in their home improved.

Mr. B continues to struggle with his fears and with the limitations of his physical condition but seems to be having more good days than bad and visits by the nurse and social worker continue in order to help Mr. B sustain his gains and cope with his ongoing fears.

Funds to support the work with Mr. B were provided to JFS by the US Administration on Aging through the JFS Home Sweet Home program which emphasizes home based community services to help seniors age in place and by a grant from the Grotta Fund for Senior Living which supported the nursing home visits to Mr. B. for more information about JFS Senior services please contact Jerry Starr, the director of JFS at 908 725-7799.

As One Year Ends and Another Begins, Let's Remember

by Jerry Starr, Executive Director

Last month a holocaust survivor died here in our community. With each passing week the numbers of survivors dwindles. It is now over 60 years since the end of World War II and the Holocaust and the youngest survivors are in their seventies so it is not surprising that we hear of survivors passing away on a frequent basis. Worldwide there are estimated 960,000 survivors still with us, Of those, approximately160,000 live in America and of those 6,000 live in New Jersey and approximately 75 live right here in our community.

I'm writing about this now because the survivor who died was helped, in the last year of his life, by our agency, Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties. With funds from The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, our local Federation and funds we raise locally through our bimah basket program we were able to provide home care services that helped him remain in his own home.

His personal care needs and household chores were taken care of so he and his wife could be together in the security and comfort of their own home. A JFS social worker visited regularly to offer counseling that helped him cope with the frailty of his body and other issues troubling to him and to offer caregiver support to his wife. I'm proud we were able to be there when he needed us. I hope you, as a member of the community and as a supporter of JFS, feel proud too to know when help is needed your JFS is there to offer assistance.

At this time of year as we celebrate another New Year it's important to be reminded that we are a community and we do share a common history and bond. That bond is what makes helping our survivors so important. But helping holocaust survivors is only the beginning of how we provide service to the community. As a non-sectarian non-profit social service agency our services and programs are available to anyone in need in the community. Our mission to help strengthen individual, family and community life based on Jewish values informs our belief that by helping one individual, one family, one segment of the community, we are helping the entire community.

In this new year should you need our help, please call, if you support our mission, make a donation or volunteer and if you want to know more about us please call me and I will be glad to meet with you to share the JFS story.

On behalf of the Board, Staff and Volunteers at JFS I wish you and your family a Happy and Healthy New Year.

JFS Emergency Assistance and the Community Hebrew Free Loan Program Committed to Helping Those in Need

by Jerry Starr, LSW, Executive Director

Living in this part of New Jersey where many of us have a comfortable income and stable home life we might not be aware that others aren't so lucky or blessed. When one thinks about not having enough money for food, rent or other essentials, thoughts of other places come to mind, not the tri-county area. But it is true, there are those among us who struggle financially month to month and others who have emergency needs that can't be met.

A week doesn't go by that we don't get a call or hear about someone in the community who needs immediate financial assistance. This has become more common as the economy has remained depressed and stagnant. While JFS has had an emergency food assistance program for many years, to help clients of the agency, the demands on this program have grown and additional requests are coming in to meet other needs besides just food assistance.

       “Take hold of him that he fall not and come to need” — Maimonides

Although we continue to coordinate our efforts with the county social service system and other non-profit agencies in the area to meet the needs of our most vulnerable community members, it is also important that JFS, representing the Jewish Community, be able to provide emergency assistance directly to those in need.

Recognizing the increasing need in the community for financial assistance, the JFS Board along with the Hebrew Free Loan Program spearheaded a drive to raise funds to reestablish the Jewish Family Service Emergency Assistance Fund. These funds have been set aside to help anyone in the community who needs a one-time grant to address a specific financial problem.

In addition to emergency financial assistance JFS continues to offer other programs and services, such as, Career Counseling, Mental Health Counseling and Senior Support Services and Family Support Services through the Family Mentoring Program that can also help in times of need.

In the past several months these funds has been used to help cover rental expenses for a family bread winner in between jobs and needing assistance to cover a one-time shortfall in income; another situation involved a senior needing to relocate because her rent was more than she could afford and JFS helped to subsidize one month's rent until she could move into a more affordable apartment.

An unemployed community member who was unable to afford medical insurance was assisted by covering the cost of his medication for the month so he could continue his job search and other community members were provided food assistance when their income fell short of meeting their basic needs.

In conjunction with this effort the Community Hebrew Free Loan Program is available to community members who could benefit from a no interest loan to address their financial needs. At present the maximum loan amount is $1,000. To qualify for a Hebrew Free Loan a community member is encouraged to contact JFS to complete an application and to be interviewed. Grants from the JFS Emergency Assistance Fund are also available by contacting JFS.

JFS of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties is committed to serving the needs of the community and provides a continuum of programs and services. Licensed clinical social workers provide individual, couple and family counseling as well as geriatric assessments, supportive counseling and case management services for home bound elderly. The Family Mentor Program recruits, trains and matches volunteers with vulnerable young families or with elderly persons for friendly, supportive, in-home visits; Families with children with special needs are assisted through parent groups and through the Family Mentor Program. Career Counseling helps individuals in many aspects of their job search. Ohr Tikvah-Light of Hope Jewish Healing Services offers presentations, support groups, and individual spiritual counseling to address the health, wellness and healing needs of the community. Individuals having difficulty paying their utility bills can apply for assistance through the NJ Shares program. All information is confidential. Many programs are at no cost, on a sliding fee scale or payable through third party insurance. If you are interested in learning more about JFS programs, please contact us at (908)725-7799.

 

Home Sweet Home — A Reflection of Service

by Sudha Narasimhan, LCSW, Home Sweet Home Program Coordinator

Since July 2010, Home Sweet Home (HSH), a Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren (JFS) program federally funded through the U.S. Administration on Aging, has made important strides in helping older adults living in the Somerville-Bridgewater area remain and thrive in the community through receiving services and other community supports. Some of our successful endeavors include sponsoring a Senior Health Fair and a Resource Fair in the neighborhood to help disseminate information and resources that are important to seniors in the community.

In addition, HSH provides weekly services to the Adult Day Center of Somerset County, the Shimon and Sara Birnbaum Jewish Community Center in Bridgewater, and the Somerville Senior Citizens' Housing Building (SSCH). These services include case management, community linkage, health and wellness related group discussions including mental health issues, individual counseling, and other social activities that promote well being.

In November 2010, Home Sweet Home began offering a new service at the SSCH building that specializes in helping older adults adapt and learn about new media, technology, and navigating the Internet. This service exists because of a special and dedicated AmeriCorps member- Nadine Chandler.

Nadine provides her time and energy through her service and participation in AmeriCorps, a federally funded service program that allows members to provide community service through various projects. “My reasons for wanting to join AmeriCorps were simply to experience the life of being a volunteer while giving back to a special group of people; our seniors”, states Nadine.

Using her expertise with computers and other modern day technology, both simple and complex, Nadine has been able to help many of the tenants at SSCH with various needs, such as ordering prescriptions online, using email and Skype to communicate with far away family and friends, “surfing the net” and even helping one senior learn to use a cell phone for the first time.

With the fast pace of changing technologies and our youth oriented culture it's easy for seniors to feel marginalized. But along comes Nadine who demonstrates it's never too late to learn new things. Her gentle and patient manner encourages her new friends to stick with it until they've master the skill at hand. The connection she makes with her friends at SSCH enables them to connect to the world.

One very special moment for Nadine occurred recently when working with a tenant who is partially blind. Late life blindness had limited this tenant's involvement with previously enjoyed activities and was affecting her outlook on life. Nadine was able to teach this person to use the Internet to communicate with her favorite singing group, a nationally known choir. She was even able to see and hear them live in concert online.

Making the inaccessible, accessible, helped to brighten this senior's life and gave her something to look forward to and enjoy. Nadine's pride in her work shines through; she states that “working with Jewish Family Service and AmeriCorps has added even more to my experience…my time has turned out to be a win/win opportunity that I will share with others for a long time”.

Home Sweet Home is a program that receives funding through the US Administration on Aging, Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, ERS Family Fund, Grotta Fund for Senior Care, Wallenstein Foundation for Geriatric Life Improvement and the Merck Foundation. For more information about JFS and the Home Sweet Home program, contact 908-725-7799, Admin@JewishFamlySvc.org or www.JewishFamilySvc.org.

Full Article Index…


Building Skills Through AmeriCorps and Volunteerism

by Ruth Edelman, LCSW

In the fall of 2010, Phyllis, a mother of two teens, signed up to be an AmeriCorps member through Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties. Thinking that a little supplemental income and a higher education financial incentive to be applied to her own or one of her sons college educations would come in handy, she enrolled and completed the training and orientation program. At her request she was matched with a frail elderly woman with significant health issues.

For Phyllis, this was an opportunity to re-enter the workforce after more than a decade at home raising her children. And this was a way to explore a possible career change when she was ready to return to work full time. Her assignment involved working with the professional staff of JFS, other AmeriCorps members, and community volunteers.

“This has been a year of caring and balance for me as I attend to my family, consider a return to college and assist my community,” Phyllis says. She was assigned a woman who had significantly isolated herself in her own home due to changes in her ability to get around as she used to. She had become lonely and often felt depressed about her situation.

Phyllis began by sharing a common interest—crocheting. Together, they made two baby blankets for great grandchildren. With Phyllis's patience, support, and motivation, she helped this woman access dental care for a much needed root canal, and worked with a family member to set up a system to help her know how to take her medications consistently. They attended a community event together.

“She's even going to go visit her brother in another state now. I can't believe how far she has come. And, how much I have learned in the process. My AmeriCorps term of service taught me that I already have many of the skills I need to work with elderly people: compassion, emotional intelligence, and an interest in affecting change. JFS gave me the opportunity to foster these qualities and hone them into what is now a foundation for future employment, relationships, and continuing education endeavors.”

JFS of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties is currently accepting applications for those interested in AmeriCorps summer positions. Orientation and training are scheduled in December for members and others in the community who wish to volunteer as friendly home visitors to seniors, or become family mentors to vulnerable families in Somerset County. For more information on all of these programs visit our website at www.jewishfamilysvc.org or call 908.725.7799.

Full Article Index…


Caring for Seniors

by Jeanne S. Lankin, LCSW

There are biblical foundations for the Jewish value of caring for the elderly or infirmed. “You shall rise before the aged and show deference for the old” (Leviticus 19:32). The bible attributes living to an old age as a “reward for having observed the commandment of honoring one's parents” (exodus 20:12). The psalmist proclaimed “Do not reject us in old age, do not abandon us when our strength leaves us”. Psalm 71:9. We can see that Judaism has a long history of not only venerating our elderly but that caring for and respecting our elders is a basic tenet of the Jewish faith.

At Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Warren and Hunterdon counties caring for the elderly is one of our most important priorities. We recently have expanded our senior services department significantly to help our older adult's remain in the community with the dignity they deserve. Additionally, we are co-sponsoring a caregiver conference with the Wilf Campus for Senior Living which will be held on May 5, 2011, 7:00 PM at the JCC of Bridgewater. This forum will deal with the psychosocial, spiritual, legal and practical implications of care giving with the goal of empowering and fortifying the caregiver.

Why are the needs of the caregiver so important? The following testimony is from Miriam, a care giver with whom I have worked and learned from for over a decade.

“Since 2001 I have been working at a job for which I did not apply and was not uniquely qualified to perform. I was not told of the limitless hours or given a description of benefits. After acknowledging that the job was mine, I realized I didn't know the job description or the life altering changes I would experience on the job since I was a novice. As a caregiver, the job I didn't want took me on a journey of self awareness, exploration of my sense of self, and learning to be an advocate for my husband. The most important part of my job was to keep my husband alive and comfortable for as long as possible while simultaneously not losing myself in the process”. Miriam was a caregiver from age 70 to 80 which was supposed to be her “golden years”. Instead they were filled with the roller coaster of emotions and challenges that is an integral part of caregiving.

According to the Academy of Geriatric Psychiatrists, one out of every four Americans is a caregiver for aging parents, a spouse or an ill child or grandchild. The Census Bureau in 2000 reported that there were 35 million Americans over the age of 65 and that figure is projected to double by 2030. Many caregivers are so focused on providing help to a loved-one that they ignore themselves, sometimes at their own peril.

Ken was a 52 year old professional who had numerous jobs due to the downsizing effects of the economy. He was also caring for developmentally disabled twins who needed a significant amount of early intervention and ongoing care. Due to the stress of being a caregiver he started to ignore his health. He became morbidly obese, had to undergo two knee replacements due to the stress of carrying around a significant amount of weight. He never went to a doctor for regular checkups or did anything that was life affirming. His life revolved around being a breadwinner and taking care of his family, particularly the two disabled children. A friend once remarked to him that he needed to put his needs on the front burner and he cryptically retorted “my needs are not even on the stove”. Several weeks later he came home from work and had a massive heart attack and died, leaving behind a grieving widow and three small and needy children. This is a dramatic example of the extreme toll care giving can place on an individual and their family when the caregiver is unaware of the necessity of prioritizing their own health and well being.

Are you feeling overwhelmed and down most of the time? Is constant fatigue plaguing you on a daily basis? Have you experienced a change in your weight and sleep patterns? Have you lost interest in your regular activities? These may be signs of caregiver stress. When you experience constant stress it can eventually be harmful to your health. Many caregivers report feeling symptoms of depression or anxiety and do not know where to turn. Often caregivers forgo proper nutrition and exercise which can increase the risk of developing medical problems.

How can a caregiver who is overwhelmed begin to deal with and lower their stress?

  • Find a local support group where you can meet and network with other caregivers and gain insight and help with your situation.
  • Be cognizant of proper nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight which can prevent many diseases.
  • Begin a local exercise program either at home or at a gym.
  • Try to find time to socialize with friends and family which can decrease isolation and help with improving your outlook.
  • Make sure to make your health a priority and follow up on regular medical maintenance.
  • Seek out spiritual sustenance where applicable.
  • Try to incorporate hobbies and other activities that have nothing to do with care giving.
  • Be aware of your mood and thoughts, try journaling regarding your feelings.
  • Seek out the helped of a trained therapist if you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious or depressed.

As a clinical social worker for the last 25 years, I have observed that the single most underreported source of stress for people ranging from their 40's to 80's is caring for a loved one who is no longer able to care for themselves. It is also true that, for some, such caregiving is a tremendous source of blessing. Whether viewed as stress, blessing or both, we as a society must be aware that our caregivers also need care and our concern. The famous Rabbi Hillel who lived in the first century BCE was famous for this statement “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?”

Jewish Family Service and the Wilf Campus for Senior Living invite all caregivers in the community to attend our conference so that you may be strengthened and sustained in the essential role that you play in your loved one's lives.

Full Article Index…


A Match Made In Heaven

by Jeanne S. Lankin, LCSW

In Eastern Europe it was quite common within the Jewish community to have matchmakers or a shadchin who would put two people together for the purpose of marriage. They were usually paired based on family background, levels of observance and other sometimes intangible factors. At Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties, we have a unique spin on matchmaking. Five years ago a Family Mentoring Program, was created to match vulnerable families with volunteers whom we trained. These couples were paired due to the unique challenges of the families and the expertise of our volunteers. In 2008 our Senior Mentoring Program began at JFS, using the same match-making principles with the goal of serving frail, often isolated senior citizens with volunteers who are dedicated to enhancing the lives of an older person.

david hornstein

Gerry Isaacson and David Hornstein

David Hornstein describes himself as a young 86. He is a holocaust survivor who hails from Hungary. He was in hiding from the Nazis from November 1944 to January 1945. He was in a forced labor camp in Budapest. He was shot, beaten and suffered unimaginable indignities. Many family members were murdered during that fateful time. Despite the above, David was able to come to the United States in August 1949, has been married for 55 years, has three children , 9 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild. David has many medical challenges. He walks with a walker, had a recent hip replacement and has had several hospitalizations. He has been living at the Stein Assisted Living in Somerset for the past two years.

