Meditation has gained a lot of attention as we all continue to see methods of relaxation and self care in the midst of these challenging times. Linda Kanner, one of our licensed clinical social workers, takes us through an Introduction to Meditation and the most common methods of meditation including Mindfulness Meditation, Movement Meditation, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Visualization Meditation and Guided Meditation. Also included are tips and resources for how to get started.
Healing, one of our agency’s three core values, is derived from the Jewish value Tikkun Olam.
Tikkun Olam – Healing the World, the concept can seem overwhelming in the best of times, for as much as we try, there is always healing needed.
Where do we even begin?
First, we must be sure we heal from within. We must prioritize our own mental health and well-being before looking to give of ourselves to others. Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup.
Then we look outward, we lend a helping hand – a mitzvah, a good deed. That act of kindness, gemilut hasadim, lends itself to another, then another. We all find inspiration in stories of “paying it forward,” continuing the good deeds.
When help is given…to an individual when kindness is shown to them during a personal crisis; to a family when neighbors rally together for them; to a community when we put the needs of our collective over our individual gains…there we find hope.
And when we have developed an emphasis on helping others, when we have sparked hope through united service for each other, that is where we start healing.
These small steps begin to heal, to repair our “world.” We then challenge ourselves to broaden who is considered our community, expanding the boundaries of our world, and together we will repair, restore, and heal.
Our new monthly feature – Volunteer Spotlight – will share testimonials direct from our incredible volunteers. JFCS Volunteers are critical to our delivery of core programs and services, providing everything from delivery of Kosher Meals on Wheels, to helping at Mobile Food Pantry distributions, and making friendly calls to isolated seniors.
Les & Ben Seifer
My son, Ben, and I form the perfect “dynamic duo” as we travel about Mercer County delivering meals to a wide assortment of JFCS clients. He drives and I navigate (with help from Waze). We have both been blessed in many ways and are happy to do our little bit to help the elderly and others who, even without a pandemic, find it hard to get out and about. We truly believe that though we cannot save the world, we can help save a little piece of it here in New Jersey. Plus, everyone at JFCS is extraordinarily cheerful and dedicated which makes the volunteer experience something we look forward to each week.
Ben, who also volunteers at the Plainsboro Public Library, learned about JFCS from me. I learned about the agency while volunteering at Cornerstone Community Kitchen at the United Methodist Church in Princeton. Every Wednesday at that church (pre-pandemic), a hot meal is served to about one hundred people. There is also a food pantry where attendees can “shop” for various donated foods. One Wednesday, JFCS came by and contributed a huge amount of groceries and that’s where I learned about their services. During the pandemic we have limited ourselves to just handing out hot meals and bags of groceries and produce, and JFCS has been there every week without fail with first-rate fruits and other healthy items.
The clients we support always greet us cheerfully when we make our deliveries. On a recent miserable cold rainy day, I handed an elderly woman her meals and she said, “Wait… I have a little something for you.” Thinking she was going to try and give me a tip, or perhaps some cookies, I told her it was not at all necessary. She then handed me a plastic bag of garbage and asked me if I could drop it in the dumpster since she was unable to get out. Did I take it? Of course! We are making a difference each day, and providing that vitual social interaction and simply “check-in” on seniors who are feeling exceptionally isolated.
In a time when it can feel many people act only in service of themselves, it is rewarding to both Ben and I to see such generosity and compassion. We look forward to continuing to play a part.
Quarantine depression is part of our new daily vocabulary along with masks, social distancing, and hand sanitizer. This quarantine depression and fatigue is different from clinical depression because the feelings are brought on by the circumstances of the pandemic, whereas clinical depression can happen for a variety of reasons and does not have an external cause, can be chronic and persistent.
What can quarantine depression look like?
