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JFS Perspectives

News, stories, events, and ideas from Jewish Family Service of Colorado.

Welcome to New JFS Therapists

Friday, May 13, 2016
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, please help us welcome our two newest therapists: Rotem Brayer, MEd, LPC, Refugee Mental Health psychotherapist; and Deborah Goodman, LCSW, psychotherapist.

Rotem BrayerRotem Brayer, MEd, LPC, joined the JFS Refugee Mental Health department in December 2015. He grew up in Israel and moved to Massachusetts in 2007 to earn a master’s in education at Cambridge College. While in Boston, he worked at a community mental health center providing therapy for people with chronic mental illness, addiction, stress, or other issues.

He specialized in addictions, especially helping people in their 20s with behavioral addictions such as gaming and the Internet. While he didn’t specialize in working with refugees, he got referrals for clients from other countries and could easily relate to them since he didn’t grow up in the United States.

Rotem and his wife moved to Denver in 2015 for the mountains and quality of life. Before starting at JFS, he worked at Aurora Mental Health. In JFS’s Refugee Mental Health department, he sees adults from many war-torn countries, including Iraq, Congo, Iran, and Afghanistan. Rotem helps them with anxiety, depression, and adjustment issues.The clients he has seen so far have been in this country for anywhere from a month to eight years.

“So far I love everything about working at JFS,” says Rotem enthusiastically. “The work environment, my coworkers, and of course working with the clients have been wonderful.” He adds that he was attracted to this job because “I am interested in different cultures and relating to people’s experiences when they are coming from other countries.”

Deborah GoodmanDeborah (Debbie) Goodman, LCSW, joined the Jewish Family Service Mental Health Specialists team in February 2016. Originally from Denver, Debbie left in her 20s and lived in several states before landing back in Denver more than two years ago. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Colorado, followed by a master’s degree in applied early child development. She earned a second master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan.

Debbie spent the majority of her career working with children; she counseled pregnant and parenting teens at an adolescent healthcare clinic, served as a Jewish educator and preschool teacher, and worked with foster care children. About four years ago, she started working with adults at two different mental health centers and discovered she really liked it because they could make decisions about their lives.

Her area of expertise is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (referred to as “ACT”), a cognitive behavior therapy that helps people gain skills to manage their symptoms so those symptoms don’t stop them from leading a value-laden life. “I am so passionate about this type of therapy,” Debbie says. “It is so effective and I have seen it turn people’s lives around! We’ve spent years thinking people had to get rid of their anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses, but they don’t—they just need tools to manage and accept them.” She looks forward to employing this technique with both individual clients and starting a group at JFS in the near future.

So far, Debbie loves everyone she’s met at JFS and is very impressed with the longevity of the staff. “Everyone is so kind, sweet, and accepting,” she says. “I also really love working in a Jewish agency again—there is a comfort there.”

Debbie’s 29-year-old twin daughters have followed in her footsteps: Rebekkah works as a therapist in the Counseling Department of Regis University and Rachael is in a community psychology doctoral program at Michigan State University.

-Alaina Green, JFS Marketing Department

Caring Conversations with Older Adult Drivers

Friday, May 06, 2016

In honor of Older Americans Month, here are some helpful tips about how to have a caring conversation with an older adult when it may be time to limit or give up driving.

Photo from aarp.org

Safe mobility is essential to healthy aging. Driving has been recognized as a key factor in the well-being and independence of older adults. The idea of limiting or giving up driving can be a deeply personal and emotional issue for both the family and the driver. Communication about driving can trigger negative emotions, including sadness, powerlessness, frustration, anger, and decreased self-esteem. There is no easy way to approach the subject, but steps can be taken to preserve the driver’s freedom and mobility while ensuring safety on the road.

