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Shauni works with children

Shauni’s Story

Children are never too young to learn the value of giving to neighbors who need a helping hand. The first day of kindergarten, our friends at Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School (K-8) begin learning about tikkun olam (healing the world) and the importance of tzedakah. We recently had the pleasure of visiting the school to learn about some of the ways the students support our Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry. Serendipitously, our visit coincided with a weekly student-led Torah discussion that centered around our Jewish obligation to help the needy.

Chanting Torah in front of 100 lower school students and teachers was 5th grader Shaun Kruger. The week’s portion was Deuteronomy 13:5, and as Shauni spoke, she reflected on the 150,000 children in St. Louis who may go hungry because their families don’t have enough to eat. She challenged her peers to imagine what life might be like for people who don’t have the resources they need, and encouraged her classmates to take action by donating or volunteering with a local charity.

This is a lesson that resonates strongly with 7th grader Tzofia Dean. “When I went to the food pantry, I was surprised to learn that so many kids are hungry. A lot of families who use the pantry just need help getting back on their feet. It feels good to be able to help.”

Each Friday, Mirowitz students give back to the community through donations of canned goods. The pantry, which feeds more than 6,000 visitors each month, relies on the generosity of donors for more than 50 percent of the food it distributes. Mirowitz students also host special food drives during the pantry’s busiest times, and teach students about food insecurity through a middle school social justice trip to Heifer Ranch in Arkansas.

We can’t wait to see what the future holds for these mitzvah makers, and feel lucky to have such an inspirational school as part of our St. Louis community. We are grateful for the students and families at Mirowitz for their kindness and passion for social change, and look forward to many more years of partnership!

senior citizens playing cards together

Betty’s Story

Betty was an 88-year-old Jewish widow who loved her community.  She spent countless years volunteering for community causes and hosted many parties for her dear friends.  Betty was thriving and living a joyous life at Covenant Place.  She had her friends she played card games with and bragged about her grandchildren at nightly dinners.  Her life felt fulfilled.

A few years went by and, unfortunately, Betty started to feel not herself.  She was too tired to play card games, and she was too weary to host her parties.  She even stopped going downstairs to dinners.  Her friends became concerned and worried.

Her children came into town and took their fragile mother to the doctor.  She was diagnosed with inoperable cancer.  She was devastated and didn’t know how she could stay strong enough to stay in her home and community she loves.  Feeling like she would be a burden to her family, she started to look at nursing homes out of necessity.  She felt going there would kill her before cancer would.

That’s when Betty’s social worker contacted JF&CS.  Immediately, direct outreach was provided and current needs were identified.  Betty enrolled in the Homemaker Program, and she received daily help with chores so that she could conserve her energy for other things like visiting with her friends.  Her caregiver even helped Betty host a small gathering like she was known for.  A compassionate Rabbi from the Chaplaincy program began visiting her regularly, giving her spiritual guidance and peace while dealing with end of life issues.

Today, a social worker from JF&CS visits Betty frequently, providing comfort and connection to her beloved community.  Betty thought she was being handed a death sentence, but now with JF&CS support, she feels she was handed the gift of life.

Teen girl consulting with a psychologist.

Katie’s Success Story with JF&CS

Katie and her stepmother first came to visit JF&CS last summer. When they entered the therapist’s office, the tension that had built up between them was visible: crossed arms, lack of eye contact, raised shoulders. It was clear that their relationship was in a difficult stage that they would need help navigating.

Katie had been acting out in school and her family could not find the root of the problem. During client and therapist family counseling sessions over the next year, it became clear that Katie could benefit from diagnostic testing at JF&CS. After a comprehensive set of tests, Katie was diagnosed with ADHD. This diagnosis allowed Katie and her JF&CS therapist to develop a set of tools she could use to treat her symptoms and overcome her frustrations in the classroom. As she and her family grew to understand her diagnosis, Katie’s behavior changed dramatically. Suddenly she was acting more like a teenager, laughing during appointments, talking about weekend plans with her friends, teasing her stepmother. She was no longer weighed down by the burden of having her ADHD symptoms interpreted as misbehavior.

Her family continued to see the JF&CS therapist over the next several months to check in and address any concerns they were having. Their counseling did not end at a diagnosis, they were proactive to address any bumps in the road that they encountered. Now Katie is approaching a new school year feeling ready to face any challenges that come her way.

JF&CS welcomes Jill Belsky as new Board President for 2019-2021

Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JF&CS) is pleased to welcome Jill Belsky as its board president for the 2019 – 2021 term. Jill has served on the JF&CS board for 9 years, including positions as Treasurer and Chair of Agency Services. Over the past year, she has been instrumental in launching a JF&CS brand refresh that is scheduled for completion in summer of 2019. In this role, she’ll be working alongside the organization’s new CEO, Miriam Seidenfeld, who joined the staff in February of 2019.

