Jewish Family Service Staff
The JFS Board of Trustees listing can be seen on this page.
Jerry Starr, LCSW
Executive Director of Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties
Jerry is the Executive Director of Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in New Jersey and New York and has, for over thirty years, provided supportive services in the community.
His professional experience includes psychotherapy with individuals and families and social work in school settings and in group homes for individuals with developmental disabilities. In addition he has developed programs and services to help the elderly age in place and has coordinated support services for Holocaust survivors.
“Our mission at JFS of SHW is to put Jewish values to work and to be there when an individual, family or community needs us.”
Tova Friedman, LCSW
Tova Friedman received a B.A. in Psychology from Brooklyn College, an M.A. in Black Literature from CCNY and an M.S.W. from Rutgers, The State University with a specialty in Gerontology.
Tova is the former Executive Director of Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties and has over 20 years of experience providing psychotherapy services and managing programs and agencies. She has provided psychotherapy services to individuals, families, couples and groups. She has also managed and provided Employee Assistance Program services for many companies in Somerset County.
Mrs. Friedman has extensive experience working with special populations including immigrant families, the elderly and individuals dealing with difficult children.
Tova, a Holocaust survivor, shares her experiences in Auschwitz with many schools and organizations. She hopes that her stories will emphasize that prejudice and violence will destroy both the victim and the victor. Her story and that of two of her friends appears in the book, Kinderlager, edited by Milt Nieuwsma, and published by Holiday House in 1998.
She has 4 children and 7 grandchildren. For 10 years, she and her family lived in Israel where she taught at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Ruth Edelman, LCSW
Ruth Edelman, LCSW is the Manager of Community Based Support Services (Family and Senior Mentor Programs, Good Deeds Corps, Special Needs, Ohr Tikvah Jewish Healing) . Ruth has an MSW from the University of Michigan, and holds postgraduate certificates in Infant Mental Health and Geriatrics. She has worked with children and their families for over 30 years in medical and social service settings. She has been involved in development of programs and services for older adults at JFS for the past 8 years. She has held supervisory positions overseeing social workers and psychologists, and has presented numerous workshops locally and nationally on work with children from birth to three, grief and loss, and supervisory and management topics.
“I believe strongly in the power of relationships for healing in our lives. We need one another. Most of us have much more to give than we realize. A supportive word, a caring gesture can make a difference to someone when they are feeling alone and struggling with some issue. The Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program recruits, and trains volunteers who are matched with Somerset County families feeling overwhelmed with parenting and/or household management.”
These programs bring people with a need together with people who are in touch with their humanity. The volunteers are ordinary people, but they understand what 'being there' for someone is all about, and are willing to make a commitment for a few hours or a few weeks, or even a few years to be a mentor, a friendly home visitor, a Good Deeds Corps member, or to help the Community Chaplain visit those who are living in residential facilities or incarcerated and wish to continue their religious observances and traditions. I learn things from families and volunteers all the time. It is a richly rewarding experience to oversee these remarkable programs that bring what is needed into the homes of those needing services.
Elise Prezant has over 20 years of experience providing employment and vocational rehabilitation services in New Jersey and Georgia. Before joining JFS, she was the Manager of Career Services for Jewish Family and Career Services in Atlanta, Georgia. Ms. Prezant was responsible for the Career Counseling and Testing, Recruitment and Senior Employment programs. She has also provided vocational evaluation, vocational counseling, placement assistance and support to individuals with and without disabilities.
In addition, Ms. Prezant was the Executive Director of The Raritan Valley Workshop, an Easter Seal Facility in North Brunswick, NJ. The Raritan Valley Workshop provides vocational training for over 300 adults with disabilities on a daily basis.
Jeanne Lankin, LCSW, ACSW
Jeanne Lankin is a NJ licensed clinical social worker. She received her Masters in Social Work from Columbia University and has worked over twenty years in a variety of outpatient mental health settings including University of Pennsylvania Hospital, Hillside/Long Island Jewish Hospital and Jewish Family Service agencies in Bayonne and Southern Middlesex Counties. She is also in private practice in Highland Park and Monroe Township, NJ.
Jeanne has unique training working with individuals, couples and families on a variety of issues including cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of phobias and an expertise in geriatrics. In addition to providing psychotherapy to JFS clients, she works in the Senior Mentoring Program.
Roger Sachs, LCSW
Roger A. Sachs received his M.S.W. degree from Adelphi University. Roger provides counseling services for children, adults, couples and older adults. He has extensive experience in counseling, supervision of social workers and graduate students and administering home health aide and older adult programs. In addition to working at JFS, Roger is also employed as a Senior Social Worker at Jewish Family Service of Metrowest.
Teresa Reitz, LCSW
Teresa Reitz, MSW, LCSW, RPT-S is a licensed psychotherapist who provides individual, group, and couples therapy. She provides services to children, adolescents, and adults and has been practicing for over 10 years in a variety of settings including schools, outpatient clinics, foster care agencies, hospitals, and psychotherapy group practices. Her areas of specialization include Anxiety and Depression, Behavioral Difficulties, Parenting Support, Grief and Loss, Peer Issues, Stress Management, and Trauma. Teresa is also a Registered Play Therapist and Play Therapy Supervisor through the Association of Play Therapy.
Teresa's treatment approaches include: Play therapy: “Prescriptive Eclectic Approach” — With young children Teresa utilizes play therapy treatment. Children often will use toys as symbols of their internal struggles. Play is a child's “words” and specialized training has allowed Teresa to help many children work through various difficulties that they were experiencing. Depending on the nature of the difficulties she uses either a non-directive or directive approach.