- Feeling fatigued even when you haven’t engaged in physical activity or upon waking
- Sleeping more than usual
- Having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Changes in appetite
- Significant weight gain or loss
- Feeling “on edge” or having difficulty dealing with normal life stressors
- Lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities
- Lack of interest in maintaining relationships, even over virtual methods, such as text, email, and video calling
Tips and Strategies to Manage Quarantine Depression:
- Do something each day, it doesn’t have to be a lofty goal, anything is better than nothing and you will find pleasure in checking something off your list.
- Exercise. Go outdoors for a walk, ride your bike, or sit on the porch; the benefits of the fresh air and Vitamin D from the sun can help to boost your mood.
- Meditation. The psychological benefits of meditation are wide ranging: heightened creativity, decreased stress and anxiety, decreased irritability, improved memory and even increased happiness and emotional stability.
- Listen to music. It has been proven scientifically that listening to your favorite music improves your mood.
- Practice self-compassion. Turn off that critical dialogue, what we say to ourselves influences everything; start using supportive, encouraging words.
- Focus on what you can do and accept the things you cannot change.
- Keep a daily gratitude journal; this will help you appreciate the positives which can help reduce stress.
- Stay connected. Even though we cannot be physically together, make that phone call, write an email or letter, send a text to check in with your friends and family.
A licensed therapist can help you identify the causes of your depression and provide the necessary support to help improve your quality of life. Reach out to JFCS…
- During our Drop-in Hours (Mon, Wed, Fri 10 AM – 12 PM or Tues, Thurs 5 – 7 PM) call 609-987-8100 Dial 0
- Connect with our intake coordinator for ongoing counseling at 609-987-8100 Ext 102, we are currently providing therapy via phone and video calls
Shirley Bellardo, LCSW, LCADC (Director of Clinical Services)
We are so pleased to welcome Emmanuelle Farrell, Rutgers MSW student, to the agency for her first internship. She works with clients in Senior Services, Case Management and the Food Pantry and offers to help staff in any way she can. Despite these challenging times, she has already hit the ground running in the few months that she has been here.
Beverly Mishkin, LCSW, Director of Case Management & Senior Services
My name is Emmanuelle Farrell, and I am interning at JFCS this year as part of my Master of Social Work program at Rutgers University. As a first-year graduate student, working at JFCS has offered me crucial experience with older adults and food insecure residents of Mercer County. As the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented many of my classmates from interning in person, I feel very grateful to be able to complete my internship in the JFCS office, where the few staff members working in-person wear masks and remain socially distant at all times. This direct approach has allowed me to see firsthand the significant impacts of the pandemic on the communities that JFCS serves.
The needs I have observed among the populations that JFCS provides services to appear to be exacerbated by financial, social, and health-related repercussions of the current pandemic. As I work primarily within the Senior Services department, I have noticed that older adults are in need of more than just basic necessities, like food and home health care. In making weekly check-in calls to Holocaust survivors and collecting seniors’ responses to program surveys, I have realized that many older adults are in dire need of companionship. This desire for social interaction has increased dramatically as the danger of contracting COVID-19 has stopped seniors from seeing family members and caregivers as frequently, if at all.
I also work with community members who reach out for assistance and help them get connected with our food pantry as a means of support.
I have also heard from other staff members that the demand for hunger prevention services has heightened significantly due to the widespread unemployment and subsequent economic difficulty associated with the pandemic. In general, the coronavirus pandemic has intensified the financial and interpersonal needs of vulnerable groups, increasing participation in JFCS’ programs and creating a unique learning environment for me as an intern.
There have been many connections between the content of my Master of Social Work courses and my experiences at JFCS. Primarily, I have been able to apply the communication skills I have learned in class to my interactions with clients, including empathetic listening and the use of furthering responses to encourage individuals to share. In addition, my work with the Holocaust survivors at JFCS has allowed me to implement a trauma-informed perspective, which I have learned about in my practice-focused classes. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to unite my academic setting with my fieldwork placement at JFCS.
