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!
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.
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.
The 2019 Annual Report is now available to view or download.
Please join us on November 10, 2019 at the Ritz Carlton for a Sinatra-inspired evening to benefit Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Thanks to the generous support of community members like you, we are able to provide vital community services to thousands of families, including child abuse prevention training, nutritious food, counseling, diagnostic testing, senior support, and more. Your purchase of a Gala ticket ensures we can continue meeting the needs of all community members, regardless of their financial ability.