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Reconnecting with Our Roots, A Message for Rosh Hashanah

We hope this note finds all our community members healthy and well. During times of uncertainty and disruption, we often find comfort by reconnecting with our roots. In the past months, many folks have literally returned to their hometowns and the security of their family home.

 As we approach this most-unusual High Holiday season, we hope you, too, find comfort in connecting with your roots – to the familiarity of Jewish traditions, rituals and values. There is stability and control to be found in marking this New Year, like we have so many times before, and defining a new beginning for ourselves and our community.

In these challenging times, JFCS remains firmly grounded in our guiding principles of Help, Hope and Healing. By remaining true to our principles, we have been able to adapt to the changing needs of our clients and grow in line with our mission. These concepts also work to help connect us with our Jewish roots.

HELP …a concept most often associated with mitzvot and Tzedakah (charitable giving). From a young age, we become familiar with the importance of performing acts of kindness and making charitable donations. Helping others, specifically those most in need, becomes an ingrained habit.

HOPEL’Dor V’Dor (from generation to generation) for Jewish families: this is the thread that connects us to those who came before and those who will come after us. There is hope that every time we share our values, traditions and history, the next generation will carry forward these lessons and build upon them. We constantly look forward with hope.

HEALINGTikkun Olam – repairing the world. In the Judaism, we learn that we have a responsibility to see beyond individual acts of kindness and to contribute to broader change to heal what is broken in our local, national and global communities.

In honor of the New Year, ask how can I help? How do I help others find hope? How can I help heal my community?

Help a neighbor by volunteering to make calls to a local, isolated senior, or donate $50, which can support one week of Kosher Meals on Wheels for a homebound older adult.

Give hope to those who are struggling emotionally by directing them to the JFCS Drop-In hours, or making a contribution of $500 which can support someone in need of ongoing counseling.

Be part of healing the increasing food insecurity in Mercer County by organizing a food drive for the JFCS pantries, or make a gift of $5,000 which can fund two Mobile Food Pantry distributions, reaching 100 families.

Reconnect with your roots and make a gift to JFCS that honors the values embodied in Help, Hope and Healing. Your generosity will aid those most in need – a gift marking a transition to a new start.

Wishing you the peace, prosperity, health and happiness rooted in our celebration of the New Year.

Michelle Napell, Executive Director 

Arlene Pedovitch, Board President

Celebrating the Jewish High Holidays during COVID-19

The Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah (beginning September 18) and Yom Kippur (beginning September 27), will be celebrated in new ways this year.

The pandemic will dramatically impact how the Jewish community “gathers” and observes these important holidays. At JFCS, we understand it can be an overwhelming prospect and are providing a number of resources for you, your family, friends, neighbors and our entire Jewish community in Mercer County.

JFCS Resources

Holiness at Home: Observing the High Holidays Outside of the Synagogue, Webinar hosted by Andrea Gaynor, LCSW and Beverly Rubman, Chaplain that explored the many ways in which Elul, the month preceding Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, presents opportunities to prepare both spiritually and psychologically. The webinar also discussed how to make High Holiday virtual services more personally meaningful and relevant.

Bereavement and the Holidays During COVID-19

Readings & Articles

Preparing Your Heart for the High Holy Days: A Guided Journal, Kerry M. Olitsky and Rachel T. Sabath

Mahzor Lev Shalem for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

Beginning Anew: A Woman’s Companion to the High Holy Day Gail Twersky Reimer and Judith A. Kates

God is a Verb, Rabbi David Cooper (Modern Kabbalistic view of God and spirituality)

New prayers and poems

Diverse articles on the High Holidays

Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation

  • Complete downloadable Rosh HaShanah Seder
  • Schusterman Family Foundation Haggadah

JFCS Reflects on Year of Service, Before and During a Pandemic

Each June, Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (JFCS) convenes an Annual Meeting open to the greater Mercer County community. In light of coronavirus pandemic, JFCS has chosen instead to share a prepared video with the community documenting the agency’s service over the past year.

Video highlights include:

  • Reflection on the launch of the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry including the pop-up pantries that helped pave the way for distribution partners, the planning process to retrofit a food truck into a mobile pantry, and the first months in service, including an increased distribution schedule seen as result of COVID-19.
  • Recognition of the Senior Service team for their consistent support of older adults and commitment to addressing immediate concerns during the pandemic.
  • Acknowledgment of the Clinical (Mental Health Counseling) department for the service to the community prior to COVID-19 and expanded services in light of the pandemic. Expanded support includes Drop-In hours and webinars, virtual events, and blogs to share advice to the broader community.
  • Highlighting teen programs for providing an outlet for youth to connect, share experiences, and engage in community service projects during a difficult time when distanced from peers.