Following the completion of my Master of Social Work degree, I hope to become a clinical social worker and administer therapy. Although I am interested in working with various populations, I intend to focus on serving trauma survivors through play therapy with children or cognitive behavioral therapy with adults. After becoming involved with JFCS, I have also gained an interest in working with older adults, particularly those who have endured trauma, such as survivors of the Holocaust. I plan to utilize many capabilities that I have developed as a JFCS intern in my future career, including performing intake procedures, researching program outcomes, and engaging compassionately with clients.
Although I have gathered many crucial sights throughout my time at JFCS, the most inspirational aspect of my internship has been the tangible difference that the organization makes in people’s daily lives. Every time I make a check-in call to an older adult, refer a new client to our food pantry, or assist with a distribution through the Mobile Food Pantry, I know I am making a meaningful change for an individual or family in need. I look forward to continuing my internship and furthering the agency’s incredible mission to empower individuals to care for themselves and others.
Emmanuelle Farrell, MSW Intern
In Mercer County there is a clear dedication to supporting charitable efforts both locally and more broadly. At JFCS, we are humbled by the support we receive year after year from our donors.
In recent years, changes to tax law have impacted individual giving and caused some confusion for donors as to how to make the most significant impact with their valued contributions.
Our partners Lear & Pannepacker LLP spoke with us to help clarify the changes in tax law and alternative giving options including:
Donate Appreciated Securities: By donating appreciated stocks, bonds or other appreciated investments directly to a charity, the donor can avoid capital gains tax.
Set Up & Gift through a Donor Advised Fund: A donor can make a larger gift up front to a donor advised fund, receive an immediate tax deduction, and then advise on annual grants to charities year after year. Donor advised funds can be set up at local organizations such as Princeton Area Community Foundation or Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Mercer as well as through your bank or financial advisor.
Make a Qualified Charitable Distribution from IRA: Make a transfer of funds directly from your IRA to a charity. These transfers count towards your required minimum distribution each year but are not reported to you as taxable income.
See our full conversation with Lear & Pannepacker LLP for even more information:
In honor of the holiday, JFCS wants to share our thanks…
To our staff, thank you for giving your compassion, your care, your creativity in the face of unprecedented challenges.
To our Board, thank you for giving your commitment and guidance to keep the agency on a steady course.
To our volunteers, thank you for giving your goodwill and your time. We have multiple programs entirely dependent on our corps of volunteer who have been unwavering in their service through this difficult time.
To our collaborators in the community, thank you for giving us your partnership and proving that we can accomplish more together and support our community through a strong network of resources.
To our clients, thank you for giving your trust to our team to provide you with counsel, with resources, with support in the face of many challenges this year.
To our donors, thank you for giving your support. From the start of the pandemic, you, our supporters, never hesitated in reaching out to see how you could contribute, which programs needed help, always asking “how can we help?”
…And give support.
We want to share a few notes of advice on how to manage the anxiety and stress that accompanies holidays “in the time of COVID-19.”
- Try to be realistic, the holiday does not have to be perfect. Choose a few traditions to hold on to and be open about creating new ones. This could mean that you have a virtual get together, or, weather permitting, dinner could be held outdoors.
- Practice self-care: taking 5 to 10 minutes out of your day to go for a walk outside, listening to calming music, lighting a scented candle, doing breathing exercises, and drinking water.
- Focus on what you are grateful for. Sometimes we need be thankful for what happens to us, sometimes we need be thankful for what does not.
Wishing everyone a safe, healthy and peaceful Thanksgiving.
This time of year is usually full of eager anticipation, cheerful gatherings, acts of kindness and charitable giving. Like so many aspects of life, this year the holiday season will look different than ones that came before. While we will all have to continue to be creative in how and where we gather with family and friends, observe holiday traditions, and participate in the season, we can still make this year meaningful and special.
Coping with Separation & Loss During Celebrations
Do you or your families need a refresher on Zoom? Don’t let anyone feel left out of the virtual celebration, share our step by step Zoom Guide.
