ALLENTOWN, Pa. (Nov. 28, 2022) – The Muhlenberg College Institute for Religious and Cultural Understanding presented Jewish Family Services of Delaware (JFS) and the Refugee Integration Support Effort (RISE) with the 2022 Wallenberg Tribute Award on November 13.

For 38 years the Muhlenberg College Institute for Religious and Cultural Understanding (formerly the Institute of Jewish-Christian Understanding) has honored the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat in Hungary who saved 100,000 Jews from deportation to death camps during World War II, with the Wallenberg Tribute.

The 2022 Wallenberg Tribute Award was presented to JFS’ RISE program in honor of the courageous moral action on behalf of others and service to refugees and immigrant communities.

JFS has a long history of advocating for and assisting newcomers to America as they build new lives and raise their families in Delaware. In the 1980’s JFS was instrumental in resettling hundreds of families in Delaware from the former Soviet Union and, since 1997, have been providing émigré services for refugees who have already arrived in the state. In 2016, we relaunched our active resettlement efforts through the Refugee Integration Support Effort (RISE). In 2021, JFS welcomed 68 refugees to Delaware.

The lecture guest for this year’s Wallenberg Tribute was Rangina Hamidi, an Afghan American writer, educator, social activist and politician known for her tireless efforts to advocate for the rights of women, girls and education in Afghanistan. Hamidi presented her lecture, “Schools and Madrassas: The Battle for Education in Afghanistan”, prior to the award presentation.

Peter Hurd, President of the Board for JFS, accepted the Wallenberg Tribute Award. Several JFS staff members were also on hand for the event.

WILMINGTON, De. (Nov. 11, 2022) – Jewish Family Services of Delaware (JFS) presented the Erica Wright Advocacy Award to Representative Debra Heffernan (D) and Senator Sarah McBride (D) on Thursday, November 10.

The Erica Wright Advocacy Award is granted annually to recognize a woman or women in Delaware who have demonstrated exceptional courage, resilience, and leadership, often at great personal risk and sacrifice. Together, JFS and Erica’s family and friends share the responsibility for reviewing nominations and selecting this award’s recipient each year.

Representative Heffernan and Senator McBride were chosen for their dedication and advocacy of the Healthy Delaware Families Act. This legislation ensures that Delawareans have access to paid time off when they need to care for themselves or their loved ones.

Erica Wright knew first-hand what it was like to battle a serious medical condition while also being a mother, wife, and colleague. She also saw up close what others in her breast cancer groups faced without paid leave or support. The Healthy Delaware Families act will not only help future women like Erica, but also future caregivers.

JFS presented the first annual Erica Wright Advocacy Award last year to Erica Wright, in loving memory. On May 7, 2021, the North Wilmington community experienced a profound loss when Metastatic Breast Cancer took our brave, generous friend and fierce advocate. Erica was instrumental and inspiring to all of us at JFS and Cancer Care Connection when merging our two organizations.

The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce and its Small Business Alliance (SBA) announced this year’s Superstars in Business award winners: Jewish Family Services (JFS) of Delaware, Action Unlimited Resources, L&W Insurance, and Schlosser & Associates Mechanical Contractors. The honorees will be recognized at an awards ceremony on November 2, 2022.

JFS Delaware was recognized for this award in the Nonprofit Category. Founded in 1899, JFS provides counseling and other social support services to individuals and their families. JFS also conducts refugee resettlement and other related services through the Refugee Integration Support Effort (RISE) program. JFS is licensed with the State of Delaware’s Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health and fully accredited by the National Council on Accreditation.

“JFS is thrilled to be receiving this award,” said JFS Delaware CEO, Renna Van Oot. “What we have to offer can only be delivered if we have the best talent providing the highest quality of social services, and we pride ourselves on finding innovative ways to meet the needs of the community.”

In its 24th year, the Marvin S. Gilman Superstars in Business awards program is named for one of Delaware’s most distinguished small business leaders—Marvin Gilman—who displayed the highest ethical standards, found innovative ways to improve the world around him, and inspired others to follow in his footsteps.

The program honors small businesses and nonprofit organizations for their outstanding achievements and model approaches to business and management. The awards are presented to companies that have been in business for at least three years and are small businesses based on the number of full-time employees.

Jewish Family Services of Delaware’s Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Karen “Renna” Van Oot has been selected as the new Chief Executive Officer. She began her role on July 18, 2022.

Ms. Van Oot was raised in Wilmington, DE and received her BA from the University of Delaware. She earned a dual master’s degree in Social Service and Law and Social Policy from Bryn Mawr College. Renna was awarded her Juris Doctor from Widener University School of Law.

Renna is a dynamic and versatile professional with over 30 years of experience in the development, growth and leadership of government, non for profit and business organizations. She has expertise in nonprofit management with emphasis on strategic planning and organizational restructuring and is knowledgeable in a breadth of nonprofit related issues. She brings a talent for building and maintaining strong business and community relationships.

Renna comes to JFS after serving as Executive Director of Family Promise of Southern Chester County; prior to that, she was the COO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Region (Philadelphia).

Click here to read a Q&A with Renna in the July issue of Jewish Living Delaware.