Prepare for the Conversation
  • Plan ahead: The first conversations about safety should occur long before driving becomes a problem. A frequent discussion allows for minor modifications and a gradual transition from driver to passenger.
  • Avoid stereotyping: Physical and cognitive functioning matters most in driving safely, not age. Avoid overgeneralizing, such as “older adults cannot drive.”
  • Observe driving ability: Gather facts and information on the driver’s skills and capabilities. Drive with him or her to learn what the specific safety risks are.
  • Who and where: Avoid holding a large family intervention and “ganging up” on the driver. Make privacy a priority; hold the conversation in a safe, comfortable, and private space.
Tips for a Successful Conversation
  • Be respectful: Acknowledge that this is difficult and avoid coming on too strong, as you may start the discussion off on the wrong foot.
  • Stick to the facts: Focus on actual driving capabilities based on information you have gathered, not on age.
  • Focus on safety: Clearly express your concerns about safety and the risks to the driver and others on the road. Ask how safe he or she feels on the road and assess comfort level.
  • Address independence concerns: Acknowledge the importance of maintaining connections to the people, places, and activities that are important.
Transportation Plan and Alternatives
  • Introduce transportation plan: Identify transportation needs and create a specific plan for how these needs will still be met.
  • Driving modifications: Minor modifications can address safety concerns while maintaining driver independence. These modifications include limiting night driving, driving on familiar and close streets, and avoiding the freeway, rush hour, and risky spots (ramps and left turns).
  • Friends and family: They are often a primary alternative for transportation. When providing transportation for your loved one, there are ways to frame the experience to be meaningful rather than just a “ride.” This can be done by asking the older adult to participate in family outings that already have planned transportation. Caring for your loved one demonstrates love and commitment, but it can become stressful and exhausting. It is important to understand that you are not alone and there are resources in the community to assist with some of the driving demands.
  • Community resources: There are various services designed to bridge the transportation gap in the aging community. These resources include public transit/fixed routes, paratransit, medical service providers, volunteer programs, and hired drivers. The service suitable for your loved one may vary in accessibility, driving needs, affordability, and eligibility.

For more information on transportation resources, please contact the Jay and Rose Phillips Senior Solutions Center at 303.597.5000.

-Sladjana Todorovic, Jay and Rose Phillips Senior Solutions Center

Sladjana TodorovicSladjana Todorovic is a student at the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Denver. Sladjana is a PROGRESS student in the Aging and Policy concentration and is set to graduate in June. She is completing her internship with the Jay and Rose Phillips Senior Solutions Center at Jewish Family Service.

JFS Executive Luncheon Featuring Al Pacino Raises Record Amount

Thursday, April 21, 2016


Acting legend Al Pacino entertained nearly 1,200 business and professional leaders attending Jewish Family Service’s (JFS) 12th annual JFS Executive Luncheon held on April 13 at the Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center. Before Pacino took the stage, the audience was moved by a video about Family Safety Net clients whom JFS helped with rent and food assistance, a “Job Success Series for Women” class co-led by Dress for Success, and employment case management services.

Jane E. Rosenbaum Board chair Jane E. Rosenbaum, shared a bit more about the clients' story (they weren't at the event because they recently started new jobs) and announced a $100,000 matching opportunity for money raised in the room. Attendees generously donated more than $103,000 in the room to make the match.

In total, the event raised more than $842,000 to support the life-transforming programs of Jewish Family Service, making it the highest-grossing fundraiser in JFS history! 

Following a video montage of Al Pacino’s career, the actor received a standing ovation from the attendees in the packed ballroom as he took the stage. He then sat down for an interview with Ron Bostwick, an entertainment producer and radio show host.

During the 90-minute interview, Pacino captivated the audience with stories about his award-winning acting career and lifePacino and Bostwick experiences. He credited his eighth grade drama teacher for encouraging him to pursue this line of work. “She even got me to read the Bible every day…and I practiced reading it with passion to hone my craft,” he shared. He talked about his first movie role in Panic in Needle Park and how it led to one of his most famous roles in The Godfather series. While Pacino is primarily known for his work in films, he spoke about his love of Shakespeare and said he is currently learning King Lear, “which may take up to a year because I want to do it right.”

At the end of the interview, he took several questions from the audience and even signed a junior high school classmate’s yearbook. He concluded the luncheon with a monologue of an excerpt of one of his favorite Oscar Wilde poems. The fundraiser’s Chief-level sponsors were then invited to pose for photos with Pacino at a private reception.

Thank you to more than 115 companies, organizations, foundations, and individuals that supported the event through sponsorships.

Co-chairsThank you to event co-chairs Leanna Harris, Aaron Hyatt, Jim Miller (who was unable to attend), and Stanton Rosenbaum and the amazing, dedicated committee who helped us sell sponsorships and fill the room. A special thank-you to Aaron Hyatt, shareholder at Brownstein Farber Hyatt Schreck, LLP, for graciously serving as the emcee.


Lisa, Yana, DawnThank you to president & CEO Yana Vishnitsky and "twins" from the development department, Lisa Benoit and Dawn Richard, for their event oversight and planning!

