Living in the Aftermath of Trauma

Tzipporah Gerson-Miller LCSW C-IAYT

Trauma can cause us to question our safety, our values, our relationships, and our core beliefs about the world. It is normal to feel paralyzed, stunned, shut down, and ineffective. It’s normal to ask questions that have no immediate answers.  

Trauma is a response of the human condition and doesn’t speak the language of race, class, religion, or gender. As mass shootings and community violence continue to be on the rise, we must accept that the number of individuals who will suffer from traumatic stress conditions will continue to increase as well.  

Being equipped with trauma-informed language and knowledge regarding common responses to a traumatic event can assist us in feeling more empowered to take the action needed to move towards healing.  Increasing our knowledge of where mental health resources exist can be life-saving.

What many people don’t realize is that trauma can cause mental, physical, emotional, and behavioral reactions. Traumatic events generally involve direct threats to life, bodily integrity, and violence. It can happen as result of an accident, abuse, a crime, death of a loved one, war, natural disaster, a terrorist attack, being diagnosed with a serious illness, or a mass shooting.

According to Dr. Judith Herman, “the common denominator of trauma is a feeling of intense fear, helplessness, loss of control, and threat of annihilation.” With that said, you didn’t have to be at the high school to be a victim of trauma. We are just as vulnerable to vicarious traumatization when we watch the news reports, hear survivors tell their stories, and continue to see media coverage filled with violent images. Here are some key things to remember when addressing the aftermath of trauma. 

1. Trauma can affect a person’s feelings of safety.
Everyone needs to feel safe and secure. It’s a universal truth that every single human being wants to be safe and wants their loved ones to be safe. We need to feel safe with other people and we need to feel safe out in the world. Even if you or your loved ones are not in immediate danger, hearing about others who have been in a violent situation can erode your sense of safety. If you notice an increase in the amount that you worry about your safety or the safety of your loved ones after being exposed to media coverage following a major tragedy, its ok to talk to someone about it.

2. Trauma can compromise a person’s ability to trust others.
Trust and safety are related in the sense that how much you trust others determines how safe you feel in the world. When something that was reliable is disrupted by a traumatic event, it can decrease a person’s ability to trust others. Some people have struggled with trust for a long time. When a traumatic event strikes it can re-trigger these issues even if lots of progress has been made. Seek out support if you notice a sudden inability to trust others.

3. Trauma can leave us feeling powerless and out of control.
No one likes to feel out of control. We need to feel confident in our ability to control our words and our actions so we can affect the environment we live in. Since trauma usually involves being overpowered by external forces, it can leave a person feeling helpless, out of control, and without choice.

Trauma can cause “flashbacks” which are a sudden flooding of emotion when a memory of the event is triggered. Mental health therapists can help a person build emotional regulation skills so that they regain a sense of control.


4. Trauma can diminish a person’s self-esteem.           
We all need to feel a sense of self-value, in addition to valuing others and the world around us. Self-value creates belonging and connection. Sometimes trauma can invoke feelings of guilt and shame especially when a person feels as though “they were responsible” “or that “they didn’t do enough.”

It’s normal for positive and negative feelings about yourself and others to fluctuate following a traumatic event. Having a network of supportive relationships can nurture connectivity and reduce the risk of isolation. Keeping in mind that not all people are bad helps to maintain a sense of support. Try to find a support group in your area.

5. Trauma can cause physical symptoms.
Our bodies contain a complex nervous system that is designed to respond to perceived threats in the environment. This is a primitive response that enables us to either fight back or flee to safety depending upon which response is warranted in a given situation.

This is known as the “fight” or “flight” response. Stress hormones known as adrenaline and cortisol are pumped into the bloodstream so that we can expend energy and flee to safety. As a result, the heart rate increases, the muscles tighten, and blood pressure rises. Sometimes when a person survives a trauma, if they have a sudden memory of the event, this same physiological process might occur.

This can result in disrupted sleep, appetite, blood sugar imbalances, cardiovascular issues, anxiety, muscle tension, and poor immune system functioning. It is important to practice relaxation strategies to calm the nervous system. Finding a yoga therapist or mental health counselor who specializes in mindfulness-based stress reduction is a great way to learn how to relax if these symptoms continue to occur.

Herman, J.L. (1992). Trauma and recovery: the aftermath of violence from domestic abuse to political terror. New York: Basic Books.

Rosenbloom, D. and Williams, M.B. (2010). Life after trauma. The Guilford Press: New York.

If you need further information or support, please make an effort to contact the clinical team at JF&CS to schedule an appointment. Talking to someone can be life-saving. The clinicians at JF&CS are trained in trauma-based therapies to assist individuals in recovering from a traumatic event. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you will recover.

Brunch with Holocaust Survivors Bridges Generations

55 survivors gathered with young adults to break bread and talk.

Holocaust Brunch
Holocaust survivors and young adults in their 20’s and 30’s spent quality time together at a recent intergenerational brunch. The event, a collaboration between JF&CS’ Holocaust Survivor Services, JF&CS’ VIA, and the MJCCA Young Adults division, took place for the second year in a row at the MJCCA. Holocaust survivors and young adults enjoyed good conversation and delicious food as they learned about each other’s lives, and we even celebrated a survivor’s 89th birthday at the event!

