What is Jewish Family Services’ mission?
The mission of Jewish Family Services is to strengthen and empower individuals and families through professional counseling, programs and services inspired by Jewish values.
Tell us your nonprofit story—how did it get started and why?
Jewish Family Services in Charlotte began in 1980 primarily to serve the needs of Jewish Russian immigrants, seniors, and the financially needy. After 35 years, we have grown into a full service organization that provides comprehensive social services to all members in the Greater Charlotte community.
By wrapping our array of services around each individual, we ensure that each person we see receives the help they need when they are facing financial instability, emotional and mental health issues and the numerous other challenges that each of us encounters throughout our lives.
Jewish Family Services focuses on four main pillars of service:
- Counseling individuals and families (Counseling Center)
- Helping seniors stay connected to the Jewish community (Senior Outreach)
- Providing life-skills, food and financial resources to people facing obstacles (My Solutions Case Management)
- Offering additional programs, support groups and educational workshops that support the needs of our community (Community Support Programs)
Describe one of your best experiences since starting at JFS?
One of our pillars of service is Senior Outreach to the Jewish community. Much of this service involves going into the community to visit and provide programming to Jewish senior adults who are homebound in their private homes or in senior facilities and since Charlotte has no designated “Jewish” senior living home, oftentimes the staff at these facilities are unaware of Jewish customs and traditions.
It is Jewish tradition that when a loved one dies, the spouse and other direct family members express their mourning in several distinct ways, including sitting on low stools or chairs as a way of expressing their grief and symbolizing the humility and pain of the mourner being “brought low” by the passing of a loved one.
Several months ago one of our clients who lived in one of a senior facility passed away. As I was sitting in my office I overheard two of the women in our Senior Outreach department discussing their plans to bring a “mourner’s chair” to the widow as he requested. Listening to them explaining the custom to the facility’s staff (a custom I had not even heard of!) and how they were arranging this for the mourning widow, I was literally in awe of the work that our staff does and the comfort they provide for people in pain.
November 9-13 is Apparo’s Local Good Week—what does giving back to the community mean to you and why is it important?
As Jews, we are commanded by our faith to give back to the community by performing Mitvot (plural for Mitzvah, meaning “good deeds”).
Although Jewish Family Services is not a faith-based organization, we are guided by a mission based on Jewish values. These values, which are not exclusive to the Jewish faith, include the following:
- He who saves one life saves the entire world. (Pikuach Nefesh)
- The obligation to make the world a better place. (Tikkun Olam)
- Social justice, the obligation to act justly toward people in need. (Tzedakah)
- Acts of loving kindness. (G’mut Hassadim)
- Every human being is equal in the eyes of G-d.( Tselem Elohim)
There is an anonymous quote that my father typed and carried in his wallet until he died. It read, “When I was young I set out to change the world. When I grew a little older I perceived that this was too ambitious and I set out to change my state. This too, I realized as I grew older was too ambitious so I set out to change my town. When I realized I could not even do this, I tried to change my family. Now as an old man I know that I should have started by changing myself. If I started with myself, maybe then I could have succeeded in changing my family, the town, or even the state and who knew, maybe even the world.” Each day that I work for Jewish Family Services, I know I am making a valuable impact (and making my dad proud!)
How has working with Apparo enabled you to achieve your mission more efficiently?
Apparo has provided the opportunity for Jewish Family Services to partner with individual volunteers in the community who have expertise in Powerpoint, Excel and the other Microsoft products. In addition to providing one-on-one training on these products, they also developed an analysis tool to replace a manual process we were following. We are a small agency and we all vary in our experience and knowledge of these products. Apparo’s service is invaluable to the non-profit community – by matching trainers to each individual’s level, they provide a customized approach to training AND they do it at no fee!
Apparo is currently in the process of helping us to identify and evaluate new software for our Counseling Center, which involves understanding our mental health practice, insurance/Medicare/Medicaid requirements and internal operations. We are confident that their assistance will allow us to choose a system for our agency that best fits our needs and our budget.