Her play therapy approach is a “prescriptive elective&rdquou; approach, meaning that she assess the scope of the difficulties and utilizes the best play therapy interventions, shown through the latest research, to show effective change and healing. Teresa also has training in sand tray therapy which often becomes part of her work with children and adolescents. Psychodynamic, Cognitive-Behavioral, Schema Therapy orientation—Teresa's approach with adolescents and adults is often based on her training and expertise with Psychodynamic, Cognitive-Behavioral, or Schema Therapy.
Depending on the issues identified she would discuss what approach she thought would work best for the issues at hand. Often in therapy there is some overlap of these models. Teresa is open to using creative interventions in therapy including technology (particularly useful with preteens and adolescents), journal therapy, art therapy, music, and sand tray interventions. Many clients have found that these creative approaches have allowed them to reach a greater level of healing.
Teresa believes that the therapy relationship, along with clinical knowledge, is key in effective therapy. A good therapist should be able to create a feeling of safety, which allows clients to fully address issues and work towards their goals. Clients have often told Teresa that her down to earth style, sensitivity, and clinical knowledge made it possible to face the challenges that they were working through and experience genuine growth. Teresa is passionate about her work and respects all those who so courageously take the steps necessary to achieve growth and change.
Cantor Lee Coopersmith, D. Min.
Cantor Lee Coopersmith, D. Min, is the Community Chaplain of the Ohr Tikvah Jewish Healing Program. Cantor Coopersmith is a graduate of the School of Sacred Music of the Hebrew Union College — Jewish Institute of Religion in New York and was ordained as a Cantor in 1982.
She received her Master of Sacred Theology and Pastoral Counseling Certificate from the New York Theological Seminary and the Post Graduate Center for Mental Health.
In 2010 she received her Doctor of Ministry from Hebrew Union CollegeJewish Institute of Religion and a Certificate of Completion in Clinical Education for Pastoral Ministry from the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health in New York City.
Dr. Coopersmith is Cantor Emeritus of Temple B'nai Abraham, Livingston, NJ and has served Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple, New Brunswick, NJ and Temple Sholom, Plainfield, NJ.
Dr. Coopersmith provides a range of services to the unaffiliated of all ages individually and in groups in settings ranging from JFS and the JCC, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, Assisted Living and Nursing Home residences, Developmental Service Centers, prisons. She is available to lead services for Jewish holidays in communal residences, facilitate programs, and respond to individual requests for consolation to those who are unaffiliated and seeking a Jewish presence during times of bereavement, medical or other life challenge.
Carmen Ramos Ostow, LCSW
Carmen Ramos Ostow (B.A.,Barnard College, Columbia University, 1971; MSW, Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University, 1987) is a LCSW with more than 30 years experience. Postmasters studies include a Certificate in Advanced Clinical Practice and Certificate in Clinical Practice with Adolescents, both from the Silver School of Social Work, New York University.
Ms. Ostow also has trained and has experience in working with victims of domestic violence and children and young adults on the autism/asperger's spectrum.
Peter Schessler, LCSW
Peter Schessler is a licensed clinical social worker seeing adults, adolescents and children in psychotherapy. He is also involved in clinical supervision and staff development.
Mr. Schessler held clinical, supervisory, staff development and administrative positions with Jewish Family Service of Metrowest, New Jersey for 27 years. Prior to joining JFS in Somerville he practiced, privately in Essex County.
Alexia Arntz, LCSW
Alexia has been a Licensed Social Worker since 2010. She has experience counseling individuals ranging from adolescent through adult. Her background also includes group work in a variety of settings including grief support groups.
Clinical training through her internships included counseling individuals at Kean Counseling Center and working in a partial hospital setting with Dual Diagnosis clients. She especially appreciated the opportunity for therapeutic art groups with that population.
Jennifer Walters, LCSW
Jennifer Ellis Walters received a Bachelors in Social Work from James Madison University and a Masters in Social Work from Rutgers, The State University with a specialty in Children and Families. Through her work in mental health agencies and school programs, Jennifer has provided psychotherapy services to individuals, families, couples and groups.
Her experience includes work with individuals suffering from anxieties or mental illness, struggling to adjust to life changes and recovering from traumas. Jennifer also has extensive experience helping clients on the autism spectrum and with special needs to better understand their strengths and limitations and more effectively communicate and function in relationships with others.
In addition, Jennifer collaborates with caregivers to help them understand and improve difficult behavior in children. Jennifer's approach is humanistic and interpersonal with a strong focus on strengths, family systems and a psychodynamic understanding of a person's condition as well as the social/interpersonal context.
Carol Bender, LSW
Carol Bender, LSW, is the coordinator for the Family Mentor Program that connects families and volunteers in a supportive relationship to help strengthen families. Carol has a B.A. in Psychology and a Masters Degree in Social Work both from Rutgers the State University. She has over 9 years of experience working with children and adults with developmental disabilities.
She has provided counseling in a group home setting as well as in-home therapy for children on the autism spectrum. She has been instrumental in developing and implementing supported employment programs for folks with special needs. She has taught Psychology, Early Childhood Education and Child Development & Parenting for 14 years.
In addition she has coordinated a peer mentoring program for at-risk teens in order to provide adolescents 13 through 19 years of age an opportunity to develop connections with high achieving peers as well as build character.
“My personal philosophy is that families need a hand up, not a hand out and what better way than to meet face to face to help them achieve their goals. Making connections is what I do best. In a world of texting, tweeting and a plethora of virtual relationships, there is a great need for families to bond with others who are caring and want to share their special interests. No act of kindness is too small as long as it is in the essence of giving to another human being. Families are the fabric of our society and deserve particular attention and tender care.”