The brunch started as a collaborative event between JF&CS Holocaust Survivor Services, MJCCA Young Adults, VIA program. We jointly run it together. Survivors and participants get to bond and forge intergenerational relationships and learn about each other's lives.

Want to get involved? Learn more

Posted in Aviv Older Adult Services, Volunteer Services


Signals for Attention from a Grieving Child

Grief is a natural part of life but with children, it can sometimes be difficult to know what to do to help them process their grief. Director of Clinical Services Dan Arnold has prepared this short list to help. If you need additional guidance or support we're here to help. Call 770-677-9474 or jfcsatl.org/counseling.

Signals for attention from a grieving child:

·      Marked change in school performance

·      Poor grades despite trying very hard

·      A lot of worry or anxiety manifested by refusing to go to school, go to sleep or take part in age-appropriate activities

·      Not talking about the person or the death.  Physically avoiding mention of the deceased

·      Frequent angry outbursts or anger expressed in destructive ways

·      Hyperactive activities, fidgeting, constant movement beyond regular playing

·      Persistent anxiety or phobias

·      Accident proneness - possibly self-punishment or a call for attention

·      Persistent nightmares or sleeping disturbance

·      Risk-taking behavior -- Stealing, promiscuity, vandalism

·      Persistent disobedience or aggression (longer than six months)

·      Opposition to authority figures

·      Frequent unexplainable temper tantrums

Posted in Child & Adolescent Services, Counseling Services


Needs of a Grieving Child

Grief is a natural part of life but with children, it can sometimes be difficult to know what to do to help them process their grief. Director of Clinical Services Dan Arnold has prepared this short list to help. If you need additional guidance or support we're here to help. Call 770-677-9474 or jfcsatl.org/counseling.

Always remember that grieving children need:

·      Information that is clear and understandable at their development level

·      To be reassured that their basic needs are met

·      To be involved in planning for the funeral and anniversary

·      To be reassured when adults’ grief is intense

·      Help with exploring fantasies about death, afterlife and related issues

·      To be able to have and express their own thoughts and behaviors, especially when different from significant adults

·      To maintain age-appropriate activities and interests

·      To receive help with “magical thinking”

·      To say goodbye to the deceased

·      To memorialize the deceased

Posted in Child & Adolescent Services, Counseling Services


Parenting After a Tragedy

When tragedy strikes it's difficult to know what to do, especially when it comes to comforting children. Director of Clinical Services Dan Arnold prepared this short guide to parenting after a tragedy. If you need additional guidance or support we're here to help. Call 770-677-9474 or jfcsatl.org/counseling.

·      Have your own support system and self-care practice

·      Encourage your kids to feel their feeling & share your own – give permission to feel and validate those feelings

·      Turn off the media coverage and monitor online activity

·      Start a dialogue but modify the conversation based on your child’s developmental readiness

·      Don’t make promises that you can’t keep

·      Establish (maintain) rituals that promote safety and security

·      Allow your children to ask questions

·      Be honest

·      Check back in

Posted in Child & Adolescent Services, Counseling Services


A Message From the CEO Re: Parkland, Fl shooting

We're here to help

Dear Friends,

Yet again, another school shooting shakes our nation and breaks our hearts.

Last night, Dan Arnold, the Director of Clinical Services, and I appeared on Atlanta's CBS affiliate to highlight how JF&CS can be a resource to individuals, parents, and teenagers who need help and how early intervention can possibly prevent tragedy.  

At JF&CS, we specialize in treating mental health disorders. We stand ready in Atlanta to diagnose problems in children and teens and help them proactively work on their psychological issues. We are on most insurance panels and offer a sliding scale to help those who otherwise could not afford therapy.

In addition, we are here to help our families who are having difficulty handling the news and children who may become fearful to attend schools. We offer individual and group therapy for adolescents, teens, and adults.

Please know that if you or someone you know is showing warning signs - anger, depression, withdrawing from activities - we're here to help.

Contact us at 770.677.9436 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Rick Aranson

Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here, Counseling Services


Ben Massell Dental Clinic Holiday Party

FITS families spent an afternoon making a difference! JF&CS’ Ben Massell Dental Clinic (BMDC) is the only resource for comprehensive, quality dental care available to indigent individuals in metro Atlanta.
Holiday Decorating at Ben Massell Dental Clinic

The Clinic has a life-changing impact on up to 4,000 patients each year.  In addition to dental care, the Clinic is thrilled to offer additional, smaller opportunities for some of the families of the Clinic.

This year, FITS families participated in the 4th annual Ben Massell Dental Clinic holiday party, which gave four families an opportunity to enjoy a holiday party, including crafts, games, and fun snacks.

FITS families all brought gifts for the families, which were hidden from the children, in hopes to have them be a surprise for the holidays. Families mixed, mingled, and had a great time at the program!

