JFS holds Biennial meeting in-person, the first in two years

by | Jun 24, 2021 | Trending News

Jewish Family Service of Tidewater opened its 65th Biennial meeting on Tuesday, June 8 with an invocation by Rabbi Batya Glazer, United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Jewish Community Relations Council director.

Following the invocation, Ellen Rosenblum, JFS board president, 2019-2021, spoke of the challenges of her presidency due to the coronavirus pandemic. “When news of this life altering virus was beginning to affect our community, JFS immediately started working on ensuring the safety of our staff and clients. Our goal was to find new ways to continue providing the quality of care we had always offered,” she said. Throughout her opening remarks, Rosenblum stated that the agency did not just survive the pandemic, it thrived. “Thriving is defined by growing and learning as the result of an event,” she said. “Thriving was our only option so we could continue to meet the needs of our community”.

During the past fiscal year, JFS provided services that supported more than 250 local Jewish individuals/families. In addition to its array of services to people throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, thousands of people receive services from JFS each year.

Kelly Burroughs, Jewish Family Service CEO spoke about the financial challenges of the agency during the pandemic. “We normally have our annual Spring Into Healthy Living events, but they had to be canceled two years in a row,” she said. “These events account for nearly one half of the agency’s annual fundraising campaign.” The event is slated to take place this fall, with the topic of ‘Mental Health Matters.’

JFS is partnering with UJFT and other community organizers and synagogues to bring educational events and awareness of issues surrounding mental well-being to the Tidewater community. “As JFS explores new opportunities and looks to the future, we want to keep in mind Ellen’s words: ‘we want to thrive, not just survive.’ ”

JFS received nearly $69,000 from the UJFT COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, which was used to purchase food, help pay rent and utilities, support medical expenses, and other services to Jewish individuals affected by the pandemic, as well as to provide operational support to help set up a COVID-19 Assistance Line for anyone who needed help registering for the vaccination. “Despite all the challenges of 2020,” said Burroughs, “JFS is entering into the next fiscal year completely debt free,” which is the first time in many years.

After these opening remarks, Debbie Mayer and Jody Laibstain recognized young people for their generosity and tzedakah on the occasion of their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs: Ryan Dobrinsky, Charlie Gross, Megan Helman, Sam Levin, Elijah Muhlendorf, Nate Simon, Caroline Wainger and Erin Wainger. Mayer, JFS’s clinical director, described the Mitzvah projects: leading community food drives, stocking the shelves of food pantries, making gift bags for the holidays, and supporting self-care by collecting personal care items for girls. In addition, some of the young people requested that donations be made to JFS rather than gifts on the occasion of their Bar or Bat Mitzvahs. JFS has received more than $5,000.00 from Bar/Bat Mitzvah guests, in these teens’ honor. All of these projects helped support local Jewish individuals.

“These eight young people helped JFS serve over 400 different local families in need,” said Mayer. “The Pandemic made the need for food, financial help, household supplies, clothing, books, school supplies, toiletries, and holiday gifts even more pressing… Being able to rely upon these projects made a real difference!”

Mayer also presented the Annual Community Partner Award to Strelitz International Academy. This award is given to a local community member or agency to show appreciation for their support of JFS. “Strelitz International Academy staff, students, and families have continuously stepped forward to help JFS help those in need. They embody the meaning of TZEDAKAH.”

Next, Dorothy Salomonsky presented the Distinguished Service Award to Greg Pomije, an elder law attorney, who serves as an advisory board member on the Personal Affairs Management Advisory Committee. “Greg has been on the Advisory Board from the beginning, and has gone to bat for us with legislative changes and difficult cases,” said Salomonsky.

“We are now on client number 3,347 and Greg has stayed with us the whole way. He is appreciated by everyone at JFS and I’m proud to call him my friend.”


The agency then recognized two departing board members: Dr. Marcia Samuels and Kim Gross. Jeff Cooper, past president of the board, officiated this part of the meeting, and each were recognized for their many contributions over the years. Samuels has served on the board for more than 18 years, including her role as president. A licensed psychologist, her contributions to the agency were numerous, and include her guidance and direction in the development of the Clinical Services program. “I know everyone on the Executive Committee has looked to her for her counsel as she always brings such an incisive and thoughtful perspective, as well as a wealth of institutional knowledge to major decisions for the agency,” said Cooper.

Gross was recognized for her more than 12 years of board service. “Kim was instrumental in the Spring Into Healthy Living Run, Roll, or Stroll race that is traditionally held on the Boardwalk as a fund raiser for the agency. In addition to her support of this annual event, Mrs. Gross helped with the development of the Home Health Care Program,” said Cooper. “As a home health practitioner, her insights and assistance have been crucial.”

Next, Cooper recognized Meril Amdursky and Karen Gershman as two new members of the board, as well as nominated officers: Anne Kramer, president elect; Stephanie Peck, vice president elect; Scott Flax, vice president elect; and Jody Greason, secretary elect. All officers were unanimously approved for their new roles on the JFS Executive Committee. After the new members were sworn in, Cooper addressed Ellen Rosenblum expressing his admiration of her presidency. “Ellen is fearless in speaking up whenever it’s needed. She has this ability to ask great questions in meetings which has been really important for the agency’s direction.”

Cooper concluded, “Ellen, you have done a great job these last two years and you should be very proud of how well you have positioned the agency going forward into the future.”
Anne Kramer then addressed future goals of JFS, one of which is to remain financially secure. “We are starting out this fiscal year with no past debt. This is significant in a non-profit world, where the need to balance our mission and margin is always a challenge. We are dedicated to keeping our administrative costs below 12%; the industry standard is 18–23%. We are currently at 10%. This allows more of our revenue to be spent on direct service provision,” she said. Kramer then explained two other goals for the agency, including expanding the ability to provide more home care and concierge services through the Embrace Home Care Program, as well as continuing to grow and expand to meet the need for mental health services through the Clinical Counseling program.

“And mostly,” said Kramer, “to continue to help people who turn to us in their greatest time of need: to keep our promise that “You’ll never know when you’ll need help, but you’ll always know where to find it.”