Gerry Isaacson is a retired school principal. He currently works as a mentor for new school administrators. These new administrators go through a two year curriculum in order to be adequately prepared for their new careers in education. Gerry worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand from 1965 to 1967 and felt that this was a defining moment in his life, giving him a broader perspective and helping to evolve him into the person he became. He is the father of 4, and grandfather of 4. After several years of retirement from full- time work Gerry wanted to expand his volunteer repertoire. He heard about Jewish Family Service Family/Senior Mentoring program and decided to attend a 9 hour training so that he could be matched with a senior. During the training it became evident to the JFS staff that Mr. Isaacson was an extremely compassionate, intelligent and well-adjusted individual. It didn't take long to realize that he would be an ideal mentor for David.

A JFS social worker facilitated the match as David and Gerry were introduced. There was an immediate connection between the two men, who despite their different life experiences had some personality and character traits in common. Both men have a wonderful sense of humor, are intelligent and worldly, have a positive attitude despite having challenges in their lives, and each tries to make a difference in the lives of others.

david hornstein

David participating at his grandson's wedding via Skype

After several meetings David informed Gerry that his 28 year old grandson who lives in Jerusalem, Israel was getting married. He hoped to fly to Israel for this event. Unfortunately, due to ongoing health problems it became obvious that the trip would be too difficult for David and he was crestfallen. When Gerry found out about this dilemma he immediately suggested to David that they phone his grandson in Jerusalem and speak with the photographer for the wedding. He was able to arrange for a Skye set-up so that David could watch the entire wedding which took place in Talpiot Mizrach in East Jerusalem. Not only was I able to be part of the wedding, I spent an hour talking with 30 people who lined up to speak with me. They were relatives and friends whom I haven't seen for 20 to 40 years. David continued to comment it was like a dream. I wouldn't have believed such a thing could come true. I don't know how to thank Gerry for all he did and continues to do for me. I feel he is more than a volunteer, he's like a brother.

I'm really glad I found out about the Senior Mentoring Program. I've gotten a lot of good feelings doing things with and for my senior. We've become good friends, he's very appreciative. It feels good helping make his life a little brighter. remarked Gerry on his experience thus far as a mentor.

Senior Mentoring gives both the volunteer and the senior an opportunity to form a unique bond with one another, adding a special dimension to their lives. If you are interested in volunteering, or in making a referral, please contact Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties at 1(908)-725-7799.

Full Article Index…


High Holyday Message

by Cantor Lee Coopersmith, D.Min

In just a few days we will be entering the holiest period of the Jewish Year known as the Yamin Noraim, the Days of Awe. During Elul, the month preceding Rosh Hashanah, the Shofar is sounded at the end of each service to remind us that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are approaching and it is time for us to take stock of our lives. The Psalmists said (Ps. 90: 12) “Teach us to number our days that we may obtain a heart of wisdom”. We can learn a great deal by taking the time to look back on what we have done in the past year. We need to see where we fell short of the best that is in us. We need to examine our relationships with those we hold dear. We also need to celebrate the good choices we made and the mitzvot that we performed and try to do even more good works in the future.

One of the most important themes of the High Holydays is the concept of T'shuvah: repentance. T'shuvah is not about punishment but about returning to the right relationship with God, our fellow human beings, and to our inmost selves. Beginning with the two days of Rosh Hashanah we have ten days to prepare ourselves for Yom Kippur the holiest day of the Jewish year. Before the setting of the sun on Kol Nidre eve we ask to be released from vows that we have imposed upon ourselves and were not able to fulfill. The Kol Nidre gives us the opportunity to begin our spiritual lives anew. What a great gift our faith has given us!

We are not forced to carry the “baggage” of guilt and remorse from one year into the next. Immediately after the conclusion of the Kol Nidre chant, the cantor intones: “Forgive, we beseech you, the sins of this people…"(Num. 14; 19) the congregation responds: And God said, “ I have pardoned…as I have promised.” (Num. 14:20) Our belief that God will forgive us our sins and shortcomings is so strong that we feel God's forgiveness from the very first service on Yom Kippur. We do not have to wait until the last service of the day to find release from the burdens of past sins.

Sometimes it can be difficult for us to realize that what ever evil we have done can be pardoned and that we can turn from evil and begin again. It is hard to let go of our past experiences and destructive behaviors. The major stumbling block is not that we sin but the way sin can convince us that we are unworthy of forgiveness. We may be tempted to despair, or to give up on ourselves and our relationship with God. It is in times like this that we may find hope and healing through Spiritual Guidance and Counseling with a clergy person or mental health professional. The spiritual guide can help us to resist the temptation to compare ourselves with others. Although no one can fully experience another's pain a counselor or spiritual guide can listen to the person's struggle with empathy and validate the worth of their experience. In being open to another's story, we can offer hope to those with a burdened heart that they do not have to live with hopelessness and despair.

Ohr Tikvah, the health and healing community and Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Warren and Hunterdon Counties has both spiritual and psychological counselors to aid in this process of forgiveness, hope, and healing. Cantor Lee Coopersmith is the community chaplain at Jewish Family Service and is available to discuss spiritual issues with members of the community who are not affiliated with a synagogue or may be residing in assisted living or long term care settings. These members of our community may feel particularly isolated during the holiday period.

T'shuvah is complete when we return to wholeness and do not repeat our former actions. God calls each of us during the Yamim Noraim to take stock of our life's journey. We need to see where we have traveled and where we intend to go. Our mission is to travel on that journey and to make it a good path. Rabbi Zusya's statement: “In the world to come I shall not be asked: ‘Why were you not more like Moses?’ I shall be asked: ‘Why were you not more like Zuzya?’ ” During the Days of Awe, God asks each of us:“ Why we are not more like our true selves?” God asks us to bring hope and healing to others who need our compassion and support. During the High Holydays we have the opportunity to leave our shortcomings behind us and refresh our souls through prayer, fasting and the blessing of T'shuvah.

May the New Year be a good and sweet year for the household of Israel.
Shanah Tova Tikateivu!

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Job Search and Career Counseling for Recent College Grads

by Elise Prezant, Career Counselor

Congratulations! You successfully graduated from college and have your shiny new degree. You've written every thank you note for your graduation gifts. You are all ready to start working and begin a new chapter in your life. Unfortunately, the economy and job market may not be ready for you.

You are one of the 1.25 million college students graduating this year with a bachelor's degree. 80.3% or 1 million of you, however, did not have a job upon graduation. As part of the “boomerang” generation, 20% of you will be forced to move back home, much to you and probably your parent's dismay.

Is this a reason for concern? Absolutely. Is this a reason to bury your head in the sand for several years until the economy turns around? Definitely not!

College degrees still provide a measure of job security. Even as the national unemployment rate hovers around 10%, unemployment for college-educated workers has remained at a relatively low rate of 4.3%. So, although your timing may not be optimal, you accomplished something very important and your hard work will eventually pay off.

So now what? The reality is that if you want to compete on a level playing field with older, more experienced workers, you need to act like one. In order to be viewed by potential employers as a responsible, mature young adult you need to act, speak, and dress like one—every time you walk out the door.

Jeff, a recent college graduate, came in to meet with the JFS Career Counselor several weeks ago. He was wearing an old t-shirt, baggy jeans and looked like he had just rolled out of bed even though it was 2:00 in the afternoon. Jeff made it known that he had come in at the urging of his mother and initially was not very open to the Career Counselor's feedback. Despite having little practical work experience, Jeff was primarily conducting his job search on-line and could not understand why his resume was not generating much of a response from employers. His frustration at only getting calls regarding jobs he felt were below his ability or education was apparent.

What Jeff did not understand, is that job searching is a multi-level process. It is not just about finding “appropriate” jobs and applying for them. In fact, this is one of the last steps in the process. In almost all instances, most people find their jobs through people they know — not through the internet, certainly not through classified ads. Therefore, the very first step starts the minute you walk out your front door. Every time you are out in public, you have the potential to meet someone who may be in a position to help you. This includes your on-line presence, as well — clean it up. Your appearance and attitude must be positive and portray you as someone worthy of guidance, assistance, and hopefully job leads, or you may be searching for a very long time.

In the fall, JFS is planning on offering a job search program for recent college graduates. To learn more about this program or to meet with the Career Counselor to discuss other steps in conducting an effective job search, contact Elise Prezant, Career Counselor at Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties, 908-725-7799 or eprezant@JewishFamilySvc.org.

JFS of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties is committed to serving the needs of the community and provides a continuum of programs and services. Licensed clinical social workers provide individual, couple and family. Geriatric assessment for counseling and friendly home visits for home bound elderly is available; The Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program recruits, trains and matches volunteers with vulnerable young families, as well as with elderly persons for friendly, supportive, in-home visits; Families with children with special needs are assisted through parent groups and through the Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program. Career Counseling helps individuals in many aspects of their job search. All information is confidential. Many programs are at no cost, on a sliding fee scale as well as through third party insurance. If you are interested in learning more about JFS programs, please contact us at (908)725-7799 or visit our website: www.JewishFamilySvc.org. Jewish Family Service of SHW, Inc. 150-A West High Street, Somerville, NJ 08876.

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Helping People R Us — Providing Support for Life's Challenges One Person, One Family at a Time Since 1980

by Jerry Starr, LCSW, Executive Director

JFS celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and for the past 30 years JFS has been a beacon of hope to those in need. From the earliest inkling of an idea in 1977 when leaders in the community formed a committee to look into the feasibility of starting a Jewish Family Service through today, the mission of JFS has remained the same:

to strengthen the quality of individual, family and community life based on Jewish values…

Looking back at the agency newsletter The Listener, which has been published on and off for most of the life of JFS, it's striking to see how JFS has been responsive to community needs over the years. In 1980 when the agency officially opened its doors its main purpose was to offer mental health counseling services to the Jewish community. With a part time director the agency became know for its professional mental health counseling services. It was meant to be a place where a person in distress could be listened to, accepted and helped.

By the late 80's JFS was not only providing mental health counseling but also helping to resettle Russian Jews fleeing the Soviet Union. There are countless stories of staff and volunteers meeting the new immigrants at the airport and bringing them to their first home in America, right here in the tri county area. And the help didn't stop there. With the help of many community volunteers the new immigrants were found jobs and schools for their children. They were exposed to Jewish Culture for the first time and taught English to help their integration into American life.

As time went on support services for aging Holocaust Survivors were developed to address their special needs and meeting the challenging needs of aging in general became important and the agency developed the capacity to visit seniors in their own home and provide counseling and volunteer visitation to help alleviate the isolation and loneliness felt by many frail seniors. Support Groups and Jewish Family Life Education presentations were offered on a wide range of topics including Aging, Family Relationships, Bereavement, Child Raising Issues and on Mental Health Issues such as Depression and Anxiety.

This brings us to today. We are continuing in the footsteps of those before us and continue to address issues and problems that members of our community confront at various stages of life. Young or old, rich or poor, our skilled staff and trained volunteers help individuals and families meet life's challenges. Whether coping with relationship issues, feelings of depression or anxiety, illness, loss, work related problems, financial problems, or other crises JFS helps provide emotional support and counseling and other tangible assistance to those living and working in our community. We strive to offer high quality services and programs that address very real problems that continue to confront many in our community.

Our community is fortunate that the founders of the agency had the foresight to create Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties. They established a tradition of caring in our community and of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) that has continued for three decades. The strength to do this has come from the leadership provided by each of the president of JFS, the individual and collective will of the volunteer board, past and present and the very able staff and community volunteers, too numerous to mention, who carry the work forward and meet the challenges facing individuals and families living in our community.

Our current services include Mental Health Counseling for individuals and families coping with emotional and psychological distress, Career Counseling for those seeking better employment and financial security, Family Mentoring for those in need of support and companionship, Holocaust Survivor Support Program providing home care and other supports to make life a little more comfortable for those impacted by the Holocaust, Emergency Food Assistance to help those struggling to make ends meet and most recently Ohr Tikvah-Light of Hope Jewish Healing Program for those isolated and alone and in need of spiritual counseling and healing. JFS is all of this and more.

We thank all of you who have been supportive of our mission over these past thirty years and encourage those of you who are just getting to know us, to consider getting involved by donating your time and energies to becoming a JFS volunteer and help us help someone in need.

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Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program Celebrates 5 Years

by Ruth Edelman, LCSW, Program Coordinator

It was the spring of 2005 when Mr. Harvey Rich, a Hillsborough CPA and trustee of the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation first contacted JFS of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties. He had an idea… to bring to Somerset County a model program called Family Mentoring. The idea was simple… and brilliant! Volunteers would be recruited, trained and matched with families who were feeling vulnerable and in need of support, encouragement, and practical strategies to address life's challenges.

“What is especially unique about Mr. Rich's approach” Program Coordinator, Ruth Edelman says “is that it focuses not just on one member of the family but on the family as a whole. It strengthens relationships between and among family members. It teaches family members how to engage with one another and how to have good times together.” Mr. Rich told JFS “I saw the power of what one caring individual could do for another when I was a camp counselor. I witnessed the molding of individuals in more positive ways… and I wanted to bring this concept to the county in which I live and work.”

Harvey Rich made good on his idea, bringing to JFS an initial grant from the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, and continuing that commitment for the next 5 years. But he went further. He was part of the first group of 11 volunteers who took mentor training in the fall of 2005. Two active JFS board members and one former board member also came for that training, along with 7 other men and women who saw our call for volunteers and responded.

Executive Director Jerry Starr recognized the importance of this program to JFS as a whole, and the ability to provide a range of options for people who call for help. “The volunteers bring so much to the program and to the agency. Volunteers are crucial to the program's success. Harvey Rich and the volunteers recruited through the program have done so much to foster JFS's continuing growth.”

Volunteers show caring, compassion, and the willingness to meet the family on the family's turf. When they report back to the agency the kinds of things they have done with their families over the course of the month, we are simply amazed. Outings to the park, cooking together, helping with homework, figuring out how to organize a new apartment after the family had moved, reading together, listening to music, playing a board game with the family, providing practical information for parenting, supporting parents of children with special needs with the challenges they face and so many more!

Mostly, families involved in the program tell us they have gained so much from someone who is there for them, and who can listen to their concerns. Each volunteer makes a commitment to meet with the family with whom they are matched for a year.

We learned how important the skills, talents, and energy level of the volunteer are to the goals the family has — families tell us what they are hoping to gain from the Family Mentor… and mostly, they are eager for an objective listener and partner in facing their life challenges. Volunteers tell us the kind of experience they are seeking, and what they feel would be the best fit for them.

Early on, the parent of a 6 year old autistic child heard about the program, and requested someone to help her go to the park, get ice cream “someone to help me feel life can be normal.” Carrie Fleischer, a psychology graduate student at the time seemed to match the family's needs and possessed a high energy level. She was with her mentor family for over a year and saw them through many crises. She helped them access other services which would continue after her time with them ended. And the family told other families with a child on the Autism Spectrum… and out of this grew additional programs and services such as sibling support group, a social learning group for teens on the autism spectrum, and more volunteers with an interest in working with families like this. “Our mentor has been awesome. All of us in the family look forward to her visits. She is a bright spot in our week.”

But not all of our families have a child with special needs. Others are newly divorced, struggling with a chronic illness, victims of domestic violence, facing financial problems as a result of job loss, striving to be good parents without their own history of good parent role models. Recently, I received a call from a woman we had mentored in the first year of the program. She said “I want to thank you for the Mentor you gave to me. She made such a difference in my life. She pushed me to get a job when I was so down and lacking in confidence. I have had that job for 3 years now, and just got a promotion. I would not be where I am today if I had not had that help when I was down.”

Family members of seniors began to call to see if we could provide a friendly home visitor for companionship and cognitive stimulation for their aging parent living alone hundreds of miles from where they were. And we said “Why not?” With financial support from the Grotta Fund for Senior Care, ERS Family Fund, and the Wallerstein Foundation we added a part time geriatric social worker to the staff of the program. More volunteers came to us, looking to be matched with a frail senior. “This program is too good to be true” commented a 93 year old recently after working with her Family Mentor for several sessions. “No one has ever been this good to me.”