Ashley Semerenko, Social Services Program Manager at the Ben Massell Dental Clinic, said, “having this party is a unique way we can connect with patients on a more personal level (it’s far beyond the treatment chair!). 

Seeing the adults and children connect is powerful and both volunteers and party attendees are touched every year by their experience (tears, hugs, recipes and holiday traditions shared).  The event wouldn’t be possible without our volunteers and donors.”

Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here, Ben Massell Dental Clinic


Volunteer of the Month: Marcia Pearl

Why I Volunteer

Why I Volunteer - Marcia Pearl

“Volunteering has given me an opportunity for “Tikkun Olam”; I am helping JFCS to repair the greater Atlanta community.

Marcia Pearl JF&CS Volunteer of the MonthI have the best of two worlds. I am an Intake volunteer, where I have the joy of being part of a team that helps individuals who face significant impacts in their lives such as: loss of a job, mental health crises or indigence.

I am also a Chaplaincy volunteer, where I see to the spiritual needs of individuals in residential facilities or hospitals, and try to bring hope and solace.

According to the London School of Economics in a study of volunteerism, the more people volunteered, the happier they were. Another study in the Journal of Gerontology found that people who volunteer have less risk of dementia, and those that volunteer over 100 hours per year live longer and have better health outcomes.

So, in return for a handful of hours, I gain happiness, brains elasticity, longevity and good health. But, best of all is the chance to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Rabbi Judith Beiner, Community Chaplain, said, “Marcia brings her warmth, compassion and gracious presence to patients and individuals she visits through Bikkur Cholim.  She indeed spreads smiles and sunshine!”

Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here, Volunteer Services


Community Spotlight - Daffodil Project

Am Yisrael Chai Daffodil Project

On November 19, VIA Young Professionals of JF&CS, volunteers from Am Yisrael Chai and JF&CS staff helped members of our Holocaust Survivors Support program, to create a daffodil garden, as part of Am Yisrael Chai's Daffodil Project. The Daffodil Project was created in remembrance of children who were lost in the Holocaust.

Daffodil PlantingWith their help, we planted 850 bulbs and lay two rows of stones, painted with the names of children lost in the Holocaust. Thanks to all the volunteers for all your help!

Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here, Volunteer Services


A Thanksgiving Message from the CEO

Happy Thanksgiving from Rick Aranson

Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here


Operation Isaiah a Big Success!

Volunteers Sorted 11,000 lbs of food from the ACFB

Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here


Meet the Staff: Caroline Burkholder, MS, RD, LD

CarolineCaroline joined JF&CS’ Health Power Initiative team in September 2017. A native of Atlanta, Caroline brings to JF&CS a background in nutrition education and wellness programming. She conducts and assesses health and wellness programs for clients, manages the Kosher food pantry, and maintains community partnerships to secure health promotion opportunities for participants across Atlanta. The Health Power Initiative program serves a range of clients with a special focus on older adults. Participants in her program learn how to eat healthfully on a budget and how to use food as a medium to prevent and manage chronic disease. Prior to coming to JF&CS, Caroline attended Georgia State University’s coordinated program in dietetics, where she received her Master’s degree and underwent 1200 hours of supervised practice to attain her credential as a dietitian. In tandem with her coursework, Caroline worked as the university nutritionist for the student body at GSU, and she worked as a nutrition educator for After School, a national non-profit organization that partners with Title I schools to teach children healthy cooking skills. She also taught undergraduate nutrition courses at GSU. Caroline is holds a Master of Science in Health Science, Nutrition from Georgia State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Sewanee: University of the South. “Working with older adults is particularly rewarding because they deeply value the time and attention given to them. Whether doing hands on nutrition counseling or just talking to them about their favorite foods, older adults love the companionship and conversation and are eager to participate.”

Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here


Volunteer of the Month: Andrea Holyfield

Andrea_HolyfieldAndrea started volunteering with JF&CS almost three years ago as the facilitator for our most popular workshop, LinkedIn for Job Search. We had launched the workshop a few months prior and suddenly our facilitator was not able to volunteer. This left us scrabbling until Andrea was referred to us as a LinkedIn expert who would do a fine job leading our new workshop. Later, when there were some major changes to LinkedIn, Andrea helped us create new material for the workshop participants.

Andrea comes each month with great enthusiasm for sharing the finer points of LinkedIn with our workshop participants and they leave the session armed with new information that will add to the effectiveness of their search. As workshop participants gather their belongings at the end of a class, it is common to hear people saying, “Andrea is fantastic” or “Andrea has taught me so much”. Andrea has certainly been a contributor to the Careers’ job search program.

Andrea:  Thank you for consistently being available to teach the How to Utilize LinkedIn in a Job Search workshop.   Your dedication to assisting our job seekers is invaluable. Many participants enter your training thinking that they know all that there is to know about LinkedIn only to remark later, “Wow I learned a lot of things about LinkedIn that I had no idea of."

Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here


Holiday Gift Program

You can bring hope this holiday

Starting in 1995, the Holiday Gift Program, led by volunteer Jody Reichel, helps brighten the holiday season for Atlanta families who struggle to provide for their children, unable to afford the extras, and at times, even the essentials. 

Every year, members of our community fall on hard times whether through illness of a child or family member, unemployment, or another financial setback. Thank you to those of you who have donated in the past; hope that you join us again this year as we help put smiles on the faces of needy children and their families.

 Here’s how you can participate: 

1. Adopt a child, teen or adult (age and/or gender requests will be honored where possible) and we will provide you with the wish list. This is a great way for your own children to participate in the process! 

2. Purchase gift cards to Kroger, Publix, Target, Wal-Mart, Amazon, Macy’s, Toys R Us, etc. that will go directly to the families. Gift cards may be mailed to JF&CS or arrangements may be made through email or phone call (see contact information below). 

3. Make a monetary donation directly to the Holiday Gift Fund and we will purchase a gift card(s) or gift(s) for a family or individual. 

Every dollar donated goes directly to the families and is tax deductible to you. All gifts are appreciated. Please make checks out to JF&CS and mail checks and/or gift cards to JF&CS, attention: Jackie Nix.

For more information or to get involved please contact Jackie Nix at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 770.677.9334

Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here


Rosh Hashanah Appeal Helps 160 Familes

Partnering with the Hebrew Order of David, JF&CS Annual Rosh Hashanah Appeal Raises $12,000

Since 2008, JF&CS has had a strong partnership with the Hebrew Order of David (HOD) to raise funds for the Rosh Hashanah appeal. The money raised is given to members in need in the Atlanta Jewish community to enable them to host a Rosh Hashanah Meal. This year, we raised over $12,000 and provided 160 families the opportunity to celebrate the New Year. Thank you so much to everyone who participated in the success of the Rosh Hashanah appeal, especially HOD brothers and liaison Alan Rubenstein. We couldn’t do it without you!

“Thank you so much for thinking of us and making a gift to the Rosh Hashanah appeal. We truly appreciate it. We will now be able to have a wonderful Rosh Hashanah meal. May the New Year bring you joy, health, and happiness” – a 2017 Rosh Hashanah appeal recipient 

Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here


Community Spotlight: Mitzvah Day Partners

Thank you to all of our Project Partner Organizations! These groups helped market and recruit for 10 of our Mitzvah Day projects!

Project Partners:

Moishe House Buckhead

The Sixth Point

Congregation Gesher L’Torah

Eternal-Life Hemshech

Holocaust Survivor Support Fund

JF&CS PAL Program

JF&CS FITS (Families Inspired to Serve)

Congregation Etz Chaim Young Adults

Temple Sinai ATID

MJCCA Young Adults

Young Israel of Toco Hills

Our partners have some great things coming up over the next couple of months. Click below for more information

Posted in Volunteer Services


Volunteers of the Month

Three friends gather weekly in the Kosher Food Pantry

Although there are many wonderful volunteers who occasionally serve in the kosher food pantry, there are three consistently dedicated ladies: Merrie Weiss, Karen Schultz, and Fran Keller. For the past year, these ladies have shown up faithfully every Monday to help sort the generous donations in the JF&CS food pantry. All are former teachers and still feed the need to give. 

KFP volunteersWhen asked why she volunteered, Merrie said, “This is what makes us feel good. It is so nice to give people in-need something they can use.”

Karen agreed. “I enjoy knowing I am making a difference. I have also made new friends. It gives me a bit of a schedule, to know I need to be here each week,” she said.

The Kosher Food Pantry is an invaluable resource of healthy kosher food items for people in need. Instead of spending money on food, clients can use limited funds to pay utilities or other household needs. Donations for the food pantry come from several wonderful organizations and in-kind donations. The pantry relies on volunteers who work hard sorting and inspecting the donations to make sure that they are suitable to be eaten according to a healthy and Kosher diet. Fresh produce is donated to the Kosher Food Pantry from David Skoke and his team at Helping Feed Atlanta. In addition, vegetables grown in the giving garden are also available to Kosher Food Pantry recipients. 

“We are careful to make sure the dates are current and that all food has the right kosher symbol. I like to organize the shelves and make sure everything is space-efficient,” said Fran.

The volunteers make sure the Kosher Food Pantry is in tip-top shape and make it easier to find necessary items.

"We have a lot of clients with low-sodium diets,” said Geriatric Care Manager, Debbi Dooley. Dooley helps clients fill their baskets with healthy, nutrition food. She delights when finding certain foods in the panty. 

"We need non-sweetened cereal, canned salmon, quinoa, ready-cooked rice. Extra sources of protein are very important to these clients’ diets. These wonderful ladies help us to make the Kosher Food Pantry a comfortable place to get assistance” she said.

While the pantry stocks only Kosher certified foods, anyone who needs help is welcome. 

To find out more about the Kosher Food Pantry, including a list of needed items, visit www.jfcsatl.org/kfp

Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here, Volunteer Services


Tritt Leadership Program Reunion a Success!

Tritt 3

On Sunday, August 13th VIA held its annual reunion for alumni of the Ramie A. Tritt Family Foundation Volunteers In Action Leadership Program. Graduates and their guests along with JF&CS staff spent a fun afternoon at Lake Lanier playing human bingo, swimming, exploring the lake and more. Thank you to Joyce and Ramie Tritt for opening their home and hosting! We look forward to many more years of the program, future reunions and continuing education and leadership events.

Tritt 2The Ramie A. Tritt Family Foundation Volunteers In Action Leadership Program is community service-based volunteer leadership program that provides participants with hands-on experiences and connects them with prominent leaders in Atlanta. It focuses on being active in the community and exploring how community service and philanthropy can help participants develop as a leader. The program runs annually from January to May.  Applications will be available November 2017.

This program is made possible by Joyce and Ramie Tritt and their extended families. Thank you for all your support! 

Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here, Volunteer Services


Meet the JF&CS Staff: Georgia Gunter

As a Geriatric Care Manager and Certified Aging Life Care Manager, Georgia joined JF&CS’ Geriatric Care Management team in May 2017. An Atlanta native, she brings with her 26 years of experience in the aging eld, with an emphasis on home and community-based services. She currently serves as a geriatric care manager and leads a spousal caregiver support group.

Georgia GunterGeorgia has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Furman University. She earned a Master of Science in counseling and a graduate certificate in gerontology from Georgia State University, whose Gerontology Institute awarded her the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009. Georgia is a certified Eden at Home associate and a member of the Aging Life Care Association.

Before coming to JF&CS, Georgia worked as the director of the Weinstein Center for Adult Day Services, located at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta and more recently as the director of Adult Day of Dunwoody. In that role, she provided case management and caregiver support for the family members and clients she served. She is very active in the aging community and served on the Advisory Committee to the Governor’s Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias Task Force Committee. She also served on the boards of LeadingAge Georgia and the Culture Change Network of Georgia and was president of the Georgia Adult Day Services Association.

Georgia believes she has much to learn from older adults as well as from the care partners she serves. “There’s a quote from the Live Oak Institute that really resonates with me:

‘An elder is a person who is still growing, still a learner, still with potential and whose life continues to have within it promise for and connection to the future.’

“I am so honored to work for an organization that truly values its elders.”

Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here, Aviv Older Adult Services


Community Spotlight: Helping Feed Atlanta

Helping Feed Atlanta Spreads Love and Food Across Atlanta

Have you ever wondered what happens to all of the produce at Whole Foods at the end of the day? Does it get thrown out, used for compost, or do employees throw elaborate dinner parties after hours? In February 2012, David Skoke helped answer that question by reaching out to his local Whole Foods Market. What started out as a request for 40 pounds of potatoes, has now grown into an operation that feeds thousands of the homeless and Atlantans in-need.

In just five years, the project has grown from one market to five different Whole Foods markets and three Costco locations. Helping Feed Atlanta collects over 30,000 pounds of food every month with the help of a few dedicated volunteers. 

In addition, Helping Feed Atlanta has also created jobs for capable adults like Todd Besmernick, a young man in our supported employment program. David and Todd have become great friends, and they share videos of their weekly runs to collect healthy produce on their  “van show.” They then distribute the produce to the JF&CS kosher food pantry, and other organizations that help those in-need including Malachi's Storehouse, City of Refuge and The Atlanta Mission.

“We could not do our work without the help of David Skoke and Helping Feed Atlanta for many reasons. Thank you from all of us at JFCS,” said Engagement Coordinator, Sheri Schwartz.

Amy Maslia, intake manager agreed. “We Love to see David's smiling face on Mondays and am thrilled to offer fresh produce to our clients! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!!”

Helping Feed Atlanta was recently profiled on 11 Alive. You can view the video here: http://www.wsbtv.com/video?videoId=596527236&videoVersion=1.0 

Here is a video of David and Todd doing their mobile mitzvahs: https://www.facebook.com/Helping-Feed-Atlanta-1438955989707442/?fref=mentions

Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here, Developmental Disabilities Services, Volunteer Services


VIA Joins ORT and Federation Under 40 to Beautify APS School

Volunteers improved the social and emotional learning suite at Forrest Hill Academy.

VIA Joins ORT and Federation Under 40 to Beautify APS School
On Sunday, June 11, VIA participated in ORT My School, a school beautification project, with ORT Atlanta and Federation Under 40 Division. This was the second year the groups collaborated to improve an Atlanta public school. 

This year, the groups painted the new social & emotional learning suite at Forrest Hill Academy· All together, 22 young adults participated. The group had a great time with the community service project, knowing they were making a difference for kids at the school. Young adults can get involved at www.jfcsatl.org/VIA

Posted in Volunteer Services


Aviv Celebrations Thanks Volunteers at Pete the Cat Show

Aviv Celebrations Thanks Volunteers at Pete the Cat Show
On May 21, we thanked agency volunteers who generously give of themselves, with an outing to see Pete the Cat at the Center for the Puppetry Arts.

Fifty parents and children attended the event with smiles and giggles while watching Pete the Cat and then a special puppet show about Aviv Celebrations with characters Silly Puppet and Mel Footmeyer. Aviv Celebrations of Aviv Older Adult Services of JF&CS hosted the event, which was followed by time for making unique and beautiful cards for Aviv Celebrations.

