JFS on WJBR’s Focus on the Delaware Valley

On Wednesday, November 4, 2020 JFS’ Chief Strategy Officer, Rosi Crosby, and Board Member, Avie Silver spoke with Lora Lewis of WJBR’s Focus On The Delaware Valley podcast. Together they discussed, JFS’ history in Delaware, response to the COVID-19 crisis, volunteer opportunities, and more.

Listen to the podcast or read the transcription below!


Lora Lewis: And welcome to Focus on the Delaware Valley, I’m Lora Lewis and with me today from Jewish Family Services we have Rosi Crosby, she is the Chief Strategy Officer! Hard to say in the morning, and Avie Silver she is a board member—ladies, welcome!

Rosi Crosby: Thank you for having us.

Lora: Rosi we’ll start with you, very quickly, can you give us that mission statement? What is Jewish Family Services?

Rosi: Sure. JFS Delaware’s mission is to strengthen individuals and families through counseling and support services.

Lora: Oh, that’s easy! And, let’s now then roll it back about a hundred and two years, this is a, this was a faith-based organization dedicated to its own community and a community of immigrants—can we start off with a discussion about how you were founded and how that history has shaped you into what you are today?

Rosi: Absolutely. I’ll take the first part of that, which is the history of the organization, but I’m gonna let Avie take the next section, which is how our Jewish values shape what we do today. So, go back about a hundred and twenty plus years now, believe it or not, and there were immigrants coming from all over the world, and settling into various communities. And at that time, there weren’t government services that were available to help them with housing and employment and shelter and food. And so what groups of volunteers essentially did is come together and create organizations. At first, they were very, a hundred percent driven by volunteer support, you know, neighbors helping neighbors. And that’s essentially how the Hebrew Aid Society started here in Delaware. And, it evolved, it grew, but the needs of the community didn’t. People are still coming to Jewish Family Services for the basic needs that they have, to be able to find good social support services. It has had six directors in its history, Basha Silverman is the most current CEO and she has been with us for about four years, so the fabric of JFS is very, very, very strong. Fast forward, the Lutheran Society, the Catholic Charities, the Hebrew Aid Society realized that they had the opportunity to support beyond their ethnicity, to support beyond their religion, to support the community as a whole. And that is exactly what has happened with Jewish Family Services. I will let Avie talk a little bit about the people we’re serving currently, and how you don’t have to be Jewish to come to JFS.

Lora: Avie?

Avie Silver: Yeah, as Rosi was giving the history, it’s so interesting especially in the times that we’re in right now and the topics that we hear about and we learn about, immigration being one of them, people, you know, Jews came over here from Russia and elsewhere, lots of other places. We immigrated over here and didn’t have any services, so from that came the Hebrew Aid Society which then, you know, which then evolved and similar with the other faiths, doing the same thing it becomes that you don’t just need to help people of your faith, because you’ve done that, you’ve, you’re still gonna continue to do that but you’ve done the big, you’ve done a lot of the heavy lifting already. Now let’s do that for the rest of human society. And the place that that comes from is, for me in the way that I was raised, tikkun olam, it’s something that, that one of the values of Jewish people is called tikkun olam, and what that means in its simplest terms is to repair the world. We feel it is our obligation to help repair the world, as many other religions and faiths and ethnicities do, we believe in humanity. And so Jewish Family Services has evolved to really open their arms and welcome in the entire community, whether that’s help with refugee services because folks are coming over here seeking a free life, and we help provide the things that they need, or whether it be, you know, somebody struggling with anxiety right now because they have three children and they’re homeschooling them and there’s COVID and they’re scared of everything else that’s going—they can turn to JFS and get those services. What our Jewish values have taught us is how to adapt and how to evolve, and how to transfer that to heal the world. And that’s what JFS does, they do it for Jewish people and for everybody else, so when Rosi says you don’t have to be Jewish to go to JFS, you definitely don’t have to be Jewish to go to JFS.

Lora: Well looking back a hundred and twenty years ago—I shorted you eighteen years there—so looking back all those years ago you’re looking at a population that needed help with everything from language skills and education to basic needs like shelter and food. Getting them established in the community, and today, you’re kinda doing basically the same thing you’re administering to the mental and physical health of the community.

Rosi: Absolutely. You know, specifically talking about refugee support because it is an important topic and something that—in Delaware, JFS is the only organization that initially helps refugees and that is able to have a wraparound support for refugees and emigrés for up to five years. Imagine coming from the Congo, arriving at JFK, taking a van down 95, and walking into an office, a Jewish Family Services office, and there is a group of volunteers welcoming you to our community, and starting the process of getting you settled in our community. That person fills out some paperwork, gets into a volunteer’s car and is driven to a fully furnished and stocked apartment, and then the next day a case manager from Jewish Family Services comes to their homes and gets them to the doctor’s, gets their children registered in schools, sets them up with an ESL learning instructor, starts to have that individual fill out job applications. I mean it is just so comprehensive, and that is all because our community comes together to support that one family. And we’ve been lucky to be an organization that has been here for our community through every wave of immigration, every wave of refugee support. And we will continue to be here when that returns in its glory.

