Jewish Family Service of North Jersey through a grant from the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey is bringing to Shomrei Torah, the Synagogue Social Work Initiative. As a result we are pleased to welcome the newest member of our synagogue team: Jessica Fleischer, LMSW, a social worker from JFS.
Jessica will be on-site weekly on Tuesday afternoons and available by appointment to meet with any interested members of the congregation about issues, concerns, or challenges you may be facing. We are thrilled to be among the first synagogues in Northern New Jersey to offer social work services on-site, and we encourage you to avail yourself of the program at any time.
Reasons you might seek support from Jessica include concerns about children and/or school, caring for aging parents, bereavement, illness, marital issues, or stressful life transitions (e.g. birth of a baby, loss of job, children leaving home, divorce). Jessica will be organizing workshops, providing assessment and short-term counseling, consulting with our Religious School staff and she is planning to run ongoing support groups.
The Synagogue Social Work Initiative is a partnership between Jewish Family Service of North Jersey and five participating area synagogues. Based on a model that was developed in New York City and successfully adapted and implemented in other New Jersey communities, the program will offer social work services on-site at each synagogue.
For congregants with short-term needs, the synagogue social worker will provide assessment, information, referrals, and brief counseling. For congregants with longer-term or more intensive needs, the synagogue social worker will serve as a bridge between community and agency, providing a planned referral for treatment at JFSNJ or another appropriate organization.
Services available through the Synagogue Social Work Initiative include:
- One-time workshops (additional workshops to be developed based on the needs of the synagogue)
- Elder Care Options / Planning with Your Aging Parent
- Dare to Disconnect: Turning off Technology and What it Means for You and Your Family
- Healthy Relationships / Judaism and Respect for your Body (for teens)
- Ongoing groups
- Bereavement group for widows/widowers or children who have lost a loved one
- Parenting with intention / mindful parenting
- Living with chronic illness (possibly with Rabbi for spiritual dimension)
- Care for the caregiver
- Managing high-conflict relationships (for adults or teens)
- Short-term counseling
- Issues with aging parents
- Marital discord
- Challenges with children
- Consultation to Hebrew School teachers, Preschool teachers, and Youth Group advisors and Classroom Observation
- For challenging behaviors or family concerns
By placing a social worker at the synagogue, the program offers a solution to several communal challenges. Often, congregants struggle with personal or family issues but are reluctant to seek assistance from a social service agency. If congregants reach out to their Rabbi, many needs fall outside the rabbi's pastoral counseling expertise or require more resources than any rabbi can provide. On the other side, some congregants are uncomfortable speaking about personal issues with synagogue staff and would prefer a more independent person to talk to. Finally, religious school teachers, preschool teachers, and youth group advisors face challenging situations with students and parents and would benefit from additional guidance. The synagogue social worker will be able to address these scenarios by being a presence at the synagogue and working alongside religious and lay leaders.