Aviv Celebrations, founded by Cherie Aviv, works with children, teens and adults to make and give handmade birthday cards for older adults and get well cards for people who are ill. Making and giving a handmade card is a simple, yet meaningful way to connect with anyone, but in particular with older adults. A birthday card may be the only recognition they receive on their birthday. And for those who are ill, a get-well card will certainly brighten their day. The cards reassure those in our community they have not been forgotten.

Learn more about Aviv Celebrations or join in the fun and make cards for older adults and those who are ill! www.jfcsatl.org/cards 

Posted in Volunteer Services


Debra & Christian

How JF&CS counseling services helped a veteran and her son.

In 2009, Debra Johnson received orders to go to Iraq. Inactive Ready Reserve (IRR), with two months left in her contract, they orders took her by surprise.

“I had to go by myself, not with a unit, not with anyone I knew,” she said.

While on her tour, Johnson experienced a woman’s worst nightmare: sexual abuse. Medivacked home and suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), she spent months in different therapies. Eventually, she started drinking heavily.

If not for Christian, the “little life saver” born in 2012, she might have taken a different path.

Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here, Counseling Services


Levon Johnson

How a former veteran and machinist regained his confident smile

Levon Johnson didn’t learn to read until fifth grade.

“Everyone thought I was the smartest kid in school, but I couldn’t read,” he said. But he built coping skills. “My interest was in my chemistry set.”

Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here, Ben Massell Dental Clinic


After 70 years, a Bar Mitzvah at Last

How Leon Asner celebrated his bar mitzvah

After 70 years, a Bar Mitzvah at Last
It’s a good thing Anat Granath doesn’t take “no” for an answer.

Granath, a social worker with JF&CS’ Holocaust Survivor Services program, received a call one day from someone at the William Bremen Jewish Heritage Museum asking her to visit Leon Asner. An 85-year-old survivor who recently had suffered a heart attack, Asner wouldn’t even come to his door. So she placed a bag of food there and left. But she came back. And came back again. Finally, he let her in.

Posted in Aviv Older Adult Services


Friendly Visitor Program Works to Reduce Senior Isolation

Program matches seniors with volunteers

Friendly Visitor Program Works to Reduce Senior Isolation
With social isolation impacting many older adults, meaningful interactions and warm conversations with others grow increasingly rare and simultaneously more important to those who may have limited access to a social network. JF&CS’ One Good Deed program aims to address this by matching older adults with volunteers in order to create newfound friendships and invaluable connections across generations. Spearheaded by Sharon Spiegelman, One Good Deed Manager, and Vivienne Kurland, One Good Deed Coordinator, the program has already matched 65 older adults with community volunteers.

Among the matches, Sheva Vapne, a Holocaust survivor, and Ellen Gebel have been matched together for over a year, and enjoy meeting every other week at Sheva’s home for a friendly visit.

Posted in Aviv Older Adult Services, Volunteer Services


The Best Birthday Ever

Addiction, loss, and overcoming grief

The Best Birthday Ever
This is my first time writing for the newsletter. It’s no coincidence it is during Chol Hamoed Pesach (the intermediary days of Pesach) that I begin this part of our journey together, even though I know you will read this after Passover. There’s so much I want to share with you, but for now, I won’t go into too much detail about the cataclysmic loss that brings me to HAMSA… and that brings us together. The short story is that eight years ago, my 20-year-old son died of an accidental overdose.

Posted in Counseling Services


Generations of Giving

Three Generations of Tritt Give Back

Generations of Giving
There’s a culture of giving in the Tritt family, which becomes clear when you look at what Dr. Ramie Tritt, his wife, Joyce, and their children have done for JF&CS and the community. In the past decade, not only have they donated significantly in both time and money, but they have started several programs — including the 3-year-old Ramie A. Tritt Family Foundation Volunteers in Action (VIA) Leadership Program at JF&CS.

“We’re big on leadership, education, health and community support,” said Dr. Tritt, a physician originally from Montreal. “JF&CS falls into all of them. It meets the needs of people who aren’t as advantaged as we are.”

Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here


The Legacy of Owen Halpern

Generosity that extends beyond life.

The Legacy of Owen Halpern
Throughout his adult life, Owen Halpern was known for his kindness and generosity. His support for JF&CS extended beyond his donations to the time he spent volunteering. From serving on the Board of Directors to co-chairing the annual Community of Caring event to heading up the Kay Family Tools for Leaders program, Halpern immersed himself in the agency. But the cause that meant the most to him was LGBTQ (lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) rights.   

Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here


A Lesson in Recovery

How Do You Learn to Rethink Your Day?

To live a meaningful life — day by day, minute by minute — may seem daunting. How can one possibly focus amidst all the distraction, problems, and emotions? Even when you are satisfied with your past accomplishments, how can you continue to grow? How can you break out of the old patterns and learn to look at life anew?

Written by Eric Miller, Posted in Counseling Services


Jewish Family & Career Services of Atlanta Earns Coveted 4-star Rating From Charity Navigator

JF&CS ranks among top 10% of charities for transparency and accountability.