Lora: That’s a very holistic approach there, and this is done by a combination, you eluded to volunteers who are helping and of course obviously, mental health professionals, social workers and all, but, do you wanna describe the organization, and then I wanna hear about who you’re serving and what are the programming, what’s the programming that you offer. And we’re gonna talk pre-COVID, and then we’re gonna get into what the heck is going on now.

Rosi: Well I’m very grateful to Avie, she’s recently helped JFS with a comprehensive brand survey and analysis, and we now have a playbook to describe the many, many programs in our arsenal. But just to give you a sense, last year JFS served over three thousand individuals statewide, so, New Castle County, Kent County, and Sussex County. Pre-COVID we had three offices, we now have two physical spaces, two physical offices in New Castle and in Sussex County. We temporarily closed our Newark office and we’re not sure when that will come back. Right now, all of our services are being done virtually and effectively. Our youngest client is four years old and our oldest client is over one hundred years old, so we’re serving people in the lifespan. Some of the support we have as we talked about, about fifty percent of the work that we do is psychotherapy, we have licensed clinical social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists on staff, as well as a psychiatric nurse practitioner who’s able to help, help our team, and help our clients with medical management. Each team, even in our psychotherapy department works as an interdisciplinary team. So you come in at JFS and you get a great therapist, but if you need that additional support, psychiatric support, the team works together to provide that. We provide those psychotherapy services both in our offices as well as in the community. We work with community centers, camps, schools, we work in the most at-risk communities in Delaware helping to provide the therapeutic support that individuals need. Now we’re not gonna talk about COVID yet ‘cause I have a whole new set of things we’re doing to address the needs, the psychotherapy needs of individuals during COVID so I’ll put that aside. The second, the other half of the work that we do is called support services, and that’s everything from providing job readiness services for individuals with disabilities in schools, age fourteen to seventeen where our team, our FutureLink team goes in and provides them job skills and readiness, all the way to, we have a physician who provides dementia support, and her interdisciplinary team is able to help individuals with dementia and their families through their journey as they experience the challenges associated with dementia. So, it’s very vast, broad, and holistic, a very interdisciplinary holistic approach to providing services.

Lora: Avie, do you wish to jump in there?

Avie: Sure, yeah, I just will echo what Rosi said, I think one of the most fascinating things about JFS and what holds my passion to an organization like this is that holistic approach, it is, when you call, if you have a problem, they don’t just, they’re listening to you, but there’s also a whole bunch of other things that are happening to you, a person’s life isn’t just one person’s life, it’s everybody that’s affected by that person or who, you know, who that person’s being affected by, and JFS recognizes that. So, if a parent gets dementia, that’s really difficult to deal with, but it’s difficult having to figure out all of the things that that person needs and how, what if you’re, what if you’re far away, and they’re here? And you have to deal— JFS does all of that for you. They have the insight and the foresight to already have put in place what an individual might need through that course and they have the experts there that are able to direct that, and to know when you might need that help, or to be there with your or, if somebody else in the family needs help, it, really when they say family, it is a, it’s for the family it’s not just for the individual, and I think that’s—in an organization that is out there helping our community—that’s what you want it to be. You want it to be a holistic, helpful, for the family, so you know that no matter what you’re not alone, because that’s the hardest part.

Lora: And this is a statewide, all three counties of Delaware are served by you. And, you know what let’s get some business out of the way here, if you’re just joining us, I’m Lora Lewis and this is Focus on the Delaware Valley, and today we are talking with JFS Delaware, Jewish Family Services, and if you’d like more information about what they do and the programming that they offer, they’re easy to find—jfsdelaware.org, jfsdelaware.org. They have a warm body answering the phone during business time, and the rest of the time you just leave a message they’ll get right back to you. 302-478-9411, but the easiest way of all is jfsdelaware.org. Again, today we are speaking with it’s Chief Strategy Officer, Rosi Crosby, and board member, Avie Silver. I just asked you about your statewide organization, and from four years old to a hundred and two, and, how does somebody actually get involved with your services, how do you, how do you work with a family?