Today, nearly 5 years later, we have impacted over 100 families. We have trained and matched nearly 100 volunteers (some volunteers have taken on a second, even a third family). We will be offering another training series beginning April 19 at JFS. Please call (908) 725-7799 to register or for more information. The JFS Annual Meeting will take place on Wednesday, June 2, 2010.

JFS of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties is committed to serving the needs of the community and provides a continuum of programs and services. Licensed clinical social workers provide individual, couple and family counseling as well as geriatric assessments, supportive counseling and case management services for home bound elderly. The Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program recruits, trains and matches volunteers with vulnerable young families or with elderly persons for friendly, supportive, in-home visits; Families with children with special needs are assisted through parent groups and through the Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program. Career Counseling helps individuals in many aspects of their job search. Ohr Tikvah-Light of Hope Jewish Healing Services offers presentations, support groups, and individual spiritual counseling to address the health, wellness and healing needs of the community. All information is confidential. Many programs are at no cost, on a sliding fee scale or payable through third party insurance. If you are interested in learning more about JFS programs, please contact us at (908)725-7799 or visit our website: www.JewishFamilySvc.org. Jewish Family Service of SHW, Inc. 150-A West High Street, Somerville, NJ 08876.

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Passover: A Time to Share, a Time to Care

by Jerry Starr, LCSW, Executive Director

As we prepare to celebrate Passover later this month and our thoughts are preoccupied with the family traditions and holiday rituals we have grown up with and feel comforted by, our tradition also tells us to look beyond ourselves and help those in need. “Help all who are hungry, eat; all who are in distress, celebrate”, taken from the Passover Haggadah, says it all. This simple line expresses one of the values the founders of JFS believed in when they developed the mission statement of the agency, “to preserve and strengthen the quality of individual, family and community life based on Jewish values”. This year as JFS celebrates 30 years of providing services to the community including mental health counseling, older adult services, career counseling, emergency food assistance, resettlement assistance and other support services we know there are those in our community in extreme need.

A week doesn't go by that we don't get a call or hear about someone in the community who needs immediate assistance. More and more as the economy remains stagnant, the help being requested is for esstentials; food, rent assistance or utility payment assistance, and much more. While we have had an emergency food assistance program for many years the demands on this program are growing and we are receiving other requests beyond food that require an immediate response. We often coordinate our efforts and reach out to the county social service system and other non profit agencies in our area to meet some of these needs but it is also important that JFS be able to provide emergency assistance directly to those utilizing our services. Many of the individuals and families we are working with and providing counseling, mentoring or career assistance to are also in need of concrete assistance to help them stabilize their lives and keep them on a path of independence and self sufficiency.

Toward this end JFS has already partnered with NJ Shares a non profit organization that assists low income and middle income families with overdue utility bills. If you are someone with this need please visit the NJ Shares website, www.njshares.org or call JFS directly to see if you qualify for this valuable program. It is also imperative that we be able to meet the growing need for other financial assistance and we are asking the community to help us expand our ability to provide more than food when someone is in financial distress. At this important time of year when we gather family around and can appreciate all we have, please give thought to those in our midst less fortunate and needing a caring hand. Please donate to the JFS Emergency Assistance Fund. 100% of the funds raised will go directly to assist someone in our community in acute need of financial relief.

JFS of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties is committed to serving the needs of the community and provides a continuum of programs and services. Licensed clinical social workers provide individual, couple and family counseling as well as geriatric assessments, supportive counseling and case management services for home bound elderly. The Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program recruits, trains and matches volunteers with vulnerable young families or with elderly persons for friendly, supportive, in-home visits; Families with children with special needs are assisted through parent groups and through the Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program. Career Counseling helps individuals in many aspects of their job search. Ohr Tikvah-Light of Hope Jewish Healing Services offers presentations, support groups, and individual spiritual counseling to address the health, wellness and healing needs of the community. All information is confidential. Many programs are at no cost, on a sliding fee scale or payable through third party insurance. If you are interested in learning more about JFS programs, please contact us at (908)725-7799. Jewish Family Service of SHW, Inc. 150-A West High Street, Somerville, NJ 08876.

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“To preserve and strengthen the quality of individual, family and community life based on Jewish values…” (JFS Mission Statement)

One person, one family at a time

by Jerry Starr, LCSW, Executive Director

2009 was a busy year for Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties. We touched the lives of over 3,000 individuals and families living and working in the tri-county area. With unemployment over 10% we have had many more people need our services than in the recent past. Our Career Counseling, Emergency Food Assistance, Mental Health Counseling and Family Mentoring Programs have all struggled to keep up with request for service and in most cases have done so because of the dedication of our staff, volunteers and the support we've received from the community.

One situation in particular comes to mind when thinking about the impact JFS can have on a family struggling to maintain itself despite many obstacles. Mr. S. a 75 year old widower and grandfather of several very young children came to JFS because he needed financial assistance. Because of circumstances beyond his control, Mr. S. lost his job and was trying to make ends meet on his social security. He is living with his adult daughter, who is also out of work and her children. For most of the day he is the main caregiver for his grandchildren because his daughter is out looking for work or feeling overwhelmed by their problems and not able to focus on the needs of the children. One of the grandchildren has special needs and requires extra attention and specialized therapies. In addition Mr. S. has several chronic health conditions and his childcare duties stress his physical condition and overall health. He also reported having difficulty sleeping because he is worried about how they will pay their bill.

Mr. S. stated he felt embarrassed to ask for help but he didn't have anyone else to talk to about these problems. As he told his story to the JFS social worker he began to feel a little less burdened, realizing the social worker was listening to him and understanding his situation, not judging him or being critical of him. Before he left JFS he was provided emergency food assistance, made a second appointment and agreed to consider using our Family Mentoring program to support his care giving efforts and agreed to meet with the JFS Career Counselor to discuss job possibilities in this difficult job market. There was also discussion of how JFS could help his daughter with her struggles.

Several months after this first meeting Mr. S. continues to see the social worker on a regular basis for emotional support. He also has a Family Mentor volunteer supporting him and his daughter at home with their childcare issues. They received food assistance around the holidays to ease their financial burdens. Mr. S's problems are far from resolved but he is feeling better off than he did several months ago and continues to feel supported by the community through the efforts of JFS.

If you or someone you know is struggling emotionally due to the economy or for any other reason please give us a call.

JFS of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties is committed to serving the needs of the community and provides a continuum of programs and services. Licensed clinical social workers provide individual, couple and family. Geriatric assessment for counseling and friendly home visits for home bound elderly is available; The Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program recruits, trains and matches volunteers with vulnerable young families, as well as with elderly persons for friendly, supportive, in-home visits; Families with children with special needs are assisted through parent groups and through the Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program. Career Counseling helps individuals in many aspects of their job search. All information is confidential. Many programs are at no cost, on a sliding fee scale as well as through third party insurance. If you are interested in learning more about JFS programs, please contact us at (908)725-7799.

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JFS Second Special Needs Conference to Focus on Autism Spectrum Disorders

Ruth Edelman, LCSW

Once, not so very long ago, I recall being in a store and hearing a child carrying on, and on. Even though I could not see where the noise was coming from, it was still so loud and annoying. My very first thought was, “why doesn't his mother DO something?” I never saw the mother or her child during my time in the store.

Sometime later, I became aware of the daily struggles of parents who have a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), now reported to affect one in 94 children in New Jersey — the highest rate in the country. One of the first families referred to the Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program at our JFS was a mother of a 6 year old with ASD. She wanted a volunteer mentor to go to the grocery store with her, and to the park, and for ice cream. She wanted to feel normal and have her child's experiences seem normal. A college student studying psychology was matched with the family and for over a year they went on outings together. The mother felt relief. She referred others she knew with children with ASD to the program. And so it was that JFS entered into a new area of service delivery — serving families with one, and sometimes two children with ASD.

In 2008, nearly 100 parents and professionals attended a JFS sponsored conference on managing the behaviors of children with ASD, and ADHD, and ADD… a veritable alphabet soup of parents and grandparents and teachers and other professionals struggling to make sense of the social skills and communication disorders that plague their children and affect their family every day, every hour.

ABA, which is the formal and structured use of positive reinforcement strategies to produce behavior change, is the most commonly used method for teaching and managing behavior of children with ASD. It is used to help them develop basic skills like making eye contact and listening, and more complex skills like reading, writing, and even emotion recognition.

On December 13, JFS, through the generous support of PNC Wealth Management, will present Dr. James Ball, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D) who has been working in the private sector field of autism for 20+ years. In a variety of settings, he has provided educational, employment, and residential services to children and adults affected with autism. The conference will take place at the Shimon and Sara Birnbaum JCC from 8:30 AM-2:30 PM.

Ball's keynote “Real Life Strategies for Successful Parenting: Tools for Everyday” will be followed by two workshops led by Dr. Ball and two local experts who will focus separately on Sensory Integration and transitioning the youth with autism from school to adult systems. The conference is sure to appeal to parents and professionals working with children as well as adolescents.

“Having a teenager with a disability brings its own set of concerns and worries”, Donna, the parent of a 16 year old with Asperger Syndrome (a milder form of ASD) shared. “Life is a lot more settled, the shock and grief of finding out your child has a disability is gone, the daily calls from school have ended, the weekly OT/PT/Speech therapy appointments are a thing of the past, but a new kind of reality sets in. Once, my mantra was ‘take one day at a time’. Just because we had one bad day didn't mean the next day would be bad — and often times it wasn't. And, somehow, despite all the rough patches, my son matured, became very aware of his clothes and appearance, joined the school band, talks about going to college and has career goals.”

This all seems wonderful and the progress he has made since he was a child is phenomenal. So, why am I still upset, why isn't this enough? Here's why.

Tim seems to hold his own in school and sits with a group of pretty popular kids at lunch. It has, however, been years since he has been invited to a party, been asked to go to the movies or called to hang out with friends on the weekend. Weekends and vacations are tough and nights like Halloween and New Year's Eve are heartbreaking. Tim makes plans in school, calls and texts friends and no one ever calls him back. Ever. His younger brother is always busy with after school activities, parties and friends. Tim, on the other hand, only goes to the mall, movies or restaurants with us, his parents. “When he was younger, I would arrange play dates, but now, it's no longer age-appropriate for mom and dad to be doing this and the teenager in Tim makes it hard for him to accept any suggestions we offer.”

To register for the conference, visit www.jewishfamsvc.org. There is a $20 registration fee with breakfast and light lunch provided. Scholarships are available.

JFS of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties is committed to serving the needs of the community and provides a continuum of programs and services. Licensed clinical social workers provide individual, couple and family. Geriatric assessment for counseling and friendly home visits for home bound elderly is available; The Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program recruits, trains and matches volunteers with vulnerable young families, as well as with elderly persons for friendly, supportive, in-home visits; Families with children with special needs are assisted through parent groups and through the Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program. Career Counseling helps individuals in many aspects of their job search. All information is confidential. Many programs are at no cost, on a sliding fee scale as well as through third party insurance. If you are interested in learning more about JFS programs, please contact us at (908)725-7799 or visit our website: www.JewishFamilySvc.org. Jewish Family Service of SHW, Inc. 150-A West High Street, Somerville, NJ 08876

Ruth Edelman is the Coordinator of Community Based Support Services for JFS.

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Reflections on Gratitude

Jeanne S. Lankin, LCSW, ACSW

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As I write this article I'm already looking forward to Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. Although there are many holidays in the Jewish calendar, this uniquely American holiday has always played an important role in our family's special times. My parents, as refugees from Nazi Germany, viewed this day as an opportunity to express gratitude for their freedom and safety in America. Although many others take for granted the privilege of living in America, our family has never forgotten the safe haven offered to us starting in 1938 and the blessings that we have received since that fateful year.

In the spirit of gratitude, we developed a tradition at the Thanksgiving dinner to go around the table of family and friends and reflect on what we are grateful for this year. Even if we face difficult challenges in a particular year, it always feels right to acknowledge the challenges while simultaneously appreciating the good in our lives.

As a therapist who specializes in working with senior citizens, I listen to the daily burdens that accompany aging. I have learned many profound truths about life from my clients. One powerful truth that I have learned is that people who live with a sense of gratitude are happier and are better adjusted. Living with gratitude seems to provide a unique perspective when facing the aging process.

I recall with much fondness the example of Dottie. When I met her many years ago, she was 91 and living in an assisted living facility. Her husband had died 25 years earlier and her only son had died ten years after her husband. Her daughter in-law had remarried but remained loyal to Dottie. When I first met Dottie, she had difficulty walking, hearing and seeing but her mind was sharp and her speech lucid. She would frequently win Scrabble games against most of her opponents. She was a sweet, appreciative and sensitive individual who was adored by the staff in the facility, her caregivers and extended family.

Despite all her losses, Dottie was able to see the good in her life and openly expressed appreciation for the daily kindnesses that were extended to her. As a result of that attitude, people wanted to be around her. There was a positive energy that resonated from her and even though she would have every right to be bitter and angry about the pain she faced in her life, she chose to express her thanks for her blessings, for the opportunity to love and care for others and the privilege of another day.

For those clients whose attitude is not as positive as Dottie's, I try to help them reframe their view of their lives. My goal is to help these seniors look at their problems in a different light as an important step in healthy living.

I am pleased to be working on a wonderful project at Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties. The Senior Family Mentoring program has as its goal to identify frail and isolated senior citizens and connect them with volunteers in the community. One of our objectives is to help these seniors look at their lives differently in order to combat feelings of loneliness, isolation, and depression. This program gives these seniors a sense of hope and weekly social contact with a well-trained volunteer. Both the lives of the seniors and the volunteers are enhanced by this ongoing contact and both are grateful for the presence of each other in their lives.

When I observe Thanksgiving this year, I'll be thinking of Dottie and the way she viewed her life when I reflect upon my own. As your family and friends gather together for your Thanksgiving dinner, I encourage you to help them think beyond the difficult challenges of life and to express appreciation for their loved ones and the blessings they have been given this year.

JFS of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties invites the entire community to two upcoming community events:

JFS and Jewish LIFE present Family Meals: Coming Together to Care for an Aging Parent by Michael Tucker & Jill Eikenberry on December 3, 2009. A Sponsor wine and cheese reception begins at 6:30 p.m., the lecture begins at 7:00 followed by a book signing.

The 2nd Annual JFS Parents Educational Series will be held on December 13, 2009. James Ball, PhD, board certified behavior analyst, author and international speaker presents “Real Life Strategies for Successful Parenting: Tools for Everyday”. The program will be held at the Shimon and Sara Birnbaum JCC from 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m and includes break-out sessions and a light lunch.

JFS is committed to serving the needs of the community and provides a continuum of programs and services. Licensed clinical social workers provide individual, couple and family. Geriatric assessment for counseling and friendly home visits for home bound elderly is available; The Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program recruits, trains and matches volunteers with vulnerable young families, as well as with elderly persons for friendly, supportive, in-home visits; Families with children with special needs are assisted through parent groups and through the Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program. Career Counseling helps individuals in many aspects of their job search. All information is confidential. Many programs are at no cost, on a sliding fee scale as well as through third party insurance. If you are interested in learning more about JFS programs, please contact us at (908) 725-7799. Jewish Family Service of SHW, Inc. 150-A West High Street, Somerville, NJ 08876.

Jeanne S. Lankin is a licensed clinical social worker at Jewish Family Service.

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JFS – Providing Support for Life’s Challenges

by Jerry Starr, LCSW, Executive Director

While thinking about all of the different topics I could write about for this column I thought back to a recent conversation I had with an acquaintance. We were talking about our careers and when I mentioned I was working at Jewish Family Service he asked, “Is that for poor people, I think I remember you resettling Russians or something. Is that right?” “Well sort of”, I responded. “I like to tell people we’re there when you need us.” When Russian Jews and others were immigrating to this country the need was to help resettle them so they could establish new lives here. When people are without food and struggling financially in the community we try to provide food assistance whenever possible, but we do much more than that. To give you a better idea about what we do I can tell you about some of the requests for help we’ve received in just the last couple of weeks:

  • A mother called to request counseling for her teen daughter because she was fighting in school and is in jeopardy of being suspended.
  • A middle aged man called because he just lost his job, he’d never been let go before and he didn’t know what to do.
  • An adult son with his own family and job responsibilities called because his elderly mother was having difficulty caring for herself and refusing help of any kind.
  • A married woman called because she and her husband were arguing all the time about all sorts of things and she was hoping marriage counseling could help them.
  • A local probation officer called to request diversity training for a young man caught making anti-Semitic threats to an old girlfriend.
  • A parent of a special needs school aged child called frustrated from the stress of parenting.
  • Another young man called feeling depressed after the break-up of an important relationship.