Jewish Family & Career Services of Atlanta Earns Coveted 4-star Rating From Charity Navigator
ATLANTA – Atlanta, GA – March 14, 2017 – In recognition of its sound fiscal management practices and commitment to accountability and transparency, Jewish Family & Career Services of Atlanta (JF&CS) has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator.

Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here


1 Good Deed Celebrates 1 Year Anniversary with JF&CS.

Playing matchmaker for 11 years

1 Good Deed Celebrates 1 Year Anniversary with JF&CS.
Sharon  Spiegelman and Viv Kurland  view themselves as  “old-fashioned” matchmakers.  Only instead of matching young couples, they pair seniors with volunteer companions, or “friendly visitors.” The two run One Good Deed (OGD), an 11-year-old program that  is celebrating its  one-year anniversary as part of JF&CS.

Posted in Aviv Older Adult Services


Career Services Taking the Show on the Road

Employment Workshop Series going to Norcross Cooperative Ministries in March

JF&CS Career Services is taking the show on the road in March! Learn effective techniques from highly qualified Job Search Specialists.

Have you been submitting resume after resume into the bottomless pit of online portals? Come learn how to stage an effective job search. It’s more than applying for jobs on the Internet!

Have you heard that you should tailor your resume to each job? Come learn how to create a fluid resume that can catch the eye of a hiring manager.

So you've landed the interview...now what? Learn techniques and information to ace your next interview. 

Reserve your seat by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 770.263.8268

Light refreshments will be served. Gas cards will be given to all participants who arrive ON TIME and stay for the entire session.

Want 1:1 help with job search, resume development, or interview skills? Visit our careers page or email one of our This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Posted in Career Services


Ask a Professional: Carly Reisman

Carly Reisman, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Coordinator at JFCS AtlantaCarly Reisman is a professional in Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Services at JF&CS. She works with adults with disabilities who would like to gain employment. Carly has a bachelor’s degree in Child and Family Development and a Masters in Special Education from the University of Georgia. She joined JF&CS as a direct support professional in 2015 and became the Employment Services Coordinator in 2016.

Posted in Developmental Disabilities Services


February is Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month

How IDDS is making hope and opportunity happen

February is Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month, and JF&CS wants to raise awareness of what we do in this arena. Our nonsectarian Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Services (IDDS) offers programs and supports to individuals with a range of disabilities, their families and their caregivers. We follow a person-centered approach to ensure those with disabilities have a hand in directing their services and a voice concerning their future. The programs promote self-determination and the right of those with special needs to choose their own destinies.

Programs and services include Supported Employment, the Zimmerman-Horowitz Independent Living Program, Community Access Services and Alterman/JETS Transportation.

In March, IDDS will be moving into a brand new location right on the JF&CS campus. The building will include a large common space, classrooms, a computer room, an art studio, a sensory room, a teaching kitchen, ADA-compliant bathrooms with showers, a laundry area and full access for wheelchairs with wider hallways and lower counters.

For more information, please call 770-677-9300 or visit www.jfcsatl.org


Posted in Developmental Disabilities Services


Staff Highlight - Barbara Jones

Celebrating 41 years of service at Ben Massell Dental Clinic

Staff Highlight - Barbara Jones
With 41 years under her belt, Barbara Jones is the longest-serving staff member ever at the Ben Massell Dental Clinic — as well as at JF&CS. If there’s anything you need to know about the clinic, Barbara is your go-to person; there is nothing she doesn’t know, doesn’t remember or can’t figure out. A graduate of Atlanta Technical College, Barbara has a wealth of knowledge about dentistry and has served in many capacities at BMDC. As dental operations manager, she oversees the training of hundreds of dental students, dental assistants and pre-dental students.

Posted in Ben Massell Dental Clinic


The Impact of Domestic Violence

Shalom Bayit

shalom bayit 2

Shalom Bayit’s impact is built on individuals speaking out and collaborations within our community.  Amy Robinson first connected with Shalom Bayit through her involvement with Congregation B’nai Torah, after her sister, Nique disappeared in July 2011.  Seven days after Nique’s disappearance her body was found. Four and a half years later, on February 5, 2016, Nique’s husband was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life without parole, plus receiving an additional 15 year sentence for eavesdropping charges. These words are from Amy’s “victim impact statement,” presented at the trial.

Written by Amy Robinson, Posted in Counseling Services


How a Friendship became a Legacy

Shalom Bayit

We live in a world abundant with meaningful, worthwhile opportunities to give. Choosing the causes to support can be a challenge. For many, the decision is based on something that has touched them personally. For Helen Marie Stern, who passed away in June 2014, it came down to relationships.

Written by Sheri Panovka, Posted in Counseling Services


The Power of Song

The Power of Song
It is Friday and I am conducting my monthly Kabalat Shabbat service with a small group of Jewish residents at an outlying nursing home.  We recite blessings over candles, wine and food, enjoy a snack, sing some songs, usually learn about a holiday and spend some time together. My regulars include several Russian speakers, and a few residents suffering from various impairments which makes conversation difficult.

