This multi-service non-profit in Westchester County, NY is an incredible organization in so many ways. Excellent programs touch all ages. Staff are caring and committed. Volunteers play a very important role.
This is an extraordinary agency. It offers an amazing and professional range of services for infants through seniors. In the professional work that I do, I am eager to refer clients to WJCS' wonderful programs, especially for children. The Westchester Jewish community is most fortunate to have WJCS in its midst!
As a volunteer with the WJCS Compeer program for over 15 years I feel that WJCS does an excellent job of making volunteers see themselves as part of the community and contributing in their specicific program and activity
Review from Guidestar
As a volunteer with the WJS Havorah program, I work with two important services: The Community Seder for Developmentally Adults and Share-a-Shabbat. I will describe them both. I have co-chaired 22 years worth of Community Seders for Developmentally Disabled Adults in Westchester and Putnam counties, co-sponsored by WJCS's Havorah program run by Gail Abromowitz Oliver. We already have a date for the 23rd one in Bedford, New York at Temple Shaaray Tefilah who has co-sponsored all of these super seders. We take a three prong approach to each seder, one person finds volunteers, one found donations of food and paper goods (me!) and one finds the guests (Gail). This Passover event has grown so big that now it is held in two synagogues on two different nights because it got too big for Bedford. At both events the volunteers consist of teens to serve the tables and adults as table leaders, kitchen helpers, table setters, etc. The teens come to earn hours for community service but they leave with much more than the hours. Some have come back for many years because they enjoy it so much. I come back year after year because of the impact it's had not only on my life, but on the lives of the special guests. They keep coming back. They love the gift bags we prepare for their group homes. They love the rabbi and musicians who lead the service. And of course they love the food. As donation coordinator for the Bedford event, I've had some donors ask, "Are you sure you have enough?" They can't understand that they are just one of 30 or so donors contributing to the event. For example we get roasted chicken from four or five kosher butchers, green beans from two different places, gefilte fish from another, etc. It's truly a community event. WJCS Havorah program has made a tremendous impact on the Jewish developmentally disabled adults through this Seder. I have also helped on one of the children's seders that Gail has run. That was another amazing event, but I decided to focus on the adult one since the synagogue at which it takes place is closer to my home town. I've also volunteered for WJCS Havorah's Share-a-Shabbat program through my synagogue, Temple Israel of Northern Westchester in Croton-on-Hudson, NY. I brought our temple band, Sh'ma Na Na, to a group home in Ossining last winter to sing and play Shabbat songs after dinner. It was such a success that we were invited back in August (filmed for TV!) and we already have another date scheduled for spring 2010. As a musician, the Share-a-Shabbat fulfills my dream of bringing Jewish music to everybody who wants to and more especially, should, hear it. The WJCS Havorah program is outstanding and vital. Thank you for reading this far. Laura Copel, Yorktown Heights, NY
I have worked with Westchester Jewish Community Services as a volunteer for New Rochelle Hadassah and my synagogue, Beth El Synagogue Center, for 25 years. I have been Program Vice President for both organizations and they have always provided me with wonderful speakers. I have used Linda Caigan in the 1980s and 1990s and have been working with Shari Baum for the last four years. Through the years, I and my fellow members of both organizations have learned a great deal in a caring, understanding atmosphere. The programs I have worked were always parent related, starting out learning about elementary school years and now learning about college years.
My daughter, Jackie, wanted to do some sort of Community service through WJCS. There were many service descriptions to choose from, and several that interested her. In fact, neither our temple nor her school could provide the choices that WJCS could. Jackie had the idea to use her love of computers, and, in particular, Google Earth and email, to coordinate her own project. With the amazing help of Susan Kronish at WJCS Tikun Olum and her extensive connections in the community, Jackie was able to establish a wonderful rapore with the folks at Willow Towers, an assisted living residence in New Rochelle, NY. She taught the seniors how to use Google Earth and how to email their friends and families. The reward of seeing people, who didn't get out into the world very much, connect with their loved ones was overwhelming. Without the help of WJCS this wouldn't have been possible. They even used their public relations savvy to have an article written about Jackie in the local newspaper. There is no other organization I know of that provides as extensive service opportunities for Westchester youth than WJCS. They make it fun and rewarding for Jewish teenagers to give back to the community.
It has been my great honor for the past twenty years to have had the opportunity to volunteer as part of the Havorah Program coordinated by Gail Oliver for WJCS. I participated in the Seder for the developmentally disabled of Westchester County for five years as a Table leader and for many years previously as coordinator of the youth volunteers from Temple Shaaray Tefila that served at the seder. We also participated in Rosh Hashonah programs and visits to local group homes. Thanks to Gail and all the wonderful work she has done, the teenagers and I brought joy to so many and we all grew and became better human beings through these very special experiences we had the opportunity to be part of. None of this would have been possible without Gail and the Havorah Program.
I have been the beneficiary of services as a caregiver for a person with cancer, and as a person participating in spiritual growth classes. Rabbi Pam Wax and the Social Worker Nickie Krauss are both people of such great generosity, intelligence, and compassion, that they helped me and my mom with both practical matters, such as preparing documents relating to how to care for my mom in her illness, as well as matters of the heart and spirit. I repeatedly sought individual counseling for myself, and also participated in the "Meditation and Middot" class to help me deal with the challenges of this time. I am profoundly grateful for the services of WJCS. In addition, my Unitarian-Universalist congregation has participated in WJCS's wonderful Christmas gift drive to support families in need.
It has been my privilege and joy to be a part of the WJCS Havorah Program for the past 20 years through volunteering at many different holiday programs, particular the Community Seder, chaired by Gail Oliver. I have been touched by the spirit and loyalty of the clients who attend these programs and whom have become my friends. Their enthusiasm and their devotion for their religious holidays and traditions are always a reminder that what we sometimes take for granted, is not always a given. These celebrations should be treasured and preserved for the love and sense of tradition that they provide for everyone, especially for people with developmental delays. How wonderful that WJCS and the Havorah Program has provided this very special population with the opportunity to maintain their Jewish identity and traditions! One only has to attend one event to realize that this is indeed a superb a worthwhile program. One that brings such positive outcomes to not only the clients, but to teen volunteers, and adult volunteers and entire communites as well.
I have been involved with the Special Needs Seder at Beth El Synagogue in New Rochelle since it began several (actually many) years ago. Under the auspices of the Havorah Program at WJCS, it offers residents from group homes for special needs adults and children in the lower Westchester area, and their caregivers, the opportunity to experience a pre-Passover Seder with all the trimmings. Beth El’s entire professional staff is involved in leading the service in their usual enthusiastic and wonderful way. The volunteers, who prepare and serve the meal, join the residents at their tables, dance, and sing, get as much, if not more, out of the Seder as do the residents and caregivers. Kudos to Gail Oliver who administers the program and who provides the momentum which drives our passion.
My husband and I, long-time residents of Mount Vernon, volunteer to do occasional deliveries for the Kosher Meals on Wheels program that operates out of Sinai Free Synagogue and services homebound elderly in Mount Vernon and surrounding communities. We think this a wonderful program providing a much-needed service. The older population has a way of being neglected and falling through cracks especially when they are no longer capable of getting out on their own. This program at the very least gives them some connection to the outside community and nourishes their body and spirit.