And thank you to everyone who attended the luncheon! We’d love to hear your feedback—please post comments here!

Check out more event photos…

Check out social media posts from the event on Storify.

-Alaina Green, JFS Marketing Department

Celebrating Our Volunteers During National Volunteer Week

Friday, April 08, 2016

As National Volunteer Week approaches, April 10 to 16, we would like to thank and pay tribute to our more than 1,100 annual volunteers. As you can see from the infographic below, volunteers are at the heart of everything we do! We are so grateful to all the dedicated, passionate, and compassionate people who help in a variety of meaningful ways throughout the agency.

Learn more about our volunteer program and ways you can get involved!

JFS Volunteer Infographic

Wheat Ridge Seniors Learn about Alternative Health Options

Friday, April 01, 2016

On March 15, more than 40 seniors attended an Alternative Health and Wellness Fair hosted by Colorado Senior Connections–Wheat Ridge (CSC-WR). Six professionals from many local businesses dedicated their time and energy to share their knowledge and expertise to those in attendance, including Jefferson Center for Mental Health, Human Harmonies, Transforming Arts, Adio Chiropractic, Saanti Massage Studio, and Good Needles. Students from the Nutrition Therapy Institute in Denver and Red Rocks Holistic Health also came to share their knowledge and skills.


In the morning, participants learned about and participated in meditation, medical hypnotherapy, aromatherapy, and Thai Chi/Qigong. During a wonderful lunch sponsored by InnovAge, participants had an opportunity to attend a mini resource fair and receive information and assistance from various organizations in the community. After lunch, participants were able to learn about and try more alternative health modalities including chiropractic, Thai yoga massage, food as medicine energy medicine self-care, and acupuncture/Chinese herbal medicine.

Those in attendance gained an abundance of knowledge and a few were lucky enough to walk away with a free 90-minute hypnosis session or a complimentary acupuncture consultation.

The idea for the Alternative Health and Wellness Fair came from the Senior Advisory Committee. CSC-WR looks forward to hosting more activities and events suggested by the seniors.

Colorado Senior Connections–Wheat Ridge is offered in partnership with Jewish Family Service of Colorado, Seniors Resource Center, HealthSET, Jefferson Center for Mental Health, and Brothers Redevelopment, Inc.  

-Katelyn Jones, Activities Coordinator/MSW Intern, Colorado Senior Connections–Wheat Ridge

Support the Spring Community Food Drive April 1-25!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Spring Community Food Drive 

Support the third annual Spring Community Food Drive benefiting the Jewish Family Service Weinberg Food Pantry! Hunger is a year-round crisis, but food donations drop significantly in the springtime, straining the pantry’s ability to feed children and families in need.

We're partnering with Calvary Baptist Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mile High United Way, and Rose Medical Center for this community-wide interfaith effort. Below is a list of participating businesses, churches, and synagogues where you can drop off food donations between April 1 and 25.

Help us meet our goal of collecting 10,000 pounds of food by contributing food and sharing this post with your friends and social networks!

Top food needs include:

  • Bottled Juice
  • Canned Fruit
  • Pasta Sauce
  • Protein (canned tuna and chicken, and peanut butter)
  • Canned Vegetables
  • Canned Soup

Drop-Off Locations:

  • AIMCO, 4582 South Ulster Street, Suite 1100, Denver, CO 80237
  • Argosy University, 7600 Eastman Avenue, Denver, CO 80231
  • Brookdale Tamarac Square, 8030 East Girard Avenue, Denver, CO 80231
  • Calvary Baptist Church, 6500 East Girard Avenue, Denver, CO 80224
  • Cardinal Health, 8440 Concord Center Drive, Englewood, CO 80112
  • Chick-Fil-A, 9331 East Arapahoe Road, Greenwood Village, CO 80112
  • Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints Denver Stake, 2710 S Monaco Parkway, Denver, CO 80222
  • Congregation BMH-BJ, 560 South Monaco Parkway, Denver, CO 80224
  • Congregation Hebrew Educational Alliance, 3600 South Ivanhoe Street, Denver, CO 80237
  • Congregation Rodef Shalom, 450 South Kearney Street, Denver, CO 80224
  • Denver Jewish Day School, 2450 South Wabash Street, Denver, CO 80231
  • Holland & Hart LLP, 555 Seventeenth Street, Suite #3200, Denver, CO 80202
  • JCC Denver, Lobby and Preschool, 350 South Dahlia Street, Denver, CO 80246
  • JEWISHcolorado, 300 South Dahlia Street, Suite 300, Denver, CO 80246
  • Jewish Family Service of Colorado, 3201 South Tamarac Drive, Denver, CO 80231
  • Kohelet, 428 South Forest, Denver, CO 80246
  • Mile High United Way, 711 Park Avenue West, Denver, CO 80205
  • PCL Construction, 2000 South Colorado Blvd, #2-500, Denver, CO 80222
  • Rose Medical Center, 4567 East 9th Avenue, Denver, CO 80220
  • Shalom Cares, 5172 South Shalom Park Circle, Aurora, CO 80015
  • South Denver Fencing Academy, 7075B South Alton Way, Centennial, CO 80112
  • Temple Micah, 5209 Montview Blvd, Denver, CO 80207
  • Temple Sinai, 3509 South Glencoe Street, Denver, CO 80237
  • Walgreens, 7190 East Hampden Avenue, Denver, CO 80224