What We’re Doing, What’s in the Works, and How to Help

It is impossible to look around you – even from within your own home – and not be inundated with information about the COVID-19 outbreak. These are uncharted waters for our local, national and global communities, but, there is an oddly comforting unity to know that this outbreak has an impact of everyone in our community, we are in this together.

We do not know how long our lives will be upended by restrictions and quarantines, but we do know the impact will last even longer. Right now and through the uncertain future, JFCS will be here ensuring help, hope and healing. In this phase of social distancing and disconnection, we intend to keep you, our community, well informed on JFCS actions.

What are we doing right now?

We are utilizing all available resources to ensure the most vulnerable and most in need have food:

  • We provided 50 families at Better Beginnings with packaged groceries
  • We plan to maintain our Mobile Food Pantry distribution schedule, including a stop at for 50 Redding Circle residents this week
  • April pantry hours for our on-site Yvette Sarah Clayman Kosher Food Pantry will be kept for our scheduled clients. For the health & safety of all, clients will be provided prepacked bags of grocery items, delivered to them in their cars, limiting outside access to our site.
  • Kosher Meals on Wheels continue to be delivered to homebound seniors. Meals are delivered by staff at the door with no direct contact with the recipient.
  • We are packing to-go boxes for Kosher Café seniors and have seen an increased attendance given the limited resources available for this low-income population. Last week we also provided the Kosher Café guests with a supplemental bag of grocery items to help them during this time.
  • We have frozen prepared meals available to supplement any of our seniors existing deliveries on an as-needed basis.
  • We are exploring all possible resources for packaged, pantry items and prepared meals to keep in stock as we anticipate growing need for food among our seniors and the food-insecure.
  • We are ordering Kosher for Passover meals to be distributed to our homebound senior clients.

Counseling is being provided by phone to our existing clients. Our team of counselors is available to take new calls for anyone who needs immediate assistance to cope with the heightened stress, anxiety or fear and for those with ongoing mental health concerns.

JFCS Geriatric Care Managers are making regular check-in calls and providing support by phone to our Secure@Home members, low-income seniors, Holocaust Survivors and support group members.

Volunteers have stepped up to provide check-in calls to our Kosher Meals on Wheels clients as well as seniors who were enrolled in Cooking Companions and Friendly Visitor programs.

We have launched a comprehensive resource page on our website as a one-stop source of agency information, helpful blogs from our staff on topical issues, and links to outside resources.

What is in the works?

  • Our staff is working with all community partners to make connections and ensure any available food is reaching those who need it most.
  • We are planning to launch teen engagement programs over Zoom (video conferencing) to keep our youth connected and supported during this challenging time.
  • We are creating plans to host Community Calls with one of our counselors to provide topical information on the challenges being faced by many.
  • We are working to offer free “call-in” hours during the week where callers can be connected to one of our counselors for coping skills and support.
  • We are exploring the capabilities of Zoom and other conference-calling programs to deliver supportive workshops to our constituents.

What can you do?

  • If you know of any counseling needs in the community, recommend JFCS.
  • If you know of families or seniors in need of food, recommend JFCS.
  • If you know of resources that will help us continue to deliver our programs whether it is through food, funding, or technology, we welcome your help and support.
  • LAST BUT NOT LEAST… check in on your children, your parents, your elderly neighbors, your coworkers, your friends, and yourself.

Administrative staff will be available by phone to answer any questions Monday – Thursday 9 AM – 5 PM and Friday 9 AM – 4 PM. Please note effective March 23, the restrictions noted in our original posting remain in place indefinitely in accordance with local, state and national health and safety guidelines. 

JFCS is stretching our resources as far as possible at this time to ensure our current clients have the support they need, be it counseling, senior resources and food. We know this is just the beginning of a rise in need for our services. Help us be equipped to provide for as many as possible here in our community.

Consider a contribution today.

What is a Social Worker? Celebrating Our Staff during Social Work Month

According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), “Social work is a profession for those with a strong desire to help improve people’s lives.”

I have the joy of working with driven, compassionate social workers every day at JFCS. In our agency, the social work profession is represented in every program and service. Our counseling department is staffed with licensed social workers and licensed clinical social workers providing therapy to those battling depression, anxiety, trauma and more.

We employee social workers across our senior services to provide geriatric care management, helping older adults and their families navigate the choices to remain in their home or seek assisted living. The Holocaust Survivor program is delivered by a social worker who works one on one with survivors to ensure they are receiving the care they need as they age.

