The Year That Was: A Look Back and a Glimpse Forward


Since I first began my tenure at JFS almost four and a half years ago, I have repeatedly emphasized that it takes time to accomplish quality change.  Whenever I become despondent about not making enough progress or bringing money in fast enough, I remember the advice of a former Board member who said to me “it can take five years and sometimes even longer to secure the necessary funding and make the difference you want to make.”  The English poet, Violet Fane, captured the essence of this advice, when she coined the oft-quoted phrase, “Good things come to those who wait.”

As I reviewed our recent accomplishments, it was evident to me that my former Board member’s words and Ms. Fane’s more poetic rendering exemplify the past year at JFS.  We have a great deal to be proud of even though it took a while to get there.  Here are some of the highlights of 2018:

  1. We completed the renovation of our more public office spaces as of the beginning of May due to the generosity of the Lois Lehrman Grass Foundation and the Dauphin County Board of Commissioners. The renovation has resulted in a much more comfortable, professional, and attractive space.
  2. We are on track to meet our goals for the community-wide Legacy Initiative with 55 Letters of Intent (LOIs) signed so far and 50% of them formalized.
  3. The annual fundraising event, which featured Ron Suskind and the film Life Animated, was a huge success. As any number of attendees remarked following Mr. Suskind’s appearance, JFS really hit a home run!
  4. We have put in place a three-prong strategy for more effectively addressing issues of ageing including (a) individual counseling; (b) a caregivers support series; and (c) wellness checks, as a way of monitoring mature adults wishing to explore options available to them for aging well.
  5. We have launched a Google Ad Campaign that will run through the winter to promote our expanded services for older adults and their caregiving families.
  6. We have dramatically enhanced our website. If you haven’t visited it as of yet, please do so at
  7. The Geduldig Financial Assistance Operating Fund was initiated at the beginning of this year and has greatly increased our capacity to address the needs of people experiencing short-term financial crises.
  8. Edward S. Finkelstein has made an annual commitment to support the Kosher Meals on Wheels Program in light of diminishing revenues from other sources. The Program has recently been renamed the Finkelstein- Cohen KMOW Program in honor of both Mr. Finkelstein’s annual commitment as well as an earlier gift from Teddy Cohen.
  9. As the result of a generous challenge gift from Robert and Gail Gaynes, JFS has been able to bring on additional hours to expand efforts with cultivating and stewarding the donors who lend ongoing financial support to keep our program and service offerings strong.
  10. Implementation of new Raintree billing software has resulted in more timely and accurate billings for clinical services.
  11. Connie and Gail Siegel and Mort and Alyce Spector launched a solicitation campaign to sustain The Mental Health Case Management Initiative for the foreseeable future. This program has effectively engaged individuals with both financial and mental health challenges and dramatically improved their capacity for obtaining self-sufficiency.

Now, let me turn briefly to the challenges that await us in the upcoming year:

  1. Increasing our efforts to grow the number of foster care families in our network.
  2. Engaging older adults and their caregiving families in a wider range of therapeutic services.
  3. Planning our next community-wide awareness event in Spring 2019. Although in the past our events were limited to every other year, we want to seize the momentum and further our reputation as a thought leader in the Harrisburg community by building on the success of our recent events featuring Ron Suskind and Patrick J. Kennedy.  Stay tuned for more information in the coming month or so.
  4. Fully realizing on the challenge gift that enables us to hire a part-time fund-raiser and ensuring a good return on the investment for this new position.
  5. Integrating a friendly visiting component into the KMOW Program.
  6. Continuing to build out our Myndworks Counseling Program.
  7. Last but not least, optimizing on a new reimbursement system introduced by Perform Care and the Capital Area Behavioral Health Coalition (CABHC) to financially invigorate our State-funded Family Based Mental Health Program.

The Jewish people are known for patiently waiting.  After all, songs, prayers, and stories from our tradition echo the many centuries that we have been waiting for the Messiah to arrive.  Jewish texts have always lauded “patience” as an essential character trait for self-improvement.  The Vilna Gaon, a highly respected rabbi from the 1700’s and a philosopher in his own right, observed that ‘when we get stuck in life, it is most likely due to us not moving slowly enough.”  In other words, the Vilna Gaon is telling us that we must be patient in our endeavors and, when we are not, we’re at risk of compromising our good intentions.  We at Jewish Family Service not only have the best of intentions, but have more and more to show for it with each passing year.  Thank you so much for all that our employees, volunteers, donors, and partners do on behalf of JFS.  I look forward to your ongoing involvement and our continued success.


originally published in the Community Review, December 7th, 2018.