This is just a sampling of the requests we receive for help. We were able to respond to all of these requests and offer assistance. Those struggling with behavior problems like the teen girl mentioned above or those coping with relationship/marital issues or problems of depression and anxiety were offered counseling by our licensed clinical social workers. Those with work related/job issues were referred to our Career Services Program and our Job Seekers Support Group The parent frustrated and worn out by the stress of parenting was offered assistance from our Family Mentoring program. The older adult referred by her son but afraid to accept help was seen at home by one of our social workers and offered supportive counseling with the goal being to help her work through her fears so she can get the help she needs and her son was told about our Caregivers Support Group to help him cope with his caregiver responsibilities. The young man referred for diversity training was offered individual sessions to help him become more tolerant.

“I had no idea you helped people in so many different ways,” my acquaintance responded.

“We do even more but that’s for another discussion. When you think about JFS, just remember, JFS – Providing for Life’s Challenges

The community is cordially invited to JFS’ Annual Meeting on Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 7 PM at the Shimon and Sara Birnbaum Jewish Community Center, Bridgewater. Please call JFS at 908.725.7799 for more information or to register.

JFS of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties is committed to serving the needs of the community and provides a continuum of programs and services. Licensed clinical social workers provide individual, couple and family. Geriatric assessment for counseling and friendly home visits for home bound elderly is available; The Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program recruits, trains and matches volunteers with vulnerable young families, as well as with elderly persons for friendly, supportive, in-home visits; Families with children with special needs are assisted through parent groups and through the Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program. Career Counseling helps individuals in many aspects of their job search. All information is confidential. Many programs are at no cost, on a sliding fee scale as well as through third party insurance. If you are interested in learning more about JFS programs, please contact us at 908.725.7799. Jewish Family Service of SHW, Inc. 150-A West High Street, Somerville, NJ 08876.

Full Article Index…


The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

by Jerry Starr, LCSW, Executive Director

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” a quote from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens describes a much different time and place than our own, but aptly fits what we are experiencing as our society faces a severe financial crisis with rippling effects in our own community. The worst of times we understand and see everyday. We all, by this time, know of someone out of work, or someone struggling financially due to the downturn in the economy. Millions of jobs lost nationwide and some of them, to be sure, in our own Tri County area. We’ve seen a four fold increase in requests for our Career Services which are geared to helping underemployed and unemployed individuals living in our community. We also have experienced an increase in individuals requesting mental health counseling but have little or no income to cover the cost of the service. Here are several examples of people in the community we’ve helped recently:

  • A husband and father in his 50’s contact us for help because after 30 years of being successful in his field he’s out of work, with mounting bills and few prospects. In addition, his wife was laid off recently making their situation even more desperate. His anxiety about the future and his feelings of depression about the present are well founded. We’ve responded by helping him update his resume and organize his job search and encouraged him to attend our monthly Job Seekers Support Group. We’re also providing mental health counseling to address his anxiety and depression and providing emergency food assistance from our Kosher Food Assistance Program.
  • A young man in his 30’s was laid off and is waiting for unemployment benefits but in the meantime has no money at the present to cover his expenses. His family is trying to help him financially but he’s feeling overwhelmed and depressed and doesn’t know where to start to look for another job. He agreed to see one of the social workers because of his depression and the Career Counselor for Job Search and Networking assistance. He too was provided emergency food assistance.
  • A woman in her late sixties came to the office without an appointment and in distress. She is retired and caring for her husband who is disabled. They were planning on live on their retirement savings and social security but after some bad investments their savings are almost gone and they are finding it difficult to live on social security alone. She also was finding it difficult to be the sole caregiver for her husband. In addition she was having difficulty sleeping at night and she was very worried about the future. After some discussion she began to accept the fact that there were no easy solutions and that the problems she was describing had taken time to worsen and would take time to get better. She agreed to come back to talk with a therapist about her situation. She left the office feeling less in distress and knowing there was hope for tomorrow.

These are just a few examples of the people in our community who need our help now.

Which brings us to “the best of times”. How can this be the best of times? It is the best of times for those of us lucky enough to be in a position to help those in need. Supporting agencies like JFS is more important now than any other time in our recent history. With the increase in our Career Services Program and the additional mental health counseling requests, as well as the demand on our Kosher Food Assistance Program your help today has an immediate impact on the lives of our friends in the community who are counting on us. It is the best of times when you can help put someone back on his feet. When it gives hope to a family they will make it through this crisis. It is the best of times when individuals come together as a community to help those less fortunate and make sure we have the resources to help friends and neighbors back to self sufficiency.

JFS of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties is committed to serving the needs of the community and provides a continuum of programs and services. Licensed clinical social workers provide individual, couple and family. Geriatric assessment for counseling and friendly home visits for home bound elderly is available; The Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program recruits, trains and matches volunteers with vulnerable young families, as well as with elderly persons for friendly, supportive, in-home visits; Families with children with special needs are assisted through parent groups and through the Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program. Career Counseling helps individuals in many aspects of their job search. All information is confidential. Many programs are at no cost, or on a sliding fee scale as well as through third party insurance. If you are interested in participating in our current “Friends” campaign, or in learning more about JFS programs, please contact us at 908.725.7799. On-line donations are now accepted through our website.

Thank you for supporting us in our efforts. We wish you and your family a happy and healthy Passover.

Full Article Index…


Jewish Family Service — Now More Than Ever

by Jerry Starr, LCSW, Executive Director

There is never a shortage of problems to solve even during more prosperous times but during times like this when so many are hurting financially it is even more important that JFS be there to assist those most in need and hardest hit by the downturn in the economy; the elderly, the unemployed, the overwhelmed individuals and families with little or no resources of their own to fall back on.

Since the beginning of the year we have experienced a four fold increase in demand for our Career Counseling Services and we’ve had to double the amount of Job Seekers Support Groups we run each month to accommodate the growing need. Referrals to our Mental Health Counseling Program remain constant as many people are increasingly stressed by the economy in addition to their other problems. No one is turned away although more and more clients lack the insurance and income to cover the full cost of counseling. Our geriatric social worker has increased her home visits to frail isolated seniors and has been linking them to needed community resources.

In the midst of this economic downturn we initiated and successfully held our first annual Parent Support Conference where we had nearly 100 people learn more about managing the behavior of children with special needs. As a result of this conference we are now in the process of organizing support programs for special needs children, their parents their siblings.

All of these services and activities cost money and in this economy funding is difficult.

That’s why it has been heartening to experience the generosity of many in the community. A teen in the community donated a percentage of his Bar Mitzvah money to the Family Mentoring program. Another has volunteered her time to organize other teens to spend time with children with special needs and a local women’s organization made a contribution that helped us to maintain our Emergency Kosher Food Assistance Program when we were running low. Others in the community donated unused gift cards from various retailers including local supermarket that we were able to distribute to those in need.

For all of you who have helped us in one way or another in the recent past, we thank you. For those of you who haven’t yet taken the plunge we invite you to support our upcoming Spring Fling Fundraising Dance, make a donation, send us your unused gift cards or call us with your ideas of how you want to get involved. All are welcome. It Takes a Community.

JFS of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties is committed to serving the needs of the community and provides a continuum of programs and services. Licensed clinical social workers provide individual, couple and family. Geriatric assessment for counseling and friendly home visits for home bound elderly is available; The Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program recruits, trains and matches volunteers with vulnerable young families, as well as with elderly persons for friendly, supportive, in-home visits; Families with children with special needs are assisted through parent groups and through the Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program. Career Counseling helps individuals in many aspects of their job search. All information is confidential. Many programs are at no cost, on a sliding fee scale as well as through third party insurance. If you are interested in learning more about JFS programs, please contact us at 908.725.7799. Jewish Family Service of SHW, Inc. 150-A West High Street, Somerville, NJ 08876.

Full Article Index…


Surviving a Job Loss

by Jerry Starr, LCSW, Executive Director

Recently a friend told me he had lost his job. Out of the blue he was called into his boss's office and told he was being let go that day. No notice, no severance, no thanks. He's a professional with over twenty five years of experience and has never been out of work before. In the past any job changes he made were at his initiative to advance his career.

This was a new and sudden change in his life and in the life of his family. The reason he was telling me this, he said, was because he knew he needed to get the word out to network so he could find another job soon. His monthly bills and expenses didn't care about the economy or about his lack of severance or lack of notice. He was anxious to find the next job. He was trying to be practical and do what was needed; get back to work and support his family.

But the look on his face told another story. He looked in shock. His face said that his world was spinning out of control. He looked ashamed, as if he had done something to deserve being fired (laid off is too benign a term for how he experienced being let go).

He was doing what he could to maintain some control in his life; he was looking for another job. But that would take some time and it would take time to adjust to this new situation, one where he no longer could be reasonably certain that if he worked hard and put in an honest days work for an honest dollar he would succeed. In other words, his confidence was shaken.

As the new year begins we've all heard of a friend or relative or neighbor laid off and out of work because of the downturn in the economy. It's affecting people who never would have contemplated being out of work for any reason. And none of us is immune from wondering if we will be next. Add in the 24x7 news coverage of the economy and we're all at risk for being traumatized by what's happening around us.

Losing your job can be a major life trauma. It can call into question your self worth, your self confidence and social status in addition to the financial concerns of keeping a roof over your head, food on the table, sending you kids to college, putting something away for retirement and all the rest of it. The symptoms of trauma include feelings of being overwhelmed, alone and isolated. Sleep disturbance is common. Feeling moody and irritable and losing interest in everyday activities can occur. Concentration can be affected. There might be feelings to do harm to oneself and feelings of vulnerability. There can be an inner psychological sense of fragmentation, hopelessness as well as shame and guilt. These feelings can lead to problems in relationships, between a couple, parent and child and those trying to help. It can also lead to domestic violence and problems with drug or alcohol abuse and other types of abuses.

What's needed is to make sense of what's happening and gain some feeling of control in the situation. Also to feel connected to others and to feel cared for and have hope in the future in order to regain a sense of equilibrium.

To address these concerns JFS offers a variety of services to help those affected by job loss. We have a monthly Job Seekers Support Group where people come together to share experiences and to listen to speakers on a wide range of topics related to finding employment. Our Career Services Program also includes Resume Prep, Individual Career Counseling and Job Search and Networking Assistance. In addition to Career Counseling, we offer Mental Health Counseling to aide in adjusting to the trauma of job lose and coping with the ongoing affects brought about when faced with a major life challenge. We're in the process of starting a Community Job Bank. If you are in a position to offer someone a job, please contact our Job Bank Coordinator, Elise Preszant at EPrezant@jewishfamilysvc.org or 908.725.7799. If on the other hand you or someone you know is in need of our services please contact us so we can help.

PS — About my friend who lost his job, there is good news to report. With the support of his family and good friends and some professional counseling he is now juggling a few part time positions and consulting in his field while he interviews for a full time position. Not exactly a happy ending, but he's back on his feet, earning a living and feeling better about himself and feeling more ready to meet life's challenges.

JFS of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties is committed to serving the needs of the community and provides a continuum of programs and services. Licensed clinical social workers provide individual, couple and family. Geriatric assessment for counseling and friendly home visits for home bound elderly is available; The Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program recruits, trains and matches volunteers with vulnerable young families, as well as with elderly persons for friendly, supportive, in-home visits; Families with children with special needs are assisted through parent groups and through the Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program. Career Counseling helps individuals in many aspects of their job search. All information is confidential. Many programs are at no cost, on a sliding fee scale as well as through third party insurance. If you are interested in learning more about JFS programs, please contact us at 908.725.7799. Jewish Family Service of SHW, Inc. 150-A West High Street, Somerville, NJ 08876.

Full Article Index…


Reflections on Gratitude

by Jeanne S. Lankin, LCSW, ACSW

As I write this article I’m already looking forward to Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. Although there are many holidays in the Jewish calendar, this uniquely American holiday has always played an important role in our family’s special times. My parents, as refugees from Nazi Germany, viewed this day as an opportunity to express gratitude for their freedom and safety in America. Although many others take for granted the privilege of living in America, our family has never forgotten the safe haven offered to us starting in 1938 and the blessings that we have received since that fateful year.

In the spirit of gratitude, we developed a tradition at the Thanksgiving dinner to go around the table of family and friends and reflect on what we are grateful for this year. Even if we face difficult challenges in a particular year, it always feels right to acknowledge the challenges while simultaneously appreciating the good in our lives.

As a therapist who specializes in working with senior citizens, I listen to the daily burdens that accompany aging. I have learned many profound truths about life from my clients. One powerful truth that I have learned is that people who live with a sense of gratitude are happier and are better adjusted. Living with gratitude seems to provide a unique perspective when facing the aging process.

I recall with much fondness the example of Dottie. When I met her many years ago, she was 91 and living in an assisted living facility. Her husband had died 25 years earlier and her only son had died ten years after her husband. Her daughter in-law had remarried but remained loyal to Dottie. When I first met Dottie, she had difficulty walking, hearing and seeing but her mind was sharp and her speech lucid. She would frequently win Scrabble games against most of her opponents. She was a sweet, appreciative and sensitive individual who was adored by the staff in the facility, her caregivers and extended family.

Despite all her losses, Dottie was able to see the good in her life and openly expressed appreciation for the daily kindnesses that were extended to her. As a result of that attitude, people wanted to be around her. There was a positive energy that resonated from her and even though she would have every right to be bitter and angry about the pain she faced in her life, she chose to express her thanks for her blessings, for the opportunity to love and care for others and the privilege of another day.

For those clients whose attitude is not as positive as Dottie’s, I try to help them reframe their view of their lives. My goal is to help these seniors look at their problems in a different light as an important step in healthy living.

Presently, I am pleased to be working on a new project at Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties. The new Senior Family Mentoring program has as its goal to identify frail and isolated senior citizens and connect them with volunteers in the community. One of our objectives is to help these seniors look at their lives differently in order to combat feelings of loneliness, isolation, and depression. This program gives these seniors a sense of hope and weekly social contact with a well-trained volunteer. Both the lives of the seniors and the volunteers are enhanced by this ongoing contact and both are grateful for the presence of each other in their lives.

When I observe Thanksgiving this year, I’ll be thinking of Dottie and the way she viewed her life when I reflect upon my own. As your family and friends gather together for your Thanksgiving dinner, I encourage you to help them think beyond the difficult challenges of life and to express appreciation for their loved ones and the blessings they have been given this year.

JFS is committed to serving the needs of the community and provides a continuum of programs and services. Licensed clinical social workers provide individual, couple and family. Geriatric assessment for counseling and friendly home visits for home bound elderly is available; The Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program recruits, trains and matches volunteers with vulnerable young families, as well as with elderly persons for friendly, supportive, in-home visits; Families with children with special needs are assisted through parent groups and through the Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program. Career Counseling helps individuals in many aspects of their job search. All information is confidential. Many programs are at no cost, on a sliding fee scale as well as through third party insurance. If you are interested in learning more about JFS programs, please contact us at 908.725.7799. Jewish Family Service of SHW, Inc. 150-A West High Street, Somerville, NJ 08876.

Jeanne S. Lankin is a licensed clinical social worker at Jewish Family Service.

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Survival Skills And Tools For Troubled Times

by Beatrix Schwartz, LCSW, D.Div, Clinical Director of JFS

The times — they are overwhelming, to paraphrase Bob Dylan. In the past, whenever there was a major shift that impacted our way of life such as the Agricultural Revolution or the Industrial Revolution, society has responded by exhibiting symptoms of stress…due to our “impotent rage against change.” But in the past, there were considerable time lapses between innovations and we had time to adjust to new technology and new ways of doing things. This Electronic Revolution is offering no such time lapses. The speed at which things are accelerating, the speed at which changes are happening can feel beyond human capacity to absorb and tolerate. The toll of constant stress and strain caused by the fast paced changes swirling around us can be felt by mind and body.

