By Todd Geise
This is the time of year that we begin to reflect. We reflect because the high holidays provide us with the guidance to do so and also because the Gregorian calendar year is approaching its final months. It’s a good time to start thinking about and making plans for the next year.
Given the mission of Jewish Family Services (JFS) to empower people to achieve their unique aspirations through culturally responsive and individualized care, the reflection process is critical. It is a starting point for understanding how our work has had positive impacts on the communities we serve and to come to terms with the challenges that have inevitably presented themselves. In the words of Albert Einstein, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
JFS’ commitment to the Jewish Community in Western New York has never wavered. In recent years, we have built a strong and capable team that is present to provide the necessary support to those who need it most. This support comes in many forms and is available to many segments of the Jewish community. From Holocaust survivors to those who reside in Buffalo Jewish Federation Apartments; from the Jewish Community Partnership Program with Hillel of Buffalo and others to the distribution of Dignity Grows totes; from the Compassion Fund to Scholarships for young Jewish adults. Each initiative has led to a positive reflection with the positive impacts we hope to have. But we know there is much more we could do, and we recognize that challenge. As we look ahead, we are grateful that so many see the value in our capabilities, and we are continuously looking for new mechanisms to prove ourselves through expanded services and support.
We also reflect on our commitment to Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. We know that this phrase is used often throughout Jewish human services agencies. But it is a powerful cornerstone of thought that guides our work in mental and behavioral health and coordinating care services for those struggling to do themselves. Being comprised of people from all beliefs and backgrounds, the world is complicated. Each of the times we are able to help an individual is magnified by the thousands who are family and community members. In fact, we have calculated that more than 11,500 people are positively impacted by the work of JFS to help those facing challenging times in their lives.
An additional reflection point for us is how we, as a community, welcome the stranger. JFS has been called upon to provide our expertise in providing crucial support to Afghan evacuees as a result of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and subsequent Taliban takeover. We have also been called upon to offer support for Ukrainians arriving to Western New York as a result of an unprovoked invasion and war. It is our calling to reflect upon our Jewish beginnings and use those reflections to ensure that these strangers – these human beings – have what they need to start anew. We not only help them through the challenges they face, but we also advocate for them the best we can, and we make every effort to educate those who may not understand. It is challenging to welcome the stranger, but we know that we have been successful, in part, because of the generosity and encouragement we have received from the entire Jewish Community who share in this value.
Reflection. It is a process but a necessary process. It is a moment in time to think about all that has been good and all that has been challenging. It is a moment to plan for the future so that at another given point in time after new experiences we start the process again.
Todd Geise is the Director of Marketing for Jewish Family Services of Western New York.