-Alaina Green, JFS Marketing Department

See Al Pacino Live at the JFS Executive Luncheon

Friday, March 18, 2016

Have you dreamed of seeing acting legend Al Pacino live, but never had a way to do that, especially in Denver? Now is your chance! 

Get up close and personal with the Oscar, Tony, and Emmy-winner for an exclusive 90-minute performance and interview at the JFS Executive Luncheon on Wednesday, April 13 at the Hyatt Regency Denver Convention Center. 

Doors open at 11:30 a.m. and the program runs from noon to 2:00 p.m. Tickets are on sale now for $200 each. Sponsorships are still available with meet and greet opportunities. Contact Lisa Benoit at 720.248.4633 or lbenoit@jewishfamilyservice.org for details.

Not only will this be an unforgettable afternoon (think of the stories you can impress your friends with for years), but you will be supporting the life-transforming work of Jewish Family Service. What could be better?

What are you waiting for? Get your tickets now, then share this post on social media and invite your friends to join you!

-Alaina Green, JFS Marketing Department

Social Isolation or Contentment?

Friday, March 04, 2016


Social isolation has become a hot topic of conversation among families of the elderly, care providers, professionals, and social service agencies who work with the aging population. Dickens, Richards, Greaves, and Campbell (2011) state that “social isolation is a subjective judgement and personal perception in the quality of social interactions and support.”

Given that social isolation is subjective, it is possible that many aging individuals choose to be less active and prefer solitude, quiet, and peace after a lifetime of commitments.

The mom who attended every PTA meeting may now be gratified not to be compelled to plan the bake sale, sew the uniforms, or make obligated chit chat with the other parents. Even though you knew Mom to be happiest when engaged in these activities, it wasn’t necessarily for her own enjoyment, but rather the smile and joy that came from her kids’ needs being met. There was a sense of pride in maintaining an image that Mom may no longer feel obligated to endorse.

Dad spent his lifetime providing for his family’s needs and he may have sought out the diversion of his workshop to either fulfill another obligation of repairing objects, or just a shift from his professional self. Now he can sit and watch TV as a luxury that was not previously afforded him.

Even if the aging person enjoyed dancing, socializing, or attending craft shows with a partner and they no longer do that, it may not be a result of having lost their spouse, but rather a simple change in what they find enjoyable.

When we were 10 years old, our greatest joy was riding our bike in the rain, but by adulthood that was not as appealing. In our 20s, going to clubs and “partying” seemed the highlight of our week, but in time that lost the allure. We continue to change and grow in our own ways throughout our lifespan.

Aging into the 70s and beyond has the same psychological shifts as any other time in life. People grow and develop in different ways just as they did in their youth. A shy individual is still a shy senior who may find socializing stressful. Even though one person may find social commitments stimulating and want to fill their lives with activity, another individual may very well be content to sip a cup of tea and read a good book. Just as society allows individuals to choose their level of engagement and activity, the aging population has the same need for self-determination, even if it looks different than it has in the past. Contentment in peace and solitude may be a viable choice.

If you are concerned about a loved one being content or experiencing social isolation, feel free to call Jewish Family Service’s Senior Solutions department at 303.597.5000 for guidance.

-Ann Slavkin, Jay and Rose Phillips Senior Solutions Center intern

Ann SlavkinAnn is a social work student at Metropolitan State University of Denver and is set to graduate in May. She returned to school to make a midlife career change after caring for aging family members and realizing there is a need for support and services for both caregivers and the aging population. She has volunteered with JFS since 2011, working with seniors, and is currently an intern with the JFS Colorado Senior Connections program in Edgewater.