In the past, therapy was mostly about a search for meaning. It was about learning ways to get the optimum out of life, to look for The Purpose. Of course, there were also always troubled persons who came seeking help because of depression, anxiety, confusion and difficulty living their lives.

At Jewish Family Service we see the effects of these stresses in our society first hand. People are coming to us in more crisis than ever before and often feeling at the breaking point. We see parents unable to manage the anger of their teenager…a father with a wife and three children about to lose his job…a family that’s about to have their home repossessed…the overwhelming demands on adult children trying to respond to the needs of their aging parents while attempting to be there for their children…family members who are impacted by loved ones using alcohol and drugs…the devastation, emotional and financial, of catastrophic illness on the family…and more recently, the post traumatic stress of returning military men and women.

To address these problems we as therapists offer a listening ear, empathy and caring hearts. We offer a safe place to discuss these problems and work them out. Besides what we as therapists offer there are other tools and survival skills that can be learned to care for oneself.

Breathing sounds so simple yet many of us have forgotten how to breathe. Breath is life. There is something called Pranic Healing that is being taught widely, along with Qigong. These breathing techniques can be extremely useful for people struggling with panic or anxiety attacks.

Meditation is for those willing to take a few minutes or so a day, for sitting quietly and allowing the mind to go into a state called Alpha, a state of peace. It is very easy to do and everyone can do it with little effort, just time. And, meditation really helps to keep the mind and body sharp and relaxed.

Yoga is wonderful for body, mind, and spirit. Among many other things it teaches us to live less competitively, especially less competitively with ourselves.

Massage. Many of us are touch deprived, especially the elderly. Massage is good safe touch, touch without requiring anything of us. A good massage helps our bodies to relax.

Guided Imagery. A tool now used by many in the athletic field. It’s a way to imagine success, to literally visualized oneself accomplishing that which one wishes to accomplish, visualizing it in every detail. This technique is often useful in flushing out the negative chatter that plagues many of us without our awareness.

Finding time to hear, observe, smell, walk and play in nature can be another one of our tools to help us de-stress and feel less anxious and troubled by the constant noise of modern life. For those who are spiritually inclined, asking questions, searching for answers, allowing oneself to be awed, and always staying awake and open…or as Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life: One is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle”. Life is much better lived the way of the latter. We at Jewish Family Service are committed to making this a better and easier world to live in for all who walk through our doors.

JFS of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties is committed to serving the needs of the community and provides a continuum of programs and services. Licensed clinical social workers provide individual, couple and family. Geriatric assessment for counseling and friendly home visits for home bound elderly is available; The Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program recruits, trains and matches volunteers with vulnerable young families, as well as with elderly persons for friendly, supportive, in-home visits; Families with children with special needs are assisted through parent groups and through the Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program. Career Counseling helps individuals in many aspects of their job search. All information is confidential. Many programs are at no cost, on a sliding fee scale as well as through third party insurance. If you are interested in learning more about JFS programs, please contact us at 908.725.7799 Jewish Family Service of SHW, Inc. 150-A West High Street, Somerville, NJ 08876.

Full Article Index…


Problems Do Not Take a Holiday

by Jerry Starr, LCSW, Executive Director

As summer recedes and we approach the High Holidays, our thoughts and feelings run in many different directions at once. This can be a time to reflect on family and friends, a time to remember those we have lost as well a time to consider our hopes and aspirations for the future, for those we love and for ourselves. It is also a time of belonging; feeling part of something bigger than ourselves and knowing we are cared about by those closest to us.

However, not everyone feels that way. For those in our community who are feeling isolated due to physical, emotional or financial difficulties, this can be an especially lonely time. The following sample of calls received recently at JFS reflects some of the struggles experienced by those most in need in our community.

A single woman called because she lost her job and did not know what to do. She had no family to turn to for help and support. She was starting to feel depressed and reached out to JFS for help.

A daughter called worried about her father. The father could not manage by himself since the death of his wife, a year earlier. After many crises, the father finally agreed to move to New Jersey to be closer to family. However, after six months, he was not eating or sleeping well and he was not leaving his home. He was becoming isolated from those who cared about him. A JFS Social Worker, specializing in working with older adults, made contact with the father and he is allowing her to visit him to talk about his situation.

Parents called because they were worried about their teenage son. He has not left his room since being suspended from school at the end of the academic year. He was caught fighting with other kids and in general was having a difficult time getting along with others. The parents thought their son would get over it by himself and get involved in meaningful activities during the summer. However, this has not happened and now they realize he needs to control his aggressive behavior and they need help to learn how to parent him. An appointment with a Licensed Clinical Social Worker was arranged for both the son and parents.

As you can see from these vignettes, problems do not take a holiday. If you or someone you know is in need of help, JFS and our caring professionals will be there for you.

JFS of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties is committed to serving the needs of the community and provides a continuum of programs and services. Licensed clinical social workers provide individual, couple and family counseling. Geriatric assessments for counseling and friendly home visits for home bound elderly are also available. The Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program recruits, trains and matches volunteers with vulnerable young families, as well as with elderly persons for friendly, supportive, in-home visits. Families with children with special needs are assisted through parent groups and through the Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program. Career Counseling helps individuals in many aspects of their job search. All information is confidential. Many programs are at no cost, on a sliding fee scale or paid through third party insurance. If you are interested in learning more about JFS programs, please contact us at 908.725.7799 Jewish Family Service of SHW, Inc. 150 West High Street, Somerville, N.J. 08876.

Full Article Index…


Becoming “Elder” not “Older”

by Ruth Edelman, LCSW, Jewish Family Services Program Coordinator

L’Chaim!

Quantity of years does not equal quality of years. How fortunate for those who have lived to and beyond life expectancy who can continue to have meaning in their daily lives. Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi teaches that “‘elders’ go through a process of constant and deliberate growth” and can live more fully than those who age and simply become older.

Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties, in partnership with Ohr Tikvah Jewish Healing Center, the Grotta Foundation and the ERS Family Fund, is launching a new program — L’Chaim: Nourishing the Mind and Soul of the Elderly — to help our senior citizens become ELDERS and live a life of meaning, blessed with connections to other Jews. And we need your help!

L’Chaim: Nourishing the Mind and Soul of the Elderly is recruiting volunteers – of any age – who are willing to participate in 10 hours of orientation and training to become friendly home visitors to isolated older persons, and/or to conduct a Shabbat service for a small group of older persons living in a group setting. You need not be fluent in Hebrew, and you need not have ever led a service before. We will teach you! We will give you materials and the information and support to perform this mitzvah weekly, or monthly, as your time and your passion dictate. Adults of any age, and high school age youth with a parent are welcome to join us. We do request a one-year commitment to the program once you have taken an assignment.

Imagine what a difference you can make in the life of an older person living in an assisted living or nursing home, isolated from others who are Jewish. JFS also receives calls from adult children who live hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles away, asking if someone could visit with their mother or father living alone in Somerset or Hunterdon counties.

I once paid a visit to a Catholic nursing home to spend time with a 95-year old Jewish woman with dementia. When I introduced myself and told her I was from JFS, she said, “I am the only one here who is Jewish.” She knew this much, though little else about her conversatn was as clear. “Now there are two of us,” I said, as I brought a small challah and listened as she talked about Israel and its independence as though it were just happening. In some instances, as in this case, care providers and adult children never realized that “being Jewish” means so much to the older person.

Rather than turn our backs on those who are plagued by alienation, loneliness, and a sense of social uselessness, and accept age-related stereotypes that the elderly choose to withdraw from active participation in the world, or pursue innocuous hobbies and only want to reminisce about the past, JFS and our partners believe that we can nourish the minds and souls of the elderly in our midst and help them discover what it means to be an elder.

Training for volunteers participating in L’Chaim: Nourishing the Mind and Soul of the Elderly is scheduled for September 16th and September 23rd, and will be held from 4:00 to 7:00 PM at JFS 150-A West High Street, Somerville. Please contact Ruth Edelman, Elise Prezant, or Jerry Starr at 908.725.7799 to register. Should you wish to make a referral, we would also like to hear from you. L’Chaim.

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You've Come To The Right Place

by Jerry Starr, LCSW, Executive Director

I knew this was the right place for me when in the interview, I heard several of the board members say “we don't turn anyone away, we have a history of trying to help everyone who comes to our door seeking assistance”. I heard it again from the outgoing Executive Director too; “we try to help everyone in some way”. I felt comfortable knowing I was joining an agency that shared my values, and was the reason I chose to go into social work to begin with. As the incoming Executive Director of the Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties (JFS of SHW) whose mission is to preserve and strengthen individual, family and community life in accordance with Jewish values and precepts, I could not find a more perfect fit between the mission of JFS of SHW and my feelings about helping others. I consider myself very lucky to have this opportunity to be part of this caring, service oriented organization.

I grew up in New Jersey in the 50s and 60s and was part of a generation that wanted to make a difference in the world. Since receiving my MSW twenty five years ago from Yeshiva University's Wurzweiler School of Social Work, I've been associated with Jewish Family Service agencies in New Jersey in a variety of capacities, and I most recently worked with veterans of our Armed Forces at the Veterans Administration New York Harbor Healthcare System, helping blind veterans adjust to living independently and improving the quality of their lives.

My first professional experience was in a Jewish Family Service, making home visits to Jewish elderly living in public housing in Newark, and providing them with emotional support and a connection to the community. From there my experience expanded to include counseling individuals and families of all ages, social work consultation in Jewish school settings, working to coordinate community programs for individuals with Developmental Disabilities and their families, administering and managing a comprehensive array of social services for frail seniors and developing programs for Holocaust survivors. For me, all of this work revolves around the core mission at the heart of this agency; to put Jewish values to work and to be there when an individual, family or community needs us.

As many of you know, my predecessor, Tova Friedman, and those before her, guided this agency in providing help and care to those in need and helped to establish JFS of SHW as a leading agency in the community. I look forward to following in their footsteps and help JFS of SHW to continue to grow and continue the tradition of being a source of support and strength to those in need.

Jerry Starr, LCSW
Executive Director

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Structured Separation Therapy

by Tova Friedman, LCSW, Former Executive Director

Many marital counselors use Structured Marital Separation as a marital treatment method. It can either prevent unnecessary divorces or smooth over an otherwise painful and tumultuous divorce process.

Separation is not necessarily a precursor of divorce, but it is looked upon as a treatment made for couples where marriage is in serious distress. It is a time limited commitment, between two to four months, where the couple no longer lives together but agrees to regularly scheduled appointments with the therapist. The object of this separation and the counseling is to change the interaction and the pattern of behavior that has caused so much bitterness, stress and anger in the couple's lives.

There are a number of situations in which structured separation could benefit the couple:

  • When a couple is engaged in extreme verbal abuse, painful mutual criticism or anger.
  • When both or one of the partners is unsupportive, indifferent or uncaring.
  • When both or either partner feels controlled, as well as a lack of respect and autonomy.
  • When either or both partners feel their sexual life with each other is very unsatisfactory.
  • When one partner feels threatened when one of the parties experiences a mid-life crisis.
  • When one or both partners struggles whether to save the marriage or file for divorce.

Such a separation may relieve unproductive and stressful day-to-day interaction. With the help of a marital counselor, the couple learns to interact in a more productive and positive manner. They also have a chance to explore their own needs and their partner's needs in a structured, safe environment. Role playing is used to enact the destructive pattern of communication used by each or both partners in order to change it. They are helped to examine their own and their partner's needs and to respect their individuality. Negative and destructive interaction is examined and interrupted, and a more positive, constructive and pleasurable interaction is substituted.

Some of the benefits of Structured Marital Separation can provide the following benefits:

  • Changed and positive constructive behavior patterns are substituted for negative and destructive patterns.
  • The negative intensity and the sense of futility and hopelessness that are usually a product of destructive interactions may be substituted with hope and optimism.
  • Separation allows a couple to gain a prospective of the role the partners play in each others lives, such as financial and emotional. They can no longer take each other for granted. The separation enables the couple to evaluate the marriage and promotes personal freedom without the pressure to divorce.
  • This separation is a public acknowledgment, to both friends and family, that there is discord and that the couple is in the process of either solidifying or dissolving the marriage.
  • It affords the couple time and leisure to make rational and emotionally healthy decisions.

Prior to the structured separation, the therapist encourages the couple to make either a written or verbal contract. Issues such as the duration of the separation, sexual contacts, dating with each other and with others, the role of the children and privacy of the partners should be considered in order to minimize any further conflict.

In order for this separation process to be successful, the couple has to commit themselves to individual and joint therapy until actual issues are resolved to the satisfaction of both partners. If the couple decides to divorce, highly qualified New Jersey licensed mediators are available to further reduce stress and conflicts, especially when children are involved.

JFS provides individual, marital and group counseling; services to the elderly; family mentoring, career counseling, refugee assistance and Café Europa. A very active Jewish Family Life Education program provides speakers to temples, organizations, clubs, etc. discussing mental health issues. If you have any questions about therapy in general or about your particular issue, feel free to call 908.725.7799. JFS is a beneficiary agency of Jewish Federation of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties and United Way of Somerset County and is supported by Friends of the agency and contributions.

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Family Rituals

by Tova Friedman, LCSW, Former Executive Director

For many of us the upcoming days will be filled with ritual…family…feasting…contemplation…remembrance. For many of us it can also be a time of great distress and pain, especially for those of us who have lost loved ones and are left only with remembrance.

What is it about a family that has the potential to heal, to nourish and sustain the individual? What component in life in particular leads to cohesiveness and meaning? In a book, Rituals in Families and Family Therapy, edited by Evan Imker-Black, Janine Roberts and Richard Whiting, the contributors point out that one of the most powerful aspects of family life that has a positive and cohesive effect on its members are rituals. They are a symbolic form of communication that gives the family a collective, satisfactory sense of identity.

In order for an act to become a ritual it has to have the following four components; (a) repetition, (b) it takes an activity not only a thought, (c) it has its own logic, and (d) it has to have special meaning to the group that is participating. Here are some of the favorite memories of people in their 80's when they thought of their own family of origin.

  • “Every Sunday we had a leisurely breakfast that began at about 9:00 A.M. and lasted until nearly noon. There was salami, warm bagels picked up by my dad earlier at the local bakery, white fish, lox, cream cheese, delicious leftovers from the week and lots of laughter. There was also always music as a backdrop”. She continued: “I so miss the food, the smell and the sounds”
  • “My father took me to his office on Sundays when I was young and I got to feel like a real big shot. I remember the elevator ride up to the l1th floor. I remember all the machines that he introduced me to…banging away at the typewriter…putting my hand on the copy machine and getting a print that I could take home to show my mom. Most of all I remember how important I was to my father.”
  • “Every Saturday night my mother would serve us grilled cheese sandwiches. To this day when I eat a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato, I get flooded by memories of home.”

Most of our transitions in life are emphasized by rituals; birth (naming for girls and bris for boys), Bar Mitzvah, weddings, retirements, and deaths. These rituals symbolically externalize our inner feelings and our changed social state. They allow strong emotions to be experienced safely. The family therapist often creates therapeutic rituals when none exist culturally. These help families to express loss and grief from events such as abortion, birth of a child with disabilities, stillborn birth, divorce, etc. Rituals often involve the entire family, and the individual suffering the loss feels a great deal of support and relief. This feeling of connection to home and community is especially significant today as so many of us are suffering from separation and loss. So how do we…those of us who are separated, those of us who have been forsaken by family members…those of who have been left behind by death…those of us who are left only with memories, survive the pain of not being able to share the old familiar rituals. The answer is that we have to move on. We can continue to savor the remembrances but we have to create new memories. We have to create new rituals. One way to do this is to keep open to change. We need to allow new people to come into our lives. We need to open the door to one another. So, if we no longer have the energy or the people to feast with, we can invite or allow ourselves to be invited to small intimate gatherings where reminiscence is encouraged. We can cook a familiar dish and surround ourselves with past fragrances and share those with someone new. The important thing is not to close ourselves off from finding ways to make new rituals.