Written by Rabbi Judith Beiner, Posted in Counseling Services


Supported Employment Brings Confidence and Stability

Supported Employment Brings Confidence and Stability
Gil Berman wants to de-stigmatize mental health issues and treatment. A bright and funny 23-year-old who exudes self-confidence, Gil has Asperger’s syndrome. He also has an anxiety disorder and “some other issues,” including Tourette syndrome, which he learned he had in fourth grade. 

“People would tell me I was so brave to talk about it,” he said. “That always confused me. It feels good to talk about it. Everybody is educated, and everybody wins.”

Written by Sheri Panovka, Posted in Counseling Services, Developmental Disabilities Services


Finding Her Balance

Finding Her Balance
Sometimes things just fall into place, even when it seems like they’re falling apart. When Gloria White walked into JF&CS in January 2015, she was “a wreck, a ball of anxiety.” You wouldn’t know it now.

Gloria had been a carefree college student living on her own, “a millennial going out and having fun all the time.” Then her mom, who had been sick, needed to have a leg amputated. Gloria moved back home.

Written by Sheri Panovka, Posted in Aviv Older Adult Services, Career Services


Healing the Spirit, Healing the Body

Healing the Spirit, Healing the Body
By July 2015, Amy Fergusson-Williams knew she needed help. Her husband Rodney had been forgetting things and at times was not acting like himself. Before she knew it, Amy had gone from a household partner and wife to a full-time caregiver.

“I was feeling hopeless and overwhelmed, like I couldn’t catch up,” said Amy. “I didn’t know where to go or what to do.”

Written by Sheri Panovka, Posted in Aviv Older Adult Services


My Story, by Eric Miller

My Story, by Eric Miller
My name is Eric Miller, and I’m a person in long-term recovery. What that means to me is that it has been eight years since I last depended on drugs and alcohol to escape from my life.

Looking backward, it seems like a blink of an eye. 

But I remember looking ahead and thinking, “I can’t do this.”

Written by Eric Miller, Posted in Counseling Services


Are you making these common resume mistakes?

Are you making these common resume mistakes?
Writing the perfect resume can feel like being on a quest to capture a unicorn (but likely there is far more fun involved with that). It is not easy, and it is likely not your activity of choice in your free time. Here are five common mistakes we see on resumes that drive recruiters and hiring mangers crazy and be sure to avoid them.

Written by Mandy Wright, Posted in Career Services


Passover – Renewal, or Making the Old New Again

Passover – Renewal, or Making the Old New Again
Passover begins when I open the Pesach closet and see the dishes, pots and pans, appliances and utensils. This odd, mismatched assortment belonged to my mother-in-law, who used them through the years. Pulling them out of the closet, I can still see my in-laws conducting their sedarim, and hear their voices. The dishes show signs of aging and use: cracks, chips, worn finishes, loose handles etc. And yet, they are new to me every year. 

Written by Rabbi Judith Beiner, Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here


Mitzvot Behind the Scenes

Mitzvot Behind the Scenes

Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name

Nobody came

Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave

All the lonely people

Where do they all come from?

Written by Rabbi Judith Beiner, Posted in Counseling Services




After Rosh Hashana this past year, I resolved to start jogging. Not a life-altering change, just an addition to my stale years-old swimming routine. I needed a new exercise to inject some energy into my body and my days. I had a big hurdle to overcome: I am not a runner. I am scared of running. I am afraid that I will be left gasping for air, my chest throbbing in pain, and even worse, that I will fall (because I am a clutz).

I got some advice as to how to start. I ran on my treadmill for two months, until one day I took myself outside. Something amazing happened. I jogged three miles, without stopping. I wasn’t gasping for air, I felt no pain, and I didn’t fall. It wasn’t that difficult.  

Written by Rabbi Judith Beiner, Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here


Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks

From time to time, I receive a handwritten thank you note. I always appreciate the thought and effort that went into the personalized message.

In the book, Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a lifetime, author Scott Simon shares how his mother was renowned for such gestures. “My mother wrote notes to give thanks to people. But she also wrote notes to remind herself of how people dotted her life with acts of grace, skill and kindness. I’ve heard from many people who’ve said they’ll always treasure a note that my mother wrote them.”

Written by Rabbi Judith Beiner, Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here


Breaking the Shame, Stigma and Silence around Addiction

Breaking the Shame, Stigma and Silence around Addiction

Patrick Kennedy, son of Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy, recently went on CBS's "60 minutes" to discuss his personal and familial history with drugs and alcohol in an effort to help others battle addiction.

In his new book, “A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction,” Patrick Kennedy details his and his families private struggles with alcohol, drug addiction and mental illness in hope of helping break the silence, stigma and shame surrounding mental illness and substance abuse.

Written by Jessica Hallberlin, Posted in Counseling Services


10 Reasons You May Need JF&CS

10 Reasons You May Need JF&CS

JF&CS provides support to the entire community through programs and services that can help families in every stage of their lives.

Here are Ten Reasons you might want to tell your friend or family member to contact JF&CS.

Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here

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