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Message from Leadership – May Newsletter

At this year’s Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies annual conference held in early May, staff and board members of diverse faiths, identities, and lived experiences from Jewish Family Service organizations across North America gathered to learn and share successes and struggles.

In our host city of Pittsburgh, leaders shared their experiences in the wake of the most violent and deadly attack on a Jewish community in the United States in memory. Hate hit so close to home. The Tree of Life synagogue shooting took place during HIAS Refugee Shabbat in 2018.

We heard from the first responders who then led the community healing process. Their stories pierced my heart and gave me hope. Leaders retold how the community gathering the evening of the day the shooting took place. Local clergy were invited to step up to the front of the event. Over 150 clergy members from all different faiths stood with the Jewish community that day and continued to work together to bring healing and rebuild hope in their community, so close to home.

I visited the neighborhood where the shooting took place to see UpStreet, JFCS Pittsburgh’s new drop in teen mental health center. It was built as a community investment so close to home. The center offers a safe and welcoming therapeutic space for local youth from all backgrounds. It serves the local Jewish day school, the neighborhood public schools and anyone age 12-18 who lives within the area. UpStreet offers an online chat option for youth to reach out to a mental health professional straight from their phones, available seven days/week.

On any afternoon, UpStreet is predominantly filled with African American boys and young men from the high school a block away. There’s also a section of the center that is dedicated to refugee youth mental health services as that same high school is a designated English Learner school site. To me, this is the most tangible and inspiring example of community healing that can take place.

Pittsburgh’s JFCS offers us a model of how community-based mental health services so close to home can change lives. Through investing in mental health services for individuals and families, we can begin to heal a neighborhood and strengthen a whole community.

JFCS East Bay’s foundation as a human service agency is rooted in community-based mental health. This summer we will begin a new round of community consultations and listening sessions with staff, clients, leaders, and partners to hear about the needs in our community. We are strengthening our clinical services across all populations we serve, we will collaborate to provide more comprehensive support to our families so close to home.

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