May 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Merger Creates Premier Social Service Agency in Northern NJ

There’s a new Jewish agency in town. Well, actually that’s not quite true… there’s a newly merged agency, made up of two Jewish Family Service offices: JFS of Bergen and North Hudson (located in Teaneck) and JFS of North Jersey (located in Fair Lawn and Wayne), who have each been serving our local community for over 60 years. As of January 3, 2017, this newly formed organization will be known as Jewish Family and Children’s Services (JFCS) of Northern NJ. According to Shira Feuerstein, the first president of the board of trustees, “JFCS will truly be a premier social service agency. With the ability to offer a single point of contact for social service needs ranging from mental health services to elder care, and from food pantry needs to career counseling, JFCS will serve a geographic region spanning the entire Jewish Federation catchment area. The creation of this new agency will better serve the community, take better advantage of financial resources and make finding help easier to those in need.”

The journey to this collaboration and eventual merger was driven by Jewish Federation of Northern NJ. Over 10 years ago, two local Federations merged, one serving Eastern Bergen County and one serving West Bergen and Wayne, forming what we now know as JFNNJ. All beneficiary agencies and services served by these two original umbrella organizations had been merged since then, except for JFS. This process is the last piece in the puzzle.

Susan Greenbaum, the new chief executive officer of JFCS, described the process of merging: “The road that brought us to this point has not always been smooth, but each step of the journey was faced with positivity, focus and professionalism from our incredible board of trustees. The individuals on our leadership team were able to step up, take responsibility and focus on the process. Through hours upon hours of committee work, meetings and task forces, we have come together with the board and professional staff of North Jersey to create one streamlined agency, ready to face the challenges ahead.”

With all three offices (Teaneck, Wayne and Fair Lawn) remaining open, the staff will be growing with the merger, not shrinking. “With such a tremendous demand for services, we are now open six days a week, with office hours until 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday,” says Jessica Fleischer, chief operations officer. “We have been hiring additional social workers and clinicians to keep up with client demand. In addition, we have placed social workers directly into schools and synagogues to meet with clients where they are needed most.”

The growth and expansion of programs within the agency has been tremendous. In just nine months, the agency has seen over 100 clients for individual career counseling and hosted almost as many in workshops on resume writing, LinkedIn and job-search methods through Re-Launch Career Services.

This month marks the end of the first year of RSVP—Retired Senior Volunteer Program, giving senior adults a vehicle by which they are helping others, volunteering their time and energy to give back to the community. The volunteer base has skyrocketed, and JFCS now has access to smart, kind, experienced adults to assist in their work.

The kosher meals-on-wheels program now sends seven meals a week to seniors—ensuring their nutritional needs are met every day of the week.

The food pantry, expanded in size by over 50 percent, now includes refrigeration and freezer space to provide fresh and frozen food to supplement the shelf-stable supplies provided for needy individuals and families. Through a partnership with the Community Food Bank of NJ, the capacity for helping others continues to grow exponentially.

Holocaust survivors, a growing segment of the JFCS community, are served through Café Europa, a monthly lunch and socialization program held in synagogues throughout the catchment area. This month, the merged agencies are expecting over 150 survivors to attend the luncheon on December 20.

Holocaust survivors are just a portion of the tremendous number of seniors served by JFS. Home care, care management, emergency preparedness and assistance and support for caregivers are among the services provided at each office.

Children’s services, another growing segment of the client population, continues to serve nearly 700 students in the Club Ed after-school program, run in four area school districts. For many families, Club Ed is an entry point to clinical services. With two play therapy rooms on-site, JFCS provides specialized mental health services for children and adolescents.

For more information about JFCS, call (201) 837-9090.

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