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Starting conversations about the last thing we want to talk about

Rabbi Jessica Shafrin would like to start a conversation even if she knows that the topic of death isn’t one people are always eager to broach. That’s where the Conversation Project comes in. Over the past year, the Kol Rinah congregant has been hosting workshops around the community, including a recent one this month at Congregation Shaare Emeth, to get people thinking about the inevitable.

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Longtime JF&CS leader looks back on 30 years of service

Before L. Louis Albert and Jewish Family & Children’s Service opened a food pantry in 1991, he described it as a “pilot project to demonstrate the idea that it’s easy to provide direct assistance to Jewish families. We hope to maintain and expand the food pantry and make it permanent.”

As Albert, 67, prepares to leave the organization, he spoke with the Jewish Lightabout his almost 30-year tenure and what he thinks the future holds for himself and the organizations’ clients.

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JF&CS launches financial support during federal shutdown

Jewish Family & Children’s Service is working to make emergency funding available for members of the St. Louis Jewish community who have been affected by the federal shutdown.

“Due to the unexpected burden the government shutdown has placed on federal workers in the Jewish community, JF&CS will be working closely with the Jewish Federation to provide emergency assistance to those in need starting immediately,” JF&CS announced in a news release.

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Jewish Family & Children’s Service Welcomes New CEO Miriam Seidenfeld

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St. Louis, MO — Jewish Family & Children’s Service of St. Louis (JF&CS) is pleased to announce that its Board of Directors has appointed Miriam Seidenfeld as Chief Executive Officer effective February 04, 2019. After a rigorous national search, Miriam has been chosen to succeed L. Louis Albert in the role, which he has occupied for over 29 years. Mr. Albert will be stepping down as CEO but will continue to serve as a consultant for the agency over the coming months.

“This is an ideal time to welcome Miriam as our next CEO,” remarked Board President Stephen Green.  “Over the past 29 years the agency has grown and evolved immensely. In addition to our core counseling services, the agency added the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry, which now feeds over 6,500 community members each month and the Child Abuse Prevention Program which reaches over 30,000 students each year.  The needs of our community are increasing and changing and our financial and operational resources are evolving.  We look forward to Miriam’s visionary leadership, experience and energy as she works with our qualified staff and other local agencies to identify the challenges and further increase the positive impact JF&CS has on the lives of those in need in our community.”

Ms. Seidenfeld has more than 25 years of experience working with children and families in non-profit settings, and 15 years of non-profit leadership experience. While Executive Director of Temple Israel in Minneapolis, the eighth largest Reform congregation in the U.S., she oversaw a $30M capital and endowment campaign, supervised a $20M building project, and led the development and implementation of an ambitious new strategic plan. Before her time with Temple Israel, she directed an innovative career development program for middle and high school youth living in the most underserved neighborhoods in New York City. Her skills in fundraising, strategic planning, management, and operations will guide JF&CS as it expands to meet the changing and growing needs of the community.

Ms. Seidenfeld has spent the majority of her career in Minneapolis and New York City, receiving her Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Relations from the University of Minnesota and her Master of Science in Social Work from Columbia University. She is looking forward to making St. Louis her home.

“I am thrilled to be part of the next chapter of Jewish Family & Children’s Service’s uplifting story. I am honored to have been selected to lead this prominent organization that has impacted the lives of so many people over its 150-year history. I am eager to meet and learn from all who are willing to share their knowledge and experiences of the St. Louis community – and to work together to continue providing compassionate support and innovative solutions to those facing life’s challenges.”

The Board of Directors at JF&CS welcomes Ms. Seidenfeld and looks forward to her tenure as CEO.

For generations, Jewish Family & Children’s Service has offered compassionate support and practical solutions to help people in our community navigate life’s challenges. JF&CS and its licensed, professional staff assist the elderly, protect children at risk, provide food and services for the needy, resolve family problems and enhance Jewish connections. We serve those in need regardless of age, race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.

Letters to the editor: Dec. 12, 2018

JF&CS launches pilot program of ‘Conversation Project’. The Jewish Light’s Nov. 28 article “Having Dinner, Talking Death”(part of Editor Ellen Futterman’s News & Schmooze column) informs readers about the Conversation Project, a national initiative encouraging individuals to speak with their loved ones about their goals for end-of-life care.

We are so pleased the Light is spreading the word about this critical issue, since the stigma surrounding these conversations leaves many families in the dark until it is too late.

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Jewish Federation women plan Hanukkah care packages, gift drive

Neighborhood children and area residents living in care facilities are getting uplifting boosts through gifts of good will during this Hanukkah season, thanks to Women’s Philanthropy members of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis.

This year, the Jewish Federation group is covering needs of both the elderly and young by hosting a personal care package project – especially for those who are homebound – as well as a Hanukkah Hugs gift drive for youths. For infants to 18 years old, requested items for donations are new, unwrapped gifts, toys, books or gift cards.

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