Rosi: That’s a great, great question. So, I wanna outline a little bit about the staffing of services. So, not only are we statewide, but we have thirty providers. Providers are therapists, doctors—yep therapists and doctors they’re called providers. So, that’s a huge number of choices that a client has when they need to access JFS services. So, how would you get connected to a therapeutic provider? You might get a referral from your doctor, you might go online and say, “I need a therapist in Wilmington” and JFS will come up, you may be, get referred to JFS through a friend. We have a lot of, there are a lot of doors that you might come to through JFS. JFS has support groups, you may have attended a support group and you’re like, “that was really helpful, that support group helped me strengthen my skills, I feel ready to receive additional therapeutic support.” We do a lot of outreach in the community. We’re, as I mentioned, we’re in the community at community centers, in schools—the JFS name is, if you’re listening, you’ll hear it—”oh! JFS can help!” “Oh, I heard about JFS tell me a little bit more about it.” And that, you start the conversation, and all of a sudden you realize that JFS is a viable place for you to call, to check it out, to go on the website and figure out whether or not it’s the right service for you. NAMI Delaware has JFS linked on their website. The Mental Health Association of Delaware has JFS listed on their website, the state of Delaware’s Help is Here Hopeline has JFS listed as a provider to help individuals get support. JFS has providers, they’re therapists, we have expertise in trauma, in domestic violence, in substance abuse, in marriage counseling, in children, in play therapy, that’s why our youngest clients are four. We have a robust team of people that have specific therapeutic skills that are coveted—in Delaware there’s a shortage of therapists, the needs are increasing, the demand is increasing, the stress is increasing, and JFS is consistently recruiting for new team members, particularly because we are statewide but also because we have a very solid group of clinical supervisors and staff and experienced professionals that can help one another and feed off one another and build each other’s capabilities to handle the clients that we’re getting in. And you can imagine, I think right now we have eighteen hundred clients that we’re seeing in our therapeutic department—that’s a lot of people that are reaching out on a weekly, or biweekly, or monthly basis to receive support, and so, that’s one way that people come, is through word of mouth, through podcasts like today, just knowing that our doors are open and our providers are available. The other thing that you asked about was case management. Some of the barriers that people have to accessing services is things like transportation, financial concerns, unemployment, childcare, daycare. Our case managers work with our therapists to ensure that and remove barriers to support, remove those little things that prevent somebody from picking up the phone and getting help. Maybe it is those three kids that are, you know, running around you, well, if you don’t take care of yourself first how in the world are you gonna be able to take care of those three kids? That’s something that we’re noticing that telehealth is really improving, not having to worry about where do I put the kids when I go to my therapy appointment, now we have to worry about which car do I sit in when I have my therapy appointment or what door can I close so that I can have it privately. But there are barriers that are being removed through telehealth that JFS is responding to and our team has responded to. So that is definitely, that’s definitely something that I wanted to explain, is the robust nature of our therapeutic department.

Lora: And what about body, and occupation—jobs, education opportunities, etcetera like that. Do you have programming in that area?

Rosi: So, I think what JFS is most proud of is our ability to adapt and respond to the current needs of the community. Right now, because of COVID, over a hundred thousand individuals have been, have lost their jobs in Delaware. And that’s not only in Delaware, we know it’s across the country—and these are individuals, some who’ve never been unemployed in their life, who weren’t expecting to be in this situation that they are in now and may or may not be prepared—prepared emotionally, prepared financially, or just prepared physically for that change. So JFS is launching, along with a number of community partners, a program called the Employment Support Network. And without going into a lot of detail, because I could talk for the entire half hour about this very important and exciting new program, it is designed exactly the way that Avie described earlier, to support the individual holistically and that family that that individual cares so deeply about. So, through the Employment Support Network individuals who were recently unemployed will be assigned a team of people to help them get through the journey. Somebody who will be helping them with their, with financial coaching. Someone who will be helping them with job coaching and job search coaching. Somebody who will connect them to the resources they may or may not need around their mental health. Be able to connect them to urgent needs, if they have urgent needs. And this team, this collaborative team of people, can you imagine being unemployed, walking into an organization and getting three people, well at least three people assigned to just your case? That to me just sounds like a gift from Manna, you know, it’s unheard of, and we really are very grateful to the funders who believe in this program. To the Longwood Foundation, to the Welfare Foundation, to Discover Bank, to Barclay’s Bank, these organizations are the ones who believe, who understand that there is an urgent need for the recently unemployed and have come to trust Jewish Family Services to deliver on programs that support these individuals and their families. Did you hear the amazing list of funders that I listed earlier? For anybody in Delaware they know they’re the most, you know, and I feel terrible, I probably forgot some, Delaware Community Foundation, United Way, you know, Discover Bank, Barclay’s Bank, Longwood Foundation, Welfare Foundation, these are the core organizations in Delaware that are responding to the needs, and JFS along with Social Contract, as I mentioned the United Way of Delaware, the state of Delaware labor office have come together to create a program that’s going to help these individuals get through what hopefully will be a very temporary period in their lives, but it’s acute. And the way that somebody handles unemployment is different depending on their personal circumstances and we want to—as we do with all of our programs—make each program personalized, intensive, and create an interdisciplinary team that can support that family. From the beginning…

Lora: … to the new normal.