Religious rituals, in particular, lend themselves to give the family a sense of belonging and a sense of peace, security, and hope while they unite the participants to the past, to their grandparents and great-grandparents, and to future generations. Our sages were very aware of the necessity of rituals whey they constructed one of our most ritualistic religious events, The Seder (Order). It encourages the asking of not only the four traditional questions but others as well — What characteristics do leaders posses in order to be successful; What makes a successful leader; What qualities transforms a nation of slaves into a nation of free men—just to name a few. The story of the Exodus encourages self examination and the set back and struggles of change and transformation not only in a nation but in ones self as well.

Rituals both bind us and free us. Their rhythm, practiced over and over again each year, becomes the mortar of family life lending stability, predictability and meaning. JFS counselors are very sensitive to the importance of rituals, and whenever possible or needed and appropriate, our staff will work with people to either establish new rituals or explore meaningful family rituals that might be valuable to restoring loss.

Join us at our first Gala Fundraiser on April 29, 2007 which we hope will become an annual ritual. Please call JFS at 908.725.7799 for more information.

Happy Passover!

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Adult ADD

by Tova Friedman, LCSW, Former Executive Director

David was a tall, thin intense man in his early forties. He seemed to be very anxious to talk to a therapist. He started talking in a breathless voice-jumping from topic to topic, at such a fast pace, that the social worker gave up taking notes. His main theme was the constant loss of different jobs and his utter bewilderment that he lost his most recent job, which he loved and felt very qualified for. “I don't understand,” he said. “Something always happens. I love working with my hands. I always have. I can build anything. Yet, each time I work on a project, it never gets finished. I get fired.” After a number of interviews, it became clear that David may be suffering from undiagnosed adult Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

The definition of ADD is quite broad, and people who suffer from it fall on a continuum. Some of the problems experienced by people with ADD are difficulty finishing tasks, over-reacting to situations, explosive tempers, and difficulty organizing time and projects. As a result, they often suffer from low self-image as did David. These disabilities stop them from getting ahead or promoted to jobs and tasks for which they may be highly qualified. Friends and family use adjectives like “lazy, moody, unmotivated, irresponsible, too sensitive, clumsy, troublesome, insecure and temperamental” to describe the ADD personality. The assumption is that he/she could change if they wanted to or if they only tried.

Often, people with ADD are excruciatingly aware of their shortcomings, but they are helpless to change them. As a result, they often feel abused, misunderstood and even disliked. Statements like “we can't trust you to finish a job” both enrages and hurts them. Their inner world is often enormously fragmented.

Emily Dickinson beautifully expressed their distress in her poem, Sequence Ravelled Out of Sound (1864).

                I felt a Cleaving in my Mind
                As if my Brain had split
                I tried to match it-Seam by Seam
                But could not make them fit.
            
                The thought behind, I strove to join
                Unto the thought before
                But Sequence ravelled out of Sound
                Like Balls-upon a Floor
            

In recent years, many books have been published about ADD. The two that I will note here are Attention Deficit Disorder in Adults by Lynn Weiss, Ph.D., Taylor Publishing Co., 1997; and Driven to Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell, MD and John J. Ratey MD, Simon and Schuster, 1994. In the past, psychiatrist, psychologists, social workers and teachers, all those in the helping professions, thought of ADD as being a childhood and young adolescent disorder. However in the last 10 to 15 years, more and more evidence appears that ADD is not something we grow out of but learn to live with it.

In her book, Dr. Weiss stresses the fact that these people with ADD (including herself and her son) are not abnormal but different. They process information differently, and if the environment is friendly, they suffer much less, accomplish more and are generally much happier and fulfilled. Her book is pragmatic. It is more a self-help book on ADD. It is excellent in helping people identify ADD in themselves and in others as it gives the reader many case histories. Dr. Weiss not only defines the problems but gives advice on how to deal with it. She suggests techniques to spouses, bosses and friends on how to relate to the ADD person. Weiss poses problems such as “If there is an emergency, what is the best way to get a person with ADD to react FAST” or why people with ADD dislike surprises. “My boss jumps from one topic to the next without resolving any of them,…meetings seem pointless…What can I do?”

Driven to Distraction is a little more theoretical. It discusses Attention Deficit Disorder from childhood through adulthood. This disorder, points out Hallowell and Ratey, does not permeate the entire personality. “For many adults, ADD is a subtle but definite part of their personality… It may be distractibility or impulsivity, or disorganization. These characteristics may be side by side with creativity or gregariousness or industry.” The goal is not to eradicate the ADD characteristics but to integrate them into the rest of the personality and possibly even enhance it.

Both books guide the reader in taking a self test to see if he or she has ADD. There are other specific suggestions of do's and don'ts with ADD children and adults. They also supply a comprehensive chart of medication used. I found both books very readable and informative for anyone living with an ADD personality or for people just interested in the subject. For further information and materials on Adult ADD go to the website, HelpGuide.org.

The JFS staff includes experienced, licensed therapists who deal with a variety of issues. The agency provides individual, couple, family and group counseling, in-home counseling and support services for the elderly and their families, employment counseling and assistance to Holocaust survivors. A very active Jewish Family Life Education program provides speakers to temples, organizations and clubs discussing mental health issues. The Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program, the agency's newest addition to its services, works with families in Somerset County who request a mentor. Mentor volunteers are trained by professionals at the agency.

JFS is a beneficiary agency of Jewish federation of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties and United Way of Somerset County, The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation and is supported by contributions by Friends of the Agency. The Friends Campaign is on its way. We are depending on you, our friends, to help us help others. Please save the date April 29th, 2007 for JFS Gala/Dinner Dance Main Fundraiser. For additional information contact 908.725.7799.

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Multi-Faceted Agency

by Tova Friedman, LCSW, Former Executive Director

The following are fictionalized case histories in which names and events have been changed to protect the clients' confidentiality. This case demonstrates the versatility of services provided by Jewish Family Service to the community.

Beth called JFS even before she moved into the community. “I'm newly divorced,” she told the intake worker. “I'm moving to your community to be with my 82 year old mother. I have a 10 year old son, Brian, and a 19 year old daughter, Samantha, who will be going to a community college.” Beth proceeded to tell the worker that she wanted to know about temples, schools, job opportunities, and “where the Jewish community lives.” The a gency information and referral worker mailed her a list of temples, a JFS newsletter, and a brochure showing JFS services, a Federation newspaper and JCC brochure. She was also given the names of local realty offices and housing developments.

Beth came to the office within a week of her arrival to the community. “I feel as if I know you already,” she said. She shared with the therapist that her mother's deterioration had made it impossible for her mother to be left alone for any extended period, thus handicapping her own job search. She herself was still having trouble dealing with her recent divorce and her children were also having difficulty adjusting. “It's so different from Chicago, and they miss their friends and, especially, their father,” she added.

Beth made an appointment to see the JFS therapist for individual counseling and joined the divorced woman's group, in order to work on her divorce issues and the adjustment to a new community. The agency's gerontology worker made a house visit to assess the mother's situation, and as a result, a part-time home health aide was hired to take care of Mrs. B allowing.Beth to look for employment. The JFS career counselor helped Beth identify part-time job possibilities where she would still be available to her mother and children. The counselor also assisted Beth in writing her resume', in learning new interview skills and locating courses at the community college that sharpened her computer skills. Through the monthly job seekers group and through the women's divorce support group, Beth met people in her situation and felt less isolated. Since her finances were low, our emergency food pantry was very helpful to the family, and she especially appreciated the holiday food baskets. “It makes me feel that I'm part of a community although I've been here a very short time.” Both Brian and Samantha were seen periodically by the family therapist to help them with their adjustment process.

Jason, 8, was recommended by his teacher to “get some therapy.” He's the oldest of 3 children and is having a difficult time in school and at home. “He listens to no one and has a terrible temper,” his mother told a JFS counselor. Apparently, both of his parents are very involved with their one and a half year old daughter who has been suffering from seizures. “Jason must feel neglected,” admitted Mrs. B, “but at this point we have no choice.” She was delighted to learn about JFS mentoring program that sends a trained volunteer to the home on a weekly basis to help both mom and Jason deal with their issues.

A year has gone by since Beth came to the community. She has a decent part-time job with a local dentist and her mother is on a waiting list to get into a nursing home. Neither Brian nor Samantha had an easy year. They miss their father, who visited them only twice during the year, and it hasn't been easy for them to make new friends. However, the turmoil in their lives has somewhat subsided; they feel more rooted. A few days ago, Beth came to the office with a home-baked apple pie. “This is for all of you, who have been so wonderful. You feel like family to me.”

Jason's disposition has improved greatly according to his mother. “He loves when Linda from JFS comes and plays with him in the afternoon or weekend. He even made a painting for he in school.”

Although these particular accounts are fictitious, they demonstrate the versatility of the agency and the many services provided.

JFS staff includes experienced, licensed therapists who deal with a variety of issues. The agency provides individual, couple, family and group counseling; in-home counseling and support services for the elderly and their families; employment counseling; supports Holocaust survivors; and assists immigrants from the former Soviet Union. A very active Jewish Family Life Education program provides speakers to temples, organizations, clubs, etc. discussing mental health issues.

JFS is a beneficiary agency of Jewish Federation of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties and United Way of Somerset County, The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation and is supported by contributions by Friends of the Agency. The Friends Campaign is on its way. We are depending on you, our friends, to help us help others.

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Helping Adult Children Care for Aging Parents

by Tova Friedman, LCSW, Former Executive Director

Mr. M, a well dressed, graying man in his mid 60's, was nervously facing the Jewish Family Service social worker. He seemed ill at ease. “I'm not sure how you can help me,” he began. “My mother, 87, just broke her hip and is in a rehab in Florida. We need her nearby, as she lives alone, but she refuses to come. Most of her friends have died or moved away. In the past year, we have hardly seen our daughter and grandson in Ohio because of our constant flying to Florida.”

“My parents live in Queens,” said a distressed voice on the telephone. “They're in their late 80's and live in their own home. Unfortunately, my father refuses to give up his driver's license, and he can hardly see. I always expect a call from the hospital or police telling me that something happened to him. How do I convince my father to give up driving or to move closer to me?”

Mrs. B came to JFS complaining of anxiety, inability to sleep and unexplained exhaustion. After a number of sessions, it became clear that Mrs. B was carrying a heavy burden of guilt because she deeply resented the care and time that her elderly parents demanded. “My daughter is a single mom, and I'm constantly torn who needs my help the most.”

These scenarios are, of course, composites of many different situations in order to protect the confidentiality of our clients. However, these types of issues and concerns are presented to the JFS geriatric staff on a daily basis.

“Is my mother getting back at me for being a rotten teenager?” said a woman half seriously. “She refuses all help, all advise and keeps her situation a secret. She wants to be independent even if it kills her.”

At best, the relationship between adult children and ailing elderly parents is fraught with deep emotions. These children struggle with practical and with emotional issues. How much responsibility do they have for their parent's financial, emotional and physical welfare? How can they find the proper balance between caring for their parents and being with their own children and grandchildren? They seek answers as to how to obtain the most efficient and competent help for their aged relatives in many different areas. Does a parent need a nursing home, assisted living or just a little community help to stay independent.

Jacqueline Marcell in Elder Rage, or Take My Father… Please! (Impressive Press, 2001), portrays in detail her journey of frustration, anger and confusion but ultimately arriving at love, caring, respect and appreciation for her aged parent. The book is not only full of useful and practical information, such as how to handle a suspicious, paranoid parent or how to cope with ones own frustration, resentment and guilt, but it also demonstrates and honors the strong bonds between parents and children that last until the very end.

For the past 13 years, JFS has employed a licensed geriatric social worker in Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), who does in-home assessments and counseling. Many of the clients are homebound and need a great deal of assistance to stay at home independently. Some are Holocaust survivors who have lost most if not all of their family and would have been unable to live independently without JFS support.

In addition licensed Social Workers provide individual, couple and family counseling, mentor training for Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program, and monthly job seekers support group as part of our career services.

JFS is a beneficiary agency of Jewish Federation of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties, United Way of Somerset County, The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation and is supported by contributions by Friends of the Agency. The Friends Campaign is on its way. We are depending on you, our friends, to help us help others. Please save the date April 29th, 2007 for JFS Main Fundraiser. Call JFS, 908.725.7799, for information.

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Pain is Inevitable

by Tova Friedman, LCSW, Former Executive Director

“Pain is Inevitable, Suffering is an Option” was the theme of Rabbi Kushner’s talk at Temple Beth El in Hillsborough. According to the Rabbi, one has to exercise this option and minimize ones own suffering and reaction to a world that seems sometimes unfair and unjust. Coping with negative painful situations is the only option if one wants to appreciate, recognize and experience life’s gifts.

Learning to cope, reacting effectively to stress is exactly what psychological counseling is about. Recognition and acceptance of the unfairness of life is the first step in coping.

A 7 year old boy began to act out at home because “the teacher is unfair and she doesn’t pick me for a special project.”

A 14 year old teenager became verbally abusive to her mother because “I have to baby sit my brother after school while my friends are having fun — life is unfair.”

Dena, a 38 year old single woman is angry, bitter and depressed that many of her friends are married and have children while her biological clock is running out. Most of her life she blamed her verbally abusive father for her inability to form permanent relationships with men because “I just don’t trust them — they’ll turn out like my father.”

Yes, most people carry within them many disappointments, losses and wounds. The option that most people have is to either make these disappointments obstacles that hinder them or stepping stones towards our next venture.

“Don’t get stuck in a dream that hinders you,” Rabbi Kushner pointed out. If reality thwarts ones dream, get another that is more “attainable”. Anger and sometimes rage is often a reaction to disappointments.

The first four weeks, Dena’s therapy consisted of being furious at her father for “spoiling my life.” This anger at the loss of dreams, at life’s disappointments is part of healing. It’s both a scary and an uplifting process — it frees the person from the insults of the past and allows him to concentrate more on the future.

Rabbi Kushner points out that one of the most beloved and respected biblical characters, Moses, had to accept bitter disappointment in seeing the Promised Land but never entering it. Dealing and coping well with disappointments is a life long process that ideally should start in childhood both at home and in school.

Dr. Henri Parnens, a child psychologist, feels strongly that parents would benefit by learning early in their children’s life about child development and ways to help them “adapt constructively” to their environment.

Recently a young man came to Jewish Family Service whom we’ll call Johnny. At 23, he has never walked but spent his whole life in a wheel chair. Most of his life he spent in institutions but recently he applied to live independently in an apartment. “It’s time for me to take more responsibility for myself,” he said. He came to counseling not to complain about the unfairness of his situation but to get enough courage to ask a young woman to move with him into a supervised apartment and be his “steady” girl. “She has cerebral palsy, no one understands her except me. I love to feed her, to wipe her face. I love her presence!” He writes poetry and sings about his feelings. He especially loves his wheel chair “that makes me feel independent, useful and a winner in Special Olympics.”

Letting go and moving on sounds obvious and simple but it is a tremendous accomplishment for most people.

JFS provides psychological counseling for individuals and families. Our Career Services helps individuals who are seeking employment. Family Mentoring Program trains volunteers to work with families in crisis. Become our partner in helping those who need us. Our Friends Campaign is under way and currently accepting contributions. Donations can be sent to Jewish Family Service, 150-A West High Street, Somerville, NJ 08876. For more information about our programs or our Friends Campaign, contact us at 908.725.7799.

The Staff and Board of Jewish Family Service of SHW wish you and your family a peaceful, productive and fulfilling new year 5767.

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Loving Touch

by Tova Friedman, LCSW, Former Executive Director

The child’s first awareness of the world is through a parent’s loving touch. With that physical contact comes the non-verbal expression of love and reassurance.

As people grow older, this is slowly withdrawn. As sisters, brothers, friends or spouses die, or children move away or become increasingly involved in their own lives, the aged person becomes more and more an object.

Hospitals, social service agencies, and eventually nursing homes get involved in the aged person’s life. He gets transported by vans, his house is cleaned by housekeepers, food is provided by families or agencies. In nursing homes, he is wheeled or taken to dining rooms, her clothes are changed, her body washed by efficient but unloving hands.