Consider a drive-by potluck dinner. If you can’t bring yourself to reduce the recipe of your favorite holiday dish, coordinate with loved ones who may be within driving distance and organize a drop-off potluck. Make the full holiday serving size, divvy up into individual portions, and make a no-contact delivery to loved ones who are close by. OR, if you are far apart from loved ones, especially elderly family members, consider ordering them a prepared meal to be delivered.
Find more tips like this in…
Remember, this year, safety is most important to ensure future holidays celebrations can be shared together in person. Review the CDC Guidelines and Recommendations for Thanksgiving & upcoming holidays.
If you are a caregiver, this holiday can be extra difficult managing the stress of your role in the midst of the pandemic, and without the extra family support during this season. We are here for caregivers.
If you have experienced loss this year, this difficult and distanced holiday time can feel especially challenging to navigate.
- For those of the Jewish faith, join us on December 9 for a special program “Light in the Midst of Darkness: Chanukah in the time of COVID for the Bereaved” Register in advance (fee $10)
Additional resources for the bereaved:
Time for Traditions
Practice gratitude. Here are a number of resources for nurturing gratitude for Thanksgiving and beyond.
Find comfort in the familiar of tradition. Put out the special tableware, the traditional recipes, and find religious services streaming online.
Embrace the nostalgia of the hand-written card. When we are all missing family and friends more than ever, a hand-written (or even hand-made if you want to avoid the stores) card can mean so much to the recipient.
Dress up! Even if you are hosting a smaller gathering than usual, or celebrating solo, dress up in your formal holiday attire. Wearing your holiday best can bring about the celebratory spirit!
Missing out on the cookie baking marathon with your loved ones? Set up a video call and bake “together.” This can be a special opportunity to record your family members passing down beloved family recipes which can be cherished for generations.
Find more tips like this in…
Community Event: Interfaith Thanksgiving Service dedicated in memory of Rabbi Feldman
Thurs, November 26 @ 11:00 AM
Join for a special interfaith service for the holiday. STREAM LIVE
Make this time Special with Service
This has been a challenging year for many – job loss, food insecurity, seniors feeling especially isolated. In this season of giving, find ways to make a difference in your community…
Participate or lead a Thanksgiving/Holiday Food Drive. Check with local pantries if they are collecting specific items for the upcoming holidays or if they are in need of pantry staples.
- Want to support JFCS pantry clients? Contact us: BethE@jfcsonline.org / 609-987-8100 Ext 126.
Want to get out into the community? Food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens continue to see rising demand. Reach out to organizations in your area and inquire about volunteer opportunities. Many organizations are relying on volunteers to facilitate large-scale grab and go meal distributions.
- Help at JFCS! We welcome volunteers to help pack prepared bags of food for our on-site and mobile food pantries. Contact us: BethE@jfcsonline.org / 609-987-8100 Ext 126.
Share a smile with a senior. The restrictions of current quarantine orders dramatically impact older adults. Consider making holiday cards to be shared with isolated seniors. Reach out to local senior care facilities or organizations to inquire about how to best distribute holiday greeting cards to their residents/clients.
- JFCS is collecting cards for our senior clients which will be distributed to those who receive delivered meals and food. Contact Eden Aaronson to learn more: EdenA@jfcsonline.org / 609-987-8100 Ext 113.
Make a donation. Find an organization close to your heart and make a gift that is meaningful to you to support them. Share with family and friends why this cause is important and encourage them to do the same.
- You can help make the holidays special for JFCS clients by donating gift cards to our L.I.G.H.T.S (Love is Getting Holidays Gifts to Share) program. Learn more here.
- By making a general monetary donation to JFCS, you are enabled us to continue our vital support to the community through our food pantries, senior support and mental health care. Make a donation today.
Embrace the Opportunity for NEW Traditions
Never had time to make a Turkey Trot before now? Most charity walks/races have gone virtual and can be completed from anywhere! Make a team with family and friends no matter how distanced you are, and embrace the chance to create a new tradition with them.