5th Annual JFS Friendly Visitor Lunch 'N' Learn

Friday, February 26, 2016
"Those who can, do. Those who can do more, volunteer." —Author Unknown

This week, JFS hosted its fifth annual Lunch ‘n’ Learn program for about 10 Friendly Visitor volunteers and seven Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation Senior Solutions Center care managers. While everyone enjoyed a catered lunch, Beth Lippa and Nancy Benyamin from the JFS volunteer department thanked the volunteers for their dedication and compassion. Friendly Visitors help elderly individuals throughout the greater Denver area stay connected with their community.

Beth told the volunteers, "Sometimes I hear from a volunteer that they wonder if they make a difference to the client. Let me tell you, what I am hearing from the care managers is that you make a huge difference in their lives. You all visit different clients and have different situations, but the one thing you have in common is that you enrich and improve the seniors' quality of life."

Everyone introduced themselves and shared a bit about how long they've been either a volunteer or JFS employee. This year's theme was "Transitions," so Beth led a discussion about how various transitions affect the volunteers and clients. Many Friendly Visitors shared examples of transitions they are going through with their clients, such as the seniors moving into assisted living, declining health issues, moving away to live with family, etc. Several volunteers experienced client deaths, including a couple recent losses.

The care managers gave some insights into their jobs and told how transitions affect the clients' relationships with the volunteers and vice versa. One of our newest care managers, Christina Caldwell, actually used to volunteer as a Friendly Visitor at JFS in New Mexico before moving to Denver. She could speak to both sides of being a volunteer and care manager, which was very valuable! Other topics included family dynamics, self determination, and some of the feelings seniors experience when transitioning to assisted living.

Once again, the volunteers enjoyed meeting with the care managers and getting advice from them, as well as connecting with other volunteers so they could support each other. “These luncheons are very popular with both the volunteers and care managers,” Beth says. “Both groups get a lot of value out of the chance to share their experiences with each other and to realize they are part of a larger community of support.”

Beth ended the luncheon by thanking each volunteer for participating and in exemplifying these words from William Penn: "I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."

To learn more about the Friendly Visitor volunteer program, please contact Beth Lippa at 720.248.4599.

-Alaina Green, JFS Marketing Department

Disability Etiquette: How to Portray Someone with a Disability

Friday, February 05, 2016

Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month 

To commemorate Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month, our Jewish Disabilities Advocates coordinator provided the following tips on how to portray someone with a disability:

Never use the word “handicapped.” Like many terms that refer to minorities, the word itself is not the problem, but the negativity that has been attached to it. At the least, it denotes a problem or a burden. At worst it denotes incapability. Also, a parking space, an entrance, or a restroom may be “accessible,” but should not be called “handicapped.”

Place the person before the disability out of respect for their individual uniqueness and worth. Use “person with a disability” or “my friend who uses a wheelchair” rather than “disabled person” or “disabled individual.”

Because a person is not a condition, avoid referring to an individual by the condition he or she has, such as “post-polio,” a “cerebral palsy” or an “epileptic.” Say, instead, a person who…“has/had polio,” “has cerebral palsy,” or “has spina bifida,” etc.

When writing about people with disabilities, choose words that carry positive, non-judgmental connotations. Avoid words such as the following:

  • Victim: Instead use “person who has/person who experienced/person with…”
  • Cripple/Crippled/the Crippled: Instead use “person with a disability/individual with a disability caused by or as a result of…”
  • Afflicted By/Afflicted With: Instead use “has (such and such) disability.”
  • Invalid: This word literally means “not valid.” Instead use “person who has a disability…”
  • Wheelchair Bound: Instead say, “the person uses a wheelchair.”
  • Unfortunate, Pitiful, Poor, Deaf and Dumb, Crip, Deformed, Blind as a Bat, and any other words or clichés that are judgmental or stereotyping: There are no replacements for these!
Remember to depict the typical achiever, as well as the newsworthy achiever. Emphasize the uniqueness and worth of all individuals rather than the differences. Avoid using “normal” unless referring to statistical norms or averages, but not as a label for a person with a disability. The word “typical” is more widely accepted. What is normal anyway?

Source: Disability Rights & Resource: A consumer-controlled, community-based, cross-disability, non-residential, private, non-profit Center for Independent Living.

-Lynn Rubenstein, Jewish Disabilities Advocates coordinator

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