Social work interns interact with seniors at our Kosher Cafes and help clients in the Yvette Sarah Clayman Kosher Food Pantry.

JFCS, at our core, is about empowering individuals make to care for themselves and others. For a social worker, that is just a day at the office.

We thank and appreciate all social workers for the service they provide to their communities.

Michelle Napell




JFCS is here for the health of our community. In line with directives from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as local leadership for the state of New Jersey and County of Mercer, we are moving our programs and staff to remote schedules effective March 16 – 27. We understand this situation is evolving day by day and will continue to assess our remote service delivery during these two weeks and beyond as prudent and safe for our staff, our clients, and all constituents. 

 Please note the following changes to programs & services:  

  • No clients or visitors will be allowed inside JFCS offices through March 27. 

  • Counseling services will be provided through tele-therapy. We are continuing to take new calls for clients interested in services. If interested in counseling services, call us at 609-987-8100 Ext 102.

  • Seniors enrolled in our programs will receive regular check-ins and phone support to connect them with needed resources. There will be no in-home visits and/or geriatric assessments provided by Senior Services. 

  • Food delivery programs will continue to the extent our resources are available.

  • Gesher LeKesher and Jewish Community Youth Foundation (JCYF) recruitment and programmatic gatherings are canceled through April 1.

  • J-Serve, International Day of Jewish Youth Service is canceled.
  • All community events and days of service are canceled through April 1.
  • All volunteer activities are canceled through April including Shop & Stocks, Chore Corps, Cooking Companions, Friendly Visitors and all individual and group opportunities
  • All on and off-site support and therapeutic groups are canceled through April 1 including Bereavement groups, Caregiver Support group, and Youth Mindfulness group.

Administrative staff will be available by phone to answer any questions Monday – Thursday 9 AM – 5 PM and Friday 9 AM – 4 PM.  

Teaming up to Ensure Health for Heart Patients

Grant Awarded to JFCS by Janssen to support partnership program with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton

In April 2019, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton (RWJ) launched Healthy Lives Hamilton, a program designed to improve quality of life for those living with heart failure. Through a generous grant by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, JFCS is now teaming up with RWJ to bring our geriatric care management skills to offer Healthy Lives Hamilton Plus.

Studies have shown that providing home visits and early intervention upon discharge for patients with a diagnosis of heart failure have significantly lowered the risk of readmission. JFCS will provide the services of a geriatric care manager to discharged RWJ heart failure patients. Our care manager and a registered nurse will assess the patients in their homes within 24-72 hours post discharge.

The home visit allows the care team to provide health literacy skills so the patient and caregiver may better understand basic health information and services to make informed health decisions. These include medication usage, side effects and discharge instructions. A home visit also allows the RN to gather information firsthand about which medications are being taken regularly, and to better identify barriers to medication compliance or exacerbating factors such as high sodium foods in the kitchen. The goals of these initial visits are to increase adherence to the discharge plan, compliance with the new medication regimen, and identify resources that are needed including home care, medical equipment and/or assistive devices.

Our care manager will assess for activities of daily living, safety, transportation, and the level of caregiver support. Equipping patients with the necessary education and tools at home allows for the early detection of avoidable problems, improving their quality of life and reducing the likelihood of readmission.

Addressing More Than Hunger – Access, Nutrition & Dignity

JFCS unveils the new JFCS Mobile Food Pantry to the community on January 30, 2020. This project was long in the making, beginning by recognizing the significant need within Mercer County.

In Mercer County, almost 40,000 men, women and children lack consistent access to enough food to lead healthy, active lives. Often, they don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

For 20 years, JFCS has maintained a brick-and-mortar healthy, choice pantry at our Alexander Road offices. The JFCS Yvette Sarah Clayman Kosher Food Pantry is one of several resources in the community; however, we recognized that many have difficultly accessing these existing food pantries and food banks due to limitation in transportation options, mobility concerns and other obstacles.

The JFCS Mobile Food Pantry will bring the resources of the JFCS pantry on the road to locations across Mercer County. At each location, JFCS will park the fully-stocked truck and distribute groceries to those in need.

When patrons come to the JFCS pantry, they are provided with guidelines by which to shop and select items. We utilize USDA nutrition standards for a balanced diet in setting parameters for food selection. Every patron is allowed the shop privately in the pantry and make their choice of products in the various categories – grains, proteins, produce, dairy, etc. – to best meet their dietary needs and preferences.

In designing the mobile experience, we remained committed to replicating the healthy, choice-based, individualized experience for those using the Mobile Food Pantry. The Mobile Food Pantry includes two refrigerators and a freezer to stock fresh and frozen produce, meats, and dairy products, along with standard shelf-staples. In the mobile experience, patrons will be provided a shopping list and make selections based on their family size and personal preference of products.

The Mobile Food Pantry will be making scheduled stops at established locations in Mercer County including churches, daycare centers, low-income housing and low-income senior housing. We are partnering with designated sites so our patrons will not be forced to wait outside during inclement or extreme weather conditions. Volunteers staffing each distribution site will be there to “shop” the Mobile Food Pantry based on the completed lists and bring the bagged order to patrons waiting inside the partner facility or even directly to their apartment.

The first distribution stops of the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry will be announced this month and will focus on existing partners in Princeton, West Windsor, East Windsor and Hightstown.

What will the New Year and New Decade bring to JFCS?

2019 is quickly coming to an end and the New Year is right around the corner.

The end of every year end brings a sense of reflection, but when we stand at the precipice of an entire new decade, we are even more prone to contemplation.

Although I was not a part of JFCS 10 years ago, in my four years as Executive Director I can see that JFCS is not the agency it was in 2010. I am incredibly proud of how the agency – our Board of Directors, our dedicated staff members, and the community of supporters who make our work possible – have all adapted to the changing needs in Mercer County.

In the last year, the agency has made incredible strides expanding the reach of our programs to better serve those in need of mental health counseling, seniors in need of supportive services to remain in their homes, and individuals and families desperately in need of access to nutritious resources found in our food pantry.

What will the new year and new decade bring for JFCS?

The possibilities are endless but I do know that….

Our counseling department will continue to grow and be available to those who need therapy. Our team includes bilingual counselors who can provide mental health therapy in Spanish. Additionally, JFCS is one of the handful of options in Greater Mercer County available to individuals who have Medicare, Medicaid or are uninsured.

The senior services team remains dedicated to older adults who wish to remain in their home as long as possible. They ensure that seniors can age with dignity through our array of elder care solutions – grocery delivery to homebound seniors, provision of nutritious meals to low-income seniors at Kosher Cafés, and comprehensive geriatric care through our membership program Secure@Home.

Our food pantry will expand beyond the office walls in 2020 with the official launch of the JFCS Mobile Food Pantry. The team at JFCS recognized the challenges people face in accessing the brick-and-mortar food pantries and food banks available in Mercer County, and developed a solution. JFCS is bringing the resources of our food pantry directly to the people who need it most.

I invite you to grow with our agency into the next decade – it is only through the dedication of our volunteers, our donors, our partners that our agency can continue to serve this community.

Michelle Napell,
Executive Director

Are you Searching for a Food Bank, Food Pantry or Soup Kitchen?

If you and your family are having trouble paying bills, and seeking a resource to keep food on the table, you will find a different approach at our on-site food pantry. The Yvette Sarah Clayman Kosher Food Pantry is a healthy-choice pantry open to anyone living in the Greater Mercer County.

What does it mean to be a choice pantry?

Your individualized experience will be personal, confidential and respectful at our food pantry. We stock our pantry with shelf staples, fresh and frozen dairy, produce, eggs, meat and more. All items in our pantry have been stocked on the direction of a registered dietitian to ensure we are providing healthy, convenient options to all. Anyone who utilizes the pantry is allowed to select the products that meet their personal preferences and dietary needs.

What does a pantry “shop” look like at JFCS?

Individuals are provided private access to our pantry for a confidential “shopping” experience. You will be provided guidelines for selecting quantities by category (example grains include bread, pasta, rice; example dairy include strong cheese, shelf stable milk, yogurt; etc.) determine by size of your families (example: a family of 4 can select 4 grain products). A staff member will help you with selections as well as packing your groceries into bags and bringing them to your vehicle. Every visitor to our pantry will receive our regular newsletter with recipes using the pantry resources and helpful tips for healthy choices beyond our offerings.

Who can visit our food pantry?

If you’re in an immediate crisis and need food for you or your family, our pantry is open to anyone on an emergency basis. Call our offices at 609-987-8100 to confirm we are open and let staff know you are in need of food. A staff member will meet you and help you “shop” the pantry according to your needs. We will also walk you through a brief assessment to see how we can further assist – whether it is setting you up with a monthly shopping schedule at the pantry, connecting you to one of our other programs or services OR making a connection to an outside agency for help with employment, financial management or applications to benefit programs.

Improving convenience with our Mobile Food Pantry.

The JFCS Mobile Food Pantry will be on the road soon. This fully stocked truck will include all the offerings of our on-site pantry, delivered directly to those who need it most. Email us to receive regular updates on the upcoming Mobile Food Pantry stops.