“I can’t remember when I’ve been kissed,” said a 78 year old woman. “I feel like a piece of stone.”

“Since my husband died two years ago,” an 82 year old woman complained, “no one has kissed or touched me.”

To those involved with the elderly, either professionally or privately, the importance of physical closeness and body language cannot be overemphasized.

The losses for the older person are enormous. Not only does he lose the significant people in his life, but he loses the power of his own body. He loses the sense of hearing, his sight, the sense of taste and smell, etc.

As his body deteriorates, his need to be loved and accepted increases. He longs for the affirmation that in spite of his physical deterioration, he is still worthwhile and lovable.

A touch, a hug, a kiss or just caring and listening will go a long way to promote mental health in the elderly. In fact, there is no stage in human development that appropriate touching and physical stroking is not part of a healing recipe.

Newly-born children abandoned in a hospital, do not thrive unless they are touched and coddled for a number of hours each day. Older women were recruited and paid in an orphanage in Siberia, USSR, to hold children for approximately three to four hours per day. This to some degree ensured the children’s normal development.

Yet, although the physical touch seems so basic, many, especially in western culture, shy away from it. Laws have been made in schools so the teacher can no longer place a reassuring hand on a child’s shoulder. Therapists are very cautious about hugging their clients to show connection and understanding.

The touch that heals is in disrepute. It became something suspicious and degrading. However, under the right conditions, it still holds its own. The hugging and stroking between parents and children, friends and family is still the best way to express caring and emotional connection.

“I’m teaching families to hug,” said a JFS volunteer mentor from the Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program. “It seems that the family has difficulty with physical closeness.” The Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program, the agency’s newest addition to its services, deals with families in Somerset County who request its services. Mentor volunteers are trained by professionals at the agency.

JFS staff includes experienced, licensed therapists who deal with a variety of issues. The agency provides individual, couple, family and group counseling and in-home counseling and support services for the elderly and their families. The Career Counseling Program serves unemployed and underemployed individuals by providing career counseling, resume critique and preparation, job search assistance and support, net working resources and a monthly job seeker support group. The Jewish Family Life Education program provides speakers to temples, organizations, clubs, etc. discussing mental health issues. If you are interested in being trained as a mentor or would like more information about any of the JFS programs, please feel free to call 908.725.7799 or 908.806.7899.

JFS is a beneficiary agency of Jewish Federation of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties, United Way of Somerset County and the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation.

Full Article Index…


Anxiety

by Tova Friedman, LCSW, Former Executive Director

“I though I was having a heart attack, but my doctor told me it was an anxiety attack,” a 30-year-old man told a Jewish Family Service counselor. “I wish I could put my life on hold until this anxiety subsides,” another client shared with a therapist at JFS.

“I used to be able to shut out annoying noises, especially at work, and focus on my task, but for the past few years, I can’t seem to do it. Many things startle me, and I can’t stop my negative thoughts especially at night. I, therefore, sleep little,” a 38-year-old professional man told his counselor at JFS.

Since the 911 tragedy and the pervasive threat of terrorism, anxiety is on the increase. Sixty-five percent of the people, who come to JFS for counseling, complain of sleeplessness, lose of focus, feeling on edge and having overwhelming feeling of dread.

In the September 2005 issue of the in Networker, Dr. Margaret Wehrenberg writes that “anxiety produces a feeling of doom, impending danger and mental anguish from which there seems to be no escape.” Most doctors prescribe medication to relieve the symptoms. Often, these drugs produce quick relief. However, not everyone wants to be dependent on medication. Both doctors and therapists suggest that a combination of talk therapy and medication seem to be most effective.

Anxiety may or may not be a symptom of deeper psychological issues. “I’ve never been anxious before in my life,” said a 48-year-old executive. “Suddenly at a party, I broke out in a sweat. I began to hyperventilate and had to leave. My doctor said there was nothing wrong with me.” Even if there are deep-seated issues, the uncovering and treating them is a long process during which the person could still be suffering. Therefore, self-calming techniques are extremely helpful.

Dr. Wehrenberg divides anxiety into three aspects. (1) The physical—which feels like terror or panic. People often end up in the emergency room thinking they are experiencing a heart attack. (2) The emotional-the person feels tense, worried and anxious most of the time without having a specific reason, “just everything upsets me.” (3) The mental-the person cannot seem to be able to stop the ruminating thoughts, especially at night. “I can’t sleep. I just can’t stop troubling thoughts.”

Researchers have found that caffeine, alcohol, tobacco and sugar, even nutra-sweet, exacerbates anxiety. The first order of things is to try to minimize the physical symptoms that feel almost like a heart attack. Sleep, rest and exercise may be extremely helpful. If eating “right” does not eliminate these serious and upsetting panic attacks, one should examine with a physician the hormonal system—menopause, post-partum, thyroid, etc. Often, these panic attacks are symptoms of abusing the body by not eating, exercising and resting appropriately.

Since the feeling of anxiety is so pervasive, a number of different techniques may be helpful. Slow, deep breathing practiced on a daily basis seem to quiet some anxiety.

Muscle relaxation exercises and imagery may relieve some anxiety and worry. The anxious person worries about everything all the time. “I seem to be worried about things that aren’t even my business,” said a young woman. “I seem to be looking for things to worry about.” It is amazing how the mind, when concentrating on the muscle relaxing exercises and the imagery, often lets go of the worrying thoughts.

Writing, journaling or even talking into a tape may relieve some of the anxiety. The person confronts his feelings of anger, disappointment and frustration. The pinpointing of specific issues may clarify and relieve the pervasive feeling of doom. People who are anxious seem to deny themselves fun. It is as if they are punishing themselves. There is nothing that relieves anxiety as going on vacation, being with friends or even just going to a funny movie.

The stopping of ruminating, troubling thoughts that keep people awake is difficult but doable. The closing lines of Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With the Wind when Rhett Butler left her were, “I’ll think about it tomorrow.” That is an excellent method to guarantee a good night’s sleep. Write down all the worries and put them in a drawer. Tomorrow will be the time to deal with them. The setting aside of specific time and place to worry may very be helpful. Although anti-anxiety medication works faster, anxiety control behavior, which is slower and takes patience, concentration and dedication, is a gift one gives oneself that will last an entire lifetime.

We should all wear t-shirts that say, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

JFS staff includes experienced, licensed therapists who deal with a variety of issues. The agency provides individual, couple, family and group counseling and in-home counseling and support services for the elderly and their families. The Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program, which is the agency’s newest addition to its services, matches a specially trained community volunteer with a family requesting services. The Career Counseling Program serves unemployed and underemployed individuals by providing career counseling, resume critique and preparation, job search assistance and support, net working resources and a monthly job seeker support group. The Jewish Family Life Education program provides speakers to temples, organizations, clubs, etc. discussing mental health issues. If you are interested in being trained as a Family Mentor or would like more information about any of the JFS programs, please feel free to call 908.725.7799 or 908.806.7899.

JFS is a beneficiary agency of Jewish Federation of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties, United Way of Somerset County and the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation.

Full Article Index…


Trauma

by Tova Friedman, LCSW, Former Executive Director

“We were all going to the beach in our van. I was driving; Charlie was talking to the kids. Suddenly he said I‘m ill’ — and he was gone — just gone — while I and the kids were watching” This was related to a Jewish Family Service therapist.

Most people experience a traumatic episode sometimes in their lives, either as children or as adults, although usually not as traumatic. It completely changes ones outlook. The trauma can evoke fear and loss of trust. The environment makes much less sense than before the trauma. It does not have to be a dramatic event, such as death or sexual assault. It can also be the loss of innocence in childhood, when the child first realizes that the world is not always fair and that doing the “right” thing doesn’t always bring the expected rewards.

Matthew Sanford, in his recently published book Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence, documents his own traumatic event, which completely destroyed his previous life, and his slow and steady recovery. When Matthew was 13 years old, an automobile accident killed his father and his sister and left him paralyzed. “The really negative effect of trauma is that it dulls you and it deadens you. You’re numb. Only later, if you’re lucky and work at it, you can transform this emotional numbness into hope.” He continues to say that if this numbness is allowed to continue, one becomes more and more separated from the world and depression sets in.

Robert Scaer, author and neurologist, states in his books The Body Bears the Burden (Haworth Medical, 2001) and Trauma Spectrum (Norton, 2005) that not only individuals suffer from trauma but entire cultures are vulnerable. Since the 9/11 traumatic event, more people in the United States, especially in the East, suffer from physical and mental dysfunction. “All chronic ailments and most mental illness can be traced to trauma.” However, he continues to postulate, that trauma can be an opportunity to transform the seemingly unfair and unsafe world, making it stronger and safer. “The good news,” he continues, is that “trauma could be a powerful, untapped force of cultural transformation.”

In 1995, psychologists Richard Tedescki and Lawrence Calhoun coined the term “post-traumatic growth” to describe the hope and renewal that can come from ruins and catastrophic events. This is best exemplified by the Holocaust, which moved an entire people to rise from the ashes and build a new society, in Israel.

“We ask, ‘How could this happen?’ and ‘Where was god?” and, by slowly struggling to answer such question, we develop a new and deeper understanding. We grow.

People affected by trauma have to allow a long period of active mourning. They cannot allow fears, anxieties, anger and rage to be bottled up. Those that joined support groups after the 9/11 tragedy had a much better chance of healing than those who mourned in silence. The difference between those who suffer from post-traumatic stress and those who experience post-traumatic growth depends on the amount of pain, rage and indignation the person exhibited after the event. Those people, who after a traumatic divorce, examine their thoughts, their relationships, their environment and honestly look at the situation, usually come out much less scared then those who do not.

Sam Keen in a book Fire in the Belly (Bantan, 1991) describes how by creating artificial traumatic events and by making people aware of the physical sensation of panic and fear they develop a sense of mastering their environment. Trauma can be an opportunity for a person to develop new meaning in his life. Matthew Sanford, although a paraplegic, teaches yoga to other paraplegics to help them connect to themselves and to their environment. “The challenge is to try to see it in a way that makes you love the world more.to be open and compassionate.”

In the wake of the Sunami, Katrina, 9/11, Iraq, Balfur and now the conflict in Israel, mental health professionals have become more and more engaged in studying trauma, its aftermath and its healing.

Jewish Family Service (JFS) provides counseling for individuals, couples and families, in-home counseling and support for the elderly.

One of JFS outstanding programs is the Career Services Program for individuals’ unemployed or underemployed who do not have a specific barrier to employment. Many such individuals have difficulty finding employment on their own due to the emotional impact of job loss and the tight job market. This program offers individual career counseling, resume critique and preparation; job search assistance and support; networking resources; and a monthly job seekers support group.

Our Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program funded by The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation trains volunteer mentors to provide in-home support, information and advocacy for local families, with a special focus on families with children under the age of 10. The program builds on a family’s strengths and supports their ability to successfully address challenges, providing an outcome of emotional health for the children and adults. The Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program is free of charge and open to Somerset county residents regardless of religious, cultural or financial background. Family Mentoring receives additional support from the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

JFS is a beneficiary agency of Jewish Federation of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties and United Way of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties and is supported by Friends of the agency and contributions. For more information contact us 908.725.7799 (Somerville) or 908.806.7899 (Flemington).

Full Article Index…


You Can Go Home Again, Sometimes

by Tova Friedman, LCSW, Former Executive Director

Mrs. M, 56, came to the agency quite despondent. “You won’t believe it,” she told the therapist at Jewish Family Service. “After 10 years of marriage and two children, my daughter Janna and her husband have moved back home with us.” Apparently, Richard, her son-in-law, has lost his job where he had been making a very good salary. His decision to leave his profession and change direction requires three years of schooling. In order to reduce their expense, the couple moved back with Janna’s parents. Bob M., Janna’s father, however, is struggling with his own issues. Three months earlier, his company downsized, and he lost his job.

There are a number of issues that this multi-generational family is facing. First is the issue of job loss. Both breadwinners, Mr. M. and Richard, his son-in-law, lost their jobs. The intensity of the reaction to sudden unemployment is often dependent on the financial resources that the unemployed person has to depend on. Is there another income? Can he draw upon savings? Is he young enough to get other meaningful employment? Research, however, has shown that the psychological cost of joblessness is more hurtful to many victims then the strain of making financial ends meet. Common among the jobless is a sense of being deprived of a useful life and being condemned to uselessness in a world that worships the productive.

Most Americans take a serious psychic bruising when they lose a job—regardless of the cause. If the joblessness goes on for long, people of all ages, occupations and economic classes tend to suffer a sharp loss of self-esteem, a diminished sense of identity and a decreased sense of purpose. Some become estranged from their friends; they live in limbo and experience a sense of being exiled. “I feel I’ve died,” said an unemployed executive. “I don’t think that even divorce would put me under such stress as being fired,” he continued.

The second issue is that of married children returning home. It is difficult for parents to change their image of their children from dependent minors to independent adults especially if they return to the parental home. Old patterns of behavior between parents and adult children emerge to haunt them. Both parties regress; old hurts, old wounds and previous grudges surface, often preventing positive interaction. Grandchildren increase the potential for power plays, and control issues rear their ugly heads.

Janna said “I’m a mother of two children and my mother is still trying to teach me about parenting. She interferes in my disciplining my children and criticizes my choice of food. I can’t wait to get out.”

This intergenerational living situation, though, can give rise to a unique opportunity to resolve unfinished business and develop a more supportive and productive pattern of interaction. However, it takes a great deal of sensitivity, self-awareness and good will to overcome these challenges. Sometime, a little help from an objective, caring individual, a counselor, may prevent unnecessary misunderstandings and stress.

The agency’s staff includes experienced, licensed therapists who deal with a variety of issues. JFS provides individual, couple, family and in-house counseling, and assessment and support for the elderly.

One of JFS outstanding programs is the Career Services Program for individuals’ unemployed or underemployed who do not have a specific barrier to employment. Many such individuals have difficulty finding employment on their own due to the emotional impact of job loss and the tight job market. This program offers individual career counseling, resume critique and preparation; job search assistance and support; networking resources; and a monthly job seekers support group.

Our Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program trains volunteer mentors to provide in-home support, information and advocacy for local families, with a special focus on families with children under the age of 10. The program builds on a family’s strengths and supports their ability to successfully address challenges, providing an outcome of emotional health for the children and adults. The Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program is free of charge and open to the entire community regardless of religious, cultural or financial background.

If you have any questions about therapy in general, one of the JFS services or about your particular issue, feel free to call 908.725.7799 (Somerville) or 908.806.7899 (Flemington). JFS is a beneficiary agency of Jewish Federation of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties and United Way of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties and is supported by Friends of the agency and contributions.

Full Article Index…


ADHD

by Tova Friedman, LCSW, Former Executive Director

In 1863, Heinrich Hoffman wrote a nursery rhyme about a boy who couldn’t sit still and was a behavior problem to his family. Today, such a child would be classified as having Attention-Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD).

            “Phil, stop acting like a worm,
            The table is no place to squirm.”
            Thus speaks the father to his son,
            Severely says it, not in fun.
            Mother frowns and looks around
            Although she doesn’t make a sound.
            But, Philip will not take advice,
            He’ll have his way at any price.
            He turns, 
            And churns,
            He wiggles
            And jiggles.
            Here and there on the chair.
            “Phil, these twists I cannot bear.”
            

Hyperactivity has usually been associated with learning difficulties, and most children who suffer from ADHD often have school problems. Therefore, most early research of this disorder has been done by school study teams and school psychologists.

Sometimes, however, a child may suffer from ADHD and have few or no learning difficulties or vice versa. More than not, though, the two are usually present together.

A child with a learning disability often (a) cannot finish the class work, (b) cannot organize the work, (c) appears not to listen in class, and (d) does very messy work.

A child suffering from ADHD is dealing with either one or all three of the following difficulties:

  • Hyperactivity — The inability to physically sit still through a process such as eating, doing homework, and even talking with friends.
  • Distractibility — The inability to block out distraction from the environment to enable the child to concentrate on a given task. A child may have difficulty concentrating on a school assignment when he hears traffic noises outside his window.
  • Impulsivity — Children with ADHD seem to have difficulty thinking before they act. Often, they worry about their impulsive responses, like hitting or kicking someone, but they seem not to learn from past experience.

