April 16, 2024
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April 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

JFCS Receives Jewish Federation Grant for Community Outreach

Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Northern New Jersey has recently introduced the Jewish Community Social Work Program in an effort to reach more people in its catchment area and help community members take advantage of the agency’s full range of services. Funded through a grant from Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, JFCS is providing social work services at local synagogues and Jewish day and high schools throughout the community, in the hope that this access will provide people, who might not feel comfortable walking into the JFCS offices, with the opportunity to utilize the services the agency provides. In separate efforts, also funded through this same grant, the agency is reaching out to seniors, teens and families, and area Hebrew schools in an effort to reach all segments of the local population.

“The purpose of the Jewish Community Social Work Program is to link people to social services on two levels: as individuals and as a community,” said JFCS NNJ Chief Operating Officer Jessica Fleischer, LCSW, who was quick to point out that JFCS partners with institutions and individuals across all denominations and all levels of observance.

For many people, the idea of reaching out to a social service agency is daunting, but reaching out within the safety and comfort of their shul or school is much more palatable. The familiarity and security that people feel within the walls of these buildings makes addressing the idea of therapy an easier task.

JFCS is working with a number of synagogues and schools throughout northern NJ, and they hope to add more in the future. Two of the agency’s social workers, Linda Poleyeff and Paula Rozner, the agency’s community outreach supervisors, are spearheading this program as well as the others funded by this grant, and they are regularly out in the field at the different locations. The agency allows potential clients to be seen three times at no charge before possible referral to the JFCS offices or elsewhere, which is usually more than enough time to establish trust and comfort with the idea of continued therapy with a JFCS licensed clinician specifically assigned to their case.

Providing these services in the schools does more than offer therapy; the social workers can do screenings and initial evaluations in addition to counseling, which assists the often overworked school professionals in getting these children started with the services they need.

Another program that was established with the help of funding from the Federation grant is an eight-week workshop entitled “The Art of Aging,” described as a self-reflection program to help seniors live life with resilience and joy. The workshop is open to the entire community and offers discussions on issues that matter to individuals age 70+. It will be offered this spring in two locations, River Edge and Wayne, allowing participants flexibility in selecting a location.

In River Edge, the program will meet at Temple Avodat Shalom, located at 385 Howland Avenue, on Tuesdays beginning on March 14 and continuing on March 21 and 28, April 4 and 25, and May 2, 9 and 16. In Wayne, participants will meet at Temple Beth Tikvah, located at 950 Preakness Avenue, on Wednesdays beginning on March 15, continuing on March 22 and 29, April 5 and 26, and May 3, 10 and 17. Each class will meet from 10:30 a.m. to noon, and the cost is $36 per person for all eight sessions. To rsvp for this program, please contact Poleyeff at 201-978-8492 or at [email protected].

Another important event funded by the grant will occur on Tuesday, March 28, at 7:30 p.m. at the Anthony Wayne Middle School, and will be free and open to the entire community. Dr Scott Poland, co-director of the Suicide and Violence Prevention Office, Nova Southeastern University, will be the featured speaker and will discuss “Raising Children in a Challenging World: Maintaining Open Communication and Recognizing At-Risk Behaviors.” A question and answer period will follow the keynote address. The middle school is located at 201 Garside Avenue in Wayne.

The agency also plans to offer parenting workshops to schools, focusing on topics that these schools have deemed relevant or necessary. One of the workshops that Poleyeff and Rozner have prepared is entitled “How to Raise Selfless Children,” and they can present this at synagogue preschools, Hebrew schools or day schools. Their plan is to be responsive to what the schools and shuls need, in an effort to enhance previously established programs. They are also available to rabbis and schools for consultation, should questions arise regarding how best to handle particular situations.

Finally, the grant provides for programming to be brought directly into area Hebrew Schools, affording non-day school students the ability to take advantage of Poleyeff and Rozner’s expertise. Poleyeff and Rozner have already begun this programming and are available to implement similar programs at other synagogues in the area.

At Temple Beth Rishon in Wyckoff, they have initiated several programs with children in grades three through eight. They worked with seventh and eighth graders to introduce the students to the organization Sharsheret, which, according to its website, “is a national not-for-profit organization supporting young Jewish women and their families facing breast cancer.” Together with the students, they prepared pink challah for Shabbat. Each student took challah home and gave one to a friend or neighbor in order to spread the word and help educate others about Sharsheret. With the third and fourth graders, Poleyeff and Rozner held a pre-Thanksgiving program where they spoke about thankfulness, gratitude and appreciation. Each child created a beautiful card to give as thanks to someone in his or her life. Finally, there was a pre-Chanukah program held for fifth and sixth grade students. The social workers spoke about the celebration of Chanukah and the importance of giving. The children made Chanukah gifts that were distributed to JFCS Meals on Wheels recipients.

There was also a program held at Temple Beth Tikvah in Wayne, where Poleyeff and Rozner held an interactive discussion about Jewish identity versus secular identity.

“Our social workers, in partnership with rabbis and lay leaders, conduct ongoing needs assessments to determine the most pressing issues in the community and plan timely, engaging programs to address them,” noted Fleischer.

The agency is hopeful that this grant will unite the communities in its catchment area, enabling all of the residents who are in need of services to be reached.

“Our goal is to have the community working together,” Poleyeff said.

JFCS of Northern New Jersey is an agency born of the merger between JFS of Bergen and North Hudson and JFS of Northern New Jersey, and serves Bergen and North Hudson counties, as well as most of Passaic county. Having offices in Teaneck, Wayne and Fair Lawn allows clients to select the one that is most convenient for them. For more information, visit www.jfcsnnj.org. To contact Linda Poleyeff or Paula Rozner, please email [email protected] or [email protected].

By Jill Kirsch


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