- You can participate in the Mercer County Turkey Trot Nov 21 – 28! Proceeds help support Mercer County food pantries including JFCS. Sign up today!
Create a Secret “Snowflake” gift exchange through the magic of Amazon Prime (or any online store). Organize a gift exchange through a broad network using social media or keep it to a close-knit group with whom you may not be able to gather in person with this year.
Seek out virtual holiday concert or performances, coordinate virtual “watch parties” of your favorite holiday movies with your loved ones, enjoy outdoor, socially distanced opportunities like drive-through or walk-through light displays, and explore local opportunities like Palmer Square holiday weekends or Morven Museum & Garden Festival of Trees.
This Thanksgiving, enjoy an Interfaith Service, dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Adam Feldman. Stream the program live, Thursday, November 26 at 11 AM.
See a guided video by our very own Andrea Gaynor to make your own Sufganiyot (Jelly Doughnuts) for Hanukkah!
Our registered dietitan has shared tips and recipes for budget-friendly and time-conscious Thanksgiving dishes.
Check out additional family friendly recipes:
Games & Crafts
Get crafty and creative this holiday season with these activities fun for all ages!
- Holiday Family Fued (make teams and play over Zoom!)
- Thanksgiving Gratitude Game
- Thanksgiving Movies (set up a virtual watch party for loved ones near & far!)
- DIY Mason Jar Luminaries for your holiday table
- Mason Jar Leaf Luminaries
- Make Your Own Hanukkah Candles
- Origami Paper Dreidal
- DIY Menorahs
- Hanukkah Family Game Night – ideas for all 8 nights!
- Gift Wrapping Tips
Do What Works Best for YOU and Your Mental Health
It has been said that during the pandemic, sometimes it takes more effort to accomplish less. The emotional and mental toll of the past months may leave many feeling exceptionally fatigued by the holidays before they have even arrived.
If you need to keep things simple to protect your mental health, then take the time for self-care. If you’re feeling over-Zoomed before weeks of virtual holiday drinks, be honest with your family and friends and let them know you cannot join all of the engagements.
Find information & tips in our blogs:
- Practicing Self-Care
- Supporting Those Around You, AND Caring For Yourself
- A Reflection on “Making the Most of Your Time”
- Review breathing & mindfulness exercises (VIDEO)
- Understanding your feelings of grief for the “loss of normal” (VIDEO)
And, if you need to talk to someone, reach out to JFCS…
- During our Drop-in Hours (Mon, Wed, Fri 10 AM – 12 PM or Tues, Thurs 5 – 7 PM) call 609-987-8100 Dial 0
- Connect with our intake coordinator for ongoing counseling at 609-987-8100 Ext 102
To all Caregivers…
In these difficult times of COVID-19, we all look to support each other and, particularly, to give extra attention to you who are taking care of your loved ones. Here is a helpful articles on how to have a Safe, Fun and Festive Holiday.
Looking for support?
Are you a caregiver for your loved one with Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s or another chronic disease or illness? Our non-sectarian group provides tips, techniques and resources to help you live your life while supporting your loved one.
Caregiver Support Group
Tuesdays (6 Sessions) | Beginning Jan 5, 2021 at 2:30 PM
Fee: $50, 6 sessions every other week
A Special Prayer
Dear G-d, give me the strength to face this day,
To deal with the tension, anxiety and dizzying confusion of my life.
Teach me to focus, to prioritize, to see with clarity.
G-d of patience, teach me to be patient.
Forgiving G-d, teach me to forgive.
Bless me with the courage to face my loved one’s illness and pain, amidst my own fears.
Touch me with your spiritual light, your love, your wisdom
So that I can continue my task tomorrow, knowing that You are by my side.
Based on the writing of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, appearing in The Gentle Weapon: Prayers for Everyday and Not-So-Everyday Moments (Jewish Lights)
Beverly Rubman, Chaplain & Support Group Facilitator