Mindy Berkowitz, Exec Dir

Message from the Executive Director

Annual Meeting Address

by Mindy Berkowitz

Dear Friends,

Good evening friends, colleagues, and honored guests. Tonight I want to present you three images - a mirror, a window and a door.

Looking in the mirror we see what is behind us. We look back at the problematic economy which made the last 4 years challenging for Jewish Family Services, but this year we are finally beginning to exhale.

It was a good year for partnerships that helped us change many peoples’ lives.

Through Embrace-A-Family we partnered with 350 generous community donors who gave 1,100 gifts that helped hundreds of needy families, adults and seniors have better holidays.

Transportation for Silicon Valley seniors is problematic at best. In partnership with Jewish Federation, we’ve helped 57 Jewish seniors to be more mobile and independent through a special transportation fund.

Our Project N.O.A.H. funding partners – Myra Reinhard Family Foundation, SanDisk, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and Safeway Foundation – ensured that we could provide safety net services including food to 1,100 adults and children.

Together with nearly 350 volunteers, we’ve comforted, brightened, fed, inspired, and beautified peoples’ lives.

In partnership with the Claims Conference, we provide access to medical services, home care, hot kosher meals, and supermarket gift cards to over 150 elderly Holocaust survivors.

Working with HIAS, we resettled 120 refugees from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Former Soviet Union, Myanmar, and Ethiopia. Good people who fled terrorism – some who helped American soldiers – have found sanctuary in Silicon Valley. With support from United Way, County Social Services, and Silicon Valley Community Foundation, we’re giving them their first jobs in America. As you’ll hear later tonight, a special group of attorneys is helping them become citizens.

Together with eight Jewish community agencies and synagogues, we are working to ensure the future through the Silicon Valley Jewish Legacy Project.

It was a year we said so long to dear colleagues, and hello to new friends.

We wished Lizi Oceransky, our Counselor and Life Coach the very best as she left JFS in the spring to begin a new career. After 24 years of dedicated professional service, we said goodbye to our dear Assistant Executive Director, Vlada Gelfond, who retired. We’ll be honoring Vlada in a special way later tonight.
Jodi Capitola-Duran began at JFS in April as our new Director of Social Services. She brings a great deal of management and supervisory experience as well as direct work with children, youth and seniors.
Anna Bennett’s prior work with poverty-stricken transitional age youth, HIV-AIDS, and mentally ill patients has prepared her to be our Project N.O.A.H. Social Worker.
Both Jodi and Anna are fine additions to our staff.

And with that, I’d like to ask the JFS staff to stand now:

Zoya Lazer, Director of Refugee Resettlement and Career Services; Jodi Capitola-Duran, Director of Social Services; Tami Levi, Finance Manager; Avital Agam, Senior Services Case Manager; Valerie Barron, Administrative Assistant; John Bracken, Beginning ESL Instructor; Galina Chyorny, Coordinator of Émigré and Holocaust Survivor Services; Lori Cinnamon, Coordinator of Volunteer Engagement; Azita Eshagh, Refugee Settlement Coordinator; Caroline Golpashin, Vocational Case Manager; Elena Kulvets, Office Manager; Natalie Lazar, Vocational ESL Instructor; Anna Bennett, Project N.O.A.H. Social Worker; and Helen Sappa, Career Counselor.  JFS staff, I salute you for all the ways you make people’s lives better.

It was also a year where we “raised some fun” while raising the funds we needed to end the year in the black.

We defied the dreaded Curse of Itlkilyu in a San Francisco Scavenger Hunt and had so much fun we’re holding a “gustatory” scavenger hunt in Chinatown and North Beach in September – and you’re invited. 

Centerpieces for Tzedakah beautified celebrations all over the Valley in its first year. We created gorgeous baskets for 10 bnai mitzvah, 5 synagogues, 2 special events, and 1 50th anniversary party – raising nearly $4,000 to help JFS feed needy people.

Our signature event, Small Plates Celebrates, brought the party. It’s impossible to stay still when you’re celebrating with The Retro Dome. We’re delighted with the financial results and will be honoring our wonderful event co-chairs tonight.

We’ve now looked through the mirror of the past year. The view looking forward gets even better. Looking forward out our JFS window – what do we see?

I see over 2,000 needy people receiving a wide variety of food assistance including weekly fresh fruits and vegetables.

I see 1,000 more seniors receiving home care, transportation, counseling, kosher meals and the help their families need to make important life choices.

I see expanded therapy and counseling, including groups for social skills, bereavement and more - AND workshops on a range of topics that our community wants.

I see a JFS-run school counseling program that benefits the students of our local day schools.

I see refugees and immigrants from all over the world continue to find their safe haven through Jewish Family Services – and a comprehensive set of services that helps them become self-sufficient citizens of the United States.

I see a Volunteer Engagement Department that gives over 500 volunteers multiple opportunities to repair our world. One hundred of these dedicated volunteers are also part of a new Young Adult Service Initiative.

How do these visions become reality? I invite you to walk through the door of the future with us. A future where lives are transformed and hope is restored is closer than you think. Our Board is looking for a few good men and women who are ready to take Jewish Family Services into the future. Lori Cinnamon, our Coordinator of Volunteer Engagement, invites you to have a rewarding experience that may change your life.
Have a great idea and way to do it? Come talk with me.

Come see JFS as you’ve never seen it before. Mark your calendars for Wednesday morning, March 4th, 2015. Let’s grow our partnerships and restore hope for tens of thousands of people in our community.

Thank you.



Message from the President

by Robin Sabes

Dear Friends,

I am honored to be President of Jewish Family Services and I am excited to begin my term with an outstanding board to carry out our mission.

I've always had an affinity for JFS. I have my bachelor's degree in Social Welfare and my early volunteer experience was with seniors in the Jewish Home in San Francisco. As a matter of fact, in Jr. High School, when writing a report on my future career, I chose to write mine on being a Social Worker. So it seemed like a natural progression for me to get involved with this wonderful agency after being involved the Jewish Federation and the JCC for many years. I am proud to be part of an organization that serves so many people in need. I am looking forward to working with the incredible staff of JFS, many of whom have been with the agency for over 20 years. The care and dedication they have for their clients is what makes JFS so successful.

I also look forward to working closely with all the agencies within our Federation family. We will continue to develop programs together.

We have a lot of exciting events planned for the year. I am pleased to announce that this spring, Small Plates, High Spirits and All That Jazz will again be our big fundraiser. This successful event has been attracting local upscale restaurants and wineries for several years now. Centerpieces for Tzedakah will be available to rent this fall.

Another way to support JFS would be through our Double Donation partnership with Yavneh If you buy gift cards through Yavneh's scrip program and then donate them to JFS, both agencies benefit.

Thank you all for your ongoing support of JFS. Please learn about our stories. They are a constant reminder of how JFS helps those in need and why it is so important to contribute, whether it be financially or as a volunteer. We need to ensure the success of this vital agency.

Wishing you a happy, healthy new year,