Rosi: To the new normal. I don’t even want to say the end ‘cause that’s not really what it is. We’re always here for people, we’ve been here for a hundred and twenty years, and we just keep evolving.

Lora: Well that pretty much addresses your COVID response there. If someone is hearing this though, you, I, as I said, it takes a team, it takes volunteers—you’ve got a dedicated staff, but it does take volunteers, and obviously it takes funding—if someone wants to get involved, if someone has plenty of time or if someone has very little time, are there, and are there immediate needs that somebody can help you with?

Rosi: I’m gonna let Avie take the first part of that question, as a board member we treasure their volunteer time that they spend helping to guide and lead this organization, and I’d love to hear how Avie got involved and why she stays involved, and then I’ll follow up with some very specific opportunities for volunteer engagement.

Lora: Okay.

Avie: So, JFS has been part of my life forever pretty much, so I’m not gonna go into all of those details—I pretty much bleed JFS, it’s just an amazing organization. As far as getting involved, so you know when I, I actually asked to be on the board, I love this organization so much, and so that—my contribution as far as volunteerism, that’s how I am serving currently, but as other opportunities come back, you know, come about, such as this Employment Support Network, and things like that, you know, when it comes to delivering food to families in need, when it comes, there’s always volunteer opportunities and there’s always an opportunity to jump on. When there’s a need in the community, JFS is responding to that need. So, if there’s a need in the community and you wanna volunteer, JFS is already taking care of it, call them, and they’ll put you in place to help you help with that need. So, there’s so many people that have that drive, that passion, that energy, they’re saying look at what’s happening in the world right now we wanna help. Call JFS—they have plenty of places for you to help, there are people in the community, and there’s so many ways to serve. Right now, it’s taken the whole village to do it, and we need everybody to help.

Rosi: So, an example of specific needs that we have right now is, we have families that need to learn English and we need ESL instructors and they are really hard to find. We are delivering “Stay-at-Home Survival Kits” to over one hundred families, we’re trying to do it on a biweekly basis. Imagine having to put those kits together and deliver them to their homes where, you know, contactless delivery, but regardless it’s getting in the car and delivering those gift baskets and we call them “Stay-at-Home Survival Kits”. We are doing meal delivery in collaboration with other organizations for home-bound seniors. JFS is launching our Holiday Helpers program where families who typically have been, who, families during the holidays who typically come to our offices to see their therapists—and our therapists are helping to identify those clients with the most need—typically in the past, I don’t know, ten years maybe twenty, they’ve been able to come to JFS and to, get holiday bags, holiday bags of goodies that our very, very generous donors have helped to fill with basic necessities, but also candles and scarves and gloves and hats and things that make people feel warm and fuzzy. We can’t do that this year, we can’t have clients coming in and walking through the office and picking those things up, but we’re putting Holiday Helper bags together and we need help to support, we need help putting those bags together. Those are the sort of, what I call the one-and-done volunteer opportunities and that’s important because we all want, you know, to do something that feels good whether it’s pack a box of food or deliver a “Stay-at-Home Survival Kits”. We have individuals that are making phone calls to families, checking in on them—”are you ok?” Having just meaningful conversations with individuals who might be experiencing isolation. That’s another example of, you can do that for a short of a period of time or as long of a period of time as you’d like. And then we have these very new and very complex, exciting volunteer opportunity through the Employment Support Network. We’re recruiting up to a hundred volunteers to help be a mentor to recently unemployed people, working directly with the JFS staff, the community managers, the case managers, to ensure again that they have a team of people helping them through this journey. I could go on and on about the different volunteer opportunities but I’m gonna wrap it up, because—the main number, 302-478-9411—just tell us what you need, if you’re experiencing something personally, or tell us what you’d like to do because you’d like to give your talent and your time to JFS and we’ll make the connection.

Lora: And of course, donations are always appreciated.

Rosi: Www.jfsdelaware.org, absolutely.

Lora: And that is jfsdelaware.org for Jewish Family Services of Delaware, jfsdelaware.org, you can call during business hours and leave a message otherwise 302-478-9411, but they have a really spiffy cool website, go to jfsdelaware.org for more information about everything that we’ve talked about today. And here’s where I toss you two, and say thank you for all you’ve been doing, and thank you for being on today. My guests, Rosi Crosby, Chief Strategy Officer, and Avie Silver, board member for Jewish Family Services of Delaware, you know ‘em as JFS. Ladies, thank you!

Rosi: Thank you!

Avie: Thank you!

Lora: I’m Lora Lewis, this has been Focus on the Delaware Valley.