ADHD alone and especially when combined with learning disabilities create many secondary emotional, social and family problems. It is estimated that about 50% of children diagnosed with ADHD become very defiant and problematic both at home and in school. Although research is still inconclusive, some studies show that 25% of children continue to have ADD as adults.

Emily Dickinson beautifully expressed the distress of the ADD adult mind in her poem, Sequence Ravelled Out of Sound (1864).

            I felt a Cleaving in my Mind
            As if my Brain had split
            I tried to match it-Seam by Seam
            But could not make them fit.
            
            The thought behind, I strove to join
            Unto the thought before
            But Sequence raveled out of Sound
            Like Balls-upon a Floor.
            

The definition of ADD is quite broad, and adults who suffer from it, just like the child, fall on a continuum. Some of the problems experienced by adults with ADD are difficulty finishing tasks, over-reacting to situations, explosive tempers, and difficulty organizing time and projects. As a result, they often suffer from low self-image. These disabilities stop them from getting ahead or promoted to jobs for which they may be highly qualified. Friends and family use adjectives like “lazy, moody, unmotivated, irresponsible, too sensitive, clumsy, troublesome, insecure and temperamental” to describe the ADD personality. The assumption is that he/she could change if they wanted to or if they only tried.

There is a lot of literature about this disability in children but much less about adults. Two excellent books are Attention Deficit Disorder in Adults by Lynn Weiss, Ph.D., Taylor Publishing Co., 1997; and Driven to Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell, MD and Jon J. Ratey, MD, Simon and Schuster, 1997.

In her book, Dr. Weiss stresses the fact that these people with ADD (including herself and her son) are not abnormal but different. They process information differently, and if the environment is friendly, they suffer much less, accomplish more and are generally much happier and fulfilled. Her book is pragmatic. It is more a self-help book on ADD. It is excellent in helping people identify ADD in themselves and in others as it gives the reader many case histories. Dr. Weiss not only defines the problems but gives advice on how to deal with it. She suggests techniques to spouses, bosses and friends on how to relate to the ADD person. Weiss poses problems such as “If there is an emergency, what is the best way to get a person with ADD to react FAST” or why people with ADD dislike surprises. “My boss jumps from one topic to the next without resolving any of them.meetings seem pointless.What can I do?”

Driven to Distraction is a little more theoretical. It discusses Attention Deficit Disorder from childhood through adulthood. This disorder, points out Hallowell and Ratey, does not permeate the entire personality. “For many adults, ADD is a subtle but definite part of their personality.It may be distractibility or impulsivity, or disorganization. These characteristics may be side by side with creativity or gregariousness or industry.” The goal is not to eradicate the ADD characteristics but to integrate them into the rest of the personality and even enhance it.

Counseling that is specifically related to these conditions is very helpful to both adults and children. It helps them realize their difficulties, appreciate and develop their own strengths and even help the people in their lives become more understanding. Family counseling can also be extremely helpful in relieving some of the tension that invariably arise and lower the anxiety of the family members.

JFS has licensed professional counselors who provide individual, couple and family counseling on a variety of issues. The Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program has volunteers that are trained and matched to work with families and are supervised by licensed clinical social workers. The Career Counseling Program helps individuals in many aspects of their job search. Fees are based on a sliding scale, and Medicare and other insurances are accepted. All information is strictly confidential. If you are interested in learning more about JFS services or groups, please call 908.725.7799 or 908.806.7899. JFS is currently accepting contributions to its “Friends” Campaign. Donations can be sent to Jewish Family Service, 150-A West High Street, Somerville, NJ 08876.

Full Article Index…


Jewish Grandparenting

by Tova Friedman, LCSW, Former Executive Director

Statistics indicate that close to 60 percent of American Jews intermarry. Many Jewish grandparents are struggling with ways to transmit Jewish traditions without angering or alienating the spouse of their Jewish child.

There are over a half million Jewish/Christian couples in the United States and over two million children in intermarried households. A quarter of these children are being raised Jewish and a one and a half million are being raised Christian or “nothing.” Many of the Jewish grandparents of these Christian or “nothing” grandchildren experience great emotional and spiritual pain, especially around the holiday times.

“I dread the holidays,” said a 68 year old woman, tearfully. “It’s extremely painful for me to see how little my grandchildren know about our holidays, or about the Jewish heritage in general.”

These words, expressed in pain, have been said over and over again in Jewish Family Service. How much can grandparents interfere without offending, without antagonizing and without hurting their children?

Sunie Levin’s book Mingled Roots: A Guide for Jewish Grandparent of Interfaith Grandchildren, B’Nai B’Rith Women, 1991, is not about religion, but it is about diplomacy and family politics. This book is about respecting your children as adults, and about respecting their choices, no matter how painful and distasteful they may be to you. It is about communication and tact; it is about how things are said, rather than about what is said.

The book enumerates a number of principles that merit mentioning, even in a short article like this. The first is that the Jewish grandparents have not only the right but the obligation to teach and to transmit to their grandchildren their own thoughts, their knowledge, and their love of Judaism. The caution again stresses not what is said but how it is said. The guiding principle is that the grandparents must not forget that these are not their own children, but their grandchildren, and that the parents have the final word on which religious direction the children are to follow.

“I don’t want to tell you my name,” said a woman’s voice on the telephone, to the intake worker at JFS, “but I have a problem I need your help with. My son is married to a nice gentile girl. Okay, I wasn’t happy about it, but he didn’t ask me. Now they’re coming from California for the first time, for the holidays. They have two wonderful children, 7 and 9. Can I take them to Temple? Can I teach them something about Purim and dressing up, about Passover and the Seder or anything Jewish. My son and daughter-in-law don’t believe in religion. They are ‘nothing;’ my grandchildren are ‘nothing.’ It breaks my heart. I don’t want to talk to a rabbi. I don’t need help with religion. I just don’t want to get into a fight. I love my son. I hardly see him.”

This poignant call is only one of many that JFS received, mostly around the Jewish holiday time. Sunie Levin points out that although grandparents may not impose their own religious beliefs on their grandchildren, they can and must share with their grandchildren their own experiences and memories. Through personal stories and feelings, they can impart to the grandchildren a feeling of belonging and continuity. How this feeling will take root cannot be predicted, but it is the only way to communicate without antagonizing. For example, a grandparent might relate a Shabbat experience from their own home in childhood, or early experiences in a Succah or at a Seder. The guiding principle is not to tell the grandchildren what they should do, but rather to relate experiences of what the grandparents did and what it meant to them.

Some of the suggestions in the book, in addition to sharing early memories, include spending a Shabbat together, visiting a Shul, preparing for a holiday, visiting a Jewish exhibit or museum, finding Jewish books in a bookstore, going to a Jewish concert or movie. In all of these activities the stress should be on the shared experience together, not on proselytizing. The principle to be remembered is, for any activity, get the permission of the parents, first. Play by their rules.

Says Sunie Levin, “You don’t have to bring ‘Jewish’ into every family gathering. Be natural and bring things up when it makes sense.timing is everything.” To teach a child to be a mensch, you have to go about it like a mensch, and you have to be a mensch yourself.

JFS has licensed professional counselors who provide individual, couple and family counseling on a variety of issue including counseling for interfaith couples and for parents of interfaith couples. The Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program has volunteers that are trained and matched to work with families and are supervised by licensed clinical social workers. The Career Counseling Program helps individuals in many aspects of their job search. Fees are based on a sliding scale, and Medicare and other insurances are accepted. All information is strictly confidential. If you are interested in learning more about JFS services or groups, please call 908.725.7799 or 908.806.7899. JFS is currently accepting contributions to its “Friends” Campaign. Donations can be sent to Jewish Family Service, 150-A West High Street, Somerville, NJ 08876.

Full Article Index…


Gender Matters

by Tova Friedman, LCSW, Former Executive Director

In the past few years, Jewish Family Service has seen an increase in requests for services for children and adolescents. Most of the requests come from teachers and parents who have difficulty controlling their children’s behavior. Children under 12 who come to the agency for counseling are mostly boys, but, as they approach adolescents, girls also become more difficult. Some of the behavior is anti-social and some self-destructive.

Five-year-old Jimmy was expelled from kindergarten for hitting Rachel and tearing up her picture. Tom (11) is so disruptive in the classroom that he spends most of his time in the principal’s office and in detention. Hannah (14) came home at dawn from a party that she was forbidden to attend.

Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D., in a provocative book, Why Gender Matters, Doubleday, 2005, claims that both parents and teachers make little headway with children because they discipline them inappropriately or not at all. “Childrearing has been changing drastically in the last three decades,” he writes. Authority and power has been transferred from parents and teachers to children.

“Children are constantly consulted about matters that they know little about,” continues Dr. Sax. They are asked what books they like, what activities they want to participate in, what camps to go to, what instrument to learn, etc. According to research, Dr. Sax’ writes, “Children feel insecure about having to make so many choices and the constant negotiation that goes on. Negotiation is between equals,” says Dr. Sax and “parents and children are not equals.”

In order for parents to use their authority and discipline effectively, they have to first recognize that they have the authority and then recognize innate differences between boys and girls. Their hearing is different, their reaction to voices, to facial expression and to gestures are different. As they grow older, they react differently to aggression, to feelings of empathy, to discipline and to tasks completion.

Girls, for instance, when aggressive can be stopped by appealing to the girl’s sense of empathy. They are able to put themselves in the injured child’s place. Boys, however, do not respond to statements such as “How do you think the little boy is feeling after you hit him?” The perpetrator will respond much more to fear of retaliation rather than hurt feelings.

Boy’s hearing is weaker and his psychological development is much slower than girls. A boy benefits by sitting close to the teacher and by hearing very clear and simple instructions. Power and hierarchy is admired by boys. Both are shunned by girls. Boys are much more unrealistic about their knowledge and accomplishments then are girls, but they forgive and forget aggression much quicker then girls does.

Our “gender-blind society” which educates and disciplines boys and girls in the same way creates children who are frustrated and feel misunderstood. A psychologist Jean Twege examined records of children from the 1950 to the present. She found that “children today are significantly more anxious and depressed than children were in the 1950.” Not only is their home life much less stable and the environment more violent, but according to Dr. Sax “many children today feel less rooted in their gender than children did in 1950.” “The neglect of gender in the raising and educating of children has resulted in a loss of direction for the growing child.”

Dr. Sax proposes that children would benefit by single-sex education. Boys and girls can develop their potential to the fullest without worrying about being considered “too masculine” or “too feminine” by the opposite sex. In fact, the coed schools, according to research, writes Dr. Sax, encourage rather than discourage stereotypes for both boys and girls. Interesting enough, a documentary, shown on Channel 13 agrees with the above idea that single-sex education is often preferred to coed education.

In the documentary, Dr. Thompson shows how a very squirmy, unfocused, disruptive boy, who would have been the classic candidate for ADHD classification and Ritalin, is completely changed by going to an all-boys school. He is less self-conscious, less worried about his outer appearance and more able to focus on self-development. Dr, Sax points out that research shows that girls in an all-girls school worry less about their outer appearance, about being attractive and about their popularity. Like the boys in an all-boys school, the girls focus on developing their talents and their interests.

JFS has a wonderful, child friendly room for therapy. Both, the atmosphere and therapeutic “toys”, relax the child. The agency’s child therapist has had many years of experience working with children dealing with a variety of issues, such as divorce, school problems, loss, etc.

JFS has licensed professional counselors who provide individual, couple, family and group counseling. Jewish Family Service Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program is looking for volunteers who will be trained, matched and supervised to work with a family in crisis. The agency has a Career Counseling Program to help individuals with job search and a Job Seekers Support Group that meets monthly. Fees are based on a sliding scale, and Medicare and other insurances are accepted. All information is strictly confidential. If you are interested in learning more about the Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program or for more information about JFS services or groups, please call 908.725.7799 or 908.806.7899. JFS is currently accepting contributions to its “Friends” Campaign. Donations can be sent to Jewish Family Service, 150-A West High Street, Somerville, NJ 08876.

Full Article Index…


Mitzvah Project

by Tova Friedman, LCSW, Former Executive Director

If one wants to be happy for a few hours, one should take a nap. If one wants to be happy for a day, a fishing trip should do it. If one wants to be happy for a lifetime, change someone else’s life says an old Chinese proverb.

This idea of contributing to someone else’s welfare and the satisfaction one derives from that is an idea that is prevalent in most religious and humanitarian philosophies. In Judaism, good deeds are one of the cornerstones of the religion. Jewish Family Service, the tzedakah arm of the community, embodies this concept of doing good deeds.

During every holiday, calls come in to JFS from the community inviting people to seders, Thanksgiving dinners, Chanukah celebrations, etc. It is extremely gratifying when parents, as part of their parenting philosophy, engage their children in the active participation in tzedakah.

A four year old boy, clutching a large package, came to the agency with his parents. “He wants to give the toy we bought for another little boy, but he has trouble giving it up. That’s why we brought him with us to teach him the importance of sharing.”

A 7 year old girl brought in her “pushka” filled to the top with change. She shyly offered her gift and said, “I saved some of my allowance to give to you.”

The need to give, to share, to make a difference in someone else’s life, directly or indirectly, is a human quality. The ability to give when one has and to receive from others when one is in need results in a healthy, integrated personality. Many of us are ready to give but very reluctant and embarrassed to receive.

Jack Weinstein and Michael Sokolinski (both of Bridgewater) are a beautiful example of both the desire to share in someone else’s life and the ability to graciously accept. Jack and Michael, both twelve, are studying for their Bar Mitzvah. Jack chose as his Bar Mitzvah project “to give of myself to help others.” With the help of JFS, Jack chose to make Chanukah happier for the Sokolinski family. “I realize that my family is fortunate and is able to enjoy the holidays. Yet, I know that is not the case everywhere.” Jack wrote a letter to his friends and extended family inviting them to participate in his “mitzvah project.” “Your donation will allow me to shop for this family and fulfill their holiday dreams,” he wrote in his letter.

Jack and his family delivered the gifts to the agency. Gift boxes covered an entire table. Mrs. Sokolinski, Michael’s mother, called it “My Hanukah Miracle” in her thank you letter to the family. She wrote, “Do you believe in miracles? Well given that I am a bit of a realist I have to say not too often. We hear of them in story books and movies, almost as urban legends that perhaps never happen to anyone you know. Who would have ever thought that just an ordinary family such as myself and my two kids could ever be one of the lucky few to be blessed with such fortune! I could not, until I witnessed it with my own eyes.

“As many parents do, I have struggled to raise my children with the best values, morals, and material standards as times would allow. Being that I immigrated to the United States from Russia as an adult I had to learn a new language, a new culture and new means to support myself and my family. Therefore, there were always material things that I was not able to give my children particularly having to be very cautious with our expenses.” She ends the letter with, “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for bringing so much joy and happiness to my family this holiday season! You are truly amazing people!” Michael ends his letter of thanks with, “If I do have my Bar Mitzvah then I would like to invite your entire family to it. What you did was very good, and I’ll do the same thing for someone else when I grow up and have the money.”

JFS is a vehicle that provides the opportunity for all kinds of giving, sharing and receiving for the entire community. Our newest opportunity is to become a mentor in our Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program. It is a program designed to match a specially trained volunteer with a family requesting services. In today’s society many families, especially with small children, feel overwhelmed and isolated. The support of an objective and caring person can provide motivation and encouragement. The volunteer mentors are trained at JFS and are carefully matched with appropriate families.

Mentor training sessions will be held on January 24, January 31 and February 7, 2006. To register for training or for more information, please call Ruth Edelman at 908.725.7799.

JFS has licensed marital counselors and, in addition, provides individual, couple, family and group counseling. The agency has a Career Counseling Program to help individuals with their job search and a Job Seekers Support Group that meets monthly.

Fees are based on a sliding scale, and Medicare and other insurances are accepted.

All information is strictly confidential. If you have any questions about JFS services or groups, please call 908.725.7799.

Full Article Index…