“We’re not alone, you know?” Gennady Khaskelis says thoughtfully over FaceTime on a recent, dreary February morning. The conversation, however, is the opposite of dreary—he and his wife Inna are a charming, welcoming, and fascinating couple. While very much their own, their story is also the story of immigrant Jews coming to Cincinnati as they have for two centuries, and also an American success story.
“Holocaust survivors are our teachers and our heroes,” said Mark Wilf, the chair of The Jewish Federations of North America’s (JFNA) board of trustees. “With inspiring strength and conviction, they teach us about the past. Now, they are teaching us how to better serve all older adults who have survived trauma.”
JFNA’s Center on Aging and Trauma, a project of the Holocaust Survivor Initiative, has just awarded Jewish Family Service a one-year, $66,666 grant.
“It was one of my worst times,” says Gloria (identities changed for privacy). The interview takes place in the dining room of her small, freestanding home. There are signs of love all around—lots of green plants in the windows—but dust piles on the flat surfaces, and the curtains are faded. We are talking about when she finally fought free from addiction to pain medicine. (This interview occurred pre-COVID-19; at the end we share how Gloria is faring during the pandemic.)
“Young people can inspire others, just like adults can. They have a ton of power. And I think sometimes we forget how much good a single dollar can do—or a single can of soup.”
Chrissie Blatt couldn’t help but beam during a recent interview about her daughter Ella’s bat mitzvah project for Jewish Family Service: a canned soup drive to support Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry at the Barbash Family Vital Support Center.
“I have a great appreciation for what I consider an immutable fact: people who can feed themselves have a greater sense of independence,” stated Ben Kaufman.
Ben is the master gardener of the community garden of the Barbash Family Vital Support Center, located on the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion campus. The garden helps provide hundreds of people in our community access to fresh vegetables through the Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry.
While the COVID-19 lockdowns have undoubtedly saved lives, they have also increased social isolation for older adults in our community. In addition, the tightening economy has caused unprecedented hardships for people who have never needed help before. In response, new COVID-19-related services are being offered through local, state, and federal agencies. Yet connecting these services with older adults who aren’t aware of them remains a challenge.
COVID-19 has changed nearly every aspect of our lives, and for some of the people in our community, those changes could be deadly. That’s why Jewish Family Service (JFS) quickly transitioned most programming online to continue its mission.
JFS is committed to strengthening people’s lives in times of need, as well as supporting senior community members.
“In terms of who may be in need of our help, we have seen COVID-19 affecting people across our community,” said Jewish Family Service CEO Liz Vogel. “There are so many people who have been impacted who do not know where to go for help.” According to the 2019 Cincinnati Jewish Community Study, 28 percent of Jewish households have insufficient savings for three months to cover unexpected or emergency expenses. “At Jewish Family Service, we want to make sure those who don’t have that...
The COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful and unsettling for many people, but it has been particularly challenging for those already suffering from food insecurity. Recently, dozens of determined Jewish Family Service (JFS) volunteers and staff spent time preparing for and participating in the in the 22nd annual Dr. Samuel S. Rockwern Passover Delivery Project of Jewish Family Service. Perhaps inspired by a desire to fulfill a mitzvah (commandment), the dedicated individuals helping with this
Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry will remain open during this time of social distancing, so everyone who needs groceries can get them.
And they are staying safe: “We really want to reassure the community that we are working hard to ensure the safety of our professionals and volunteers,” said Liz Vogel, CEO at Jewish Family Service, which is funded by the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati.