Three social service agencies funded by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ have been awarded grants by the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey — in part to make up for lost allocations from the federation.
The foundation was set up in 1996 with the proceeds from the sale of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center to the Saint Barnabas Healthcare System. Since then it has used its funds to bolster the health-care needs of vulnerable populations in and outside the Jewish community.
The largest recipient of the grants was the Jewish Vocational Service of MetroWest NJ, which was awarded of $117,125 to help transform its sheltered workshop for people with special needs into a program to integrate those clients into mainstream workplaces. It is now in the second year of a two-year grant.
The JVS lost $147,840 of its federation funding last year, and another $91,399 from New Jersey’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, said executive director Addy Bonet. The cuts forced JVS to drop 12 of the 84 slots for workshop clients.
“We were required to get additional funding because we don’t want to have our clients fall through the cracks,” she told NJJN in an Oct. 11 phone interview.
Marsha Atkind, executive director and CEO of the foundation, said that “thinking has changed” about the role of sheltered workshops, in which people are paid below minimum wage for such routine work as stuffing envelopes and putting products into boxes. She said there is now “a new emphasis” on training capable clients for better-paying jobs in mainstream society.
Some of them have been given internships by JVS, paid for by Healthcare Foundation grants. They provide salaries for trainees while JVS counselors work with employers on using these workers most productively. “The hope is that if JVS clients work out, employers will hire them and take over payment of their salaries,” Atkind said.
Said Bonet, “Without the support from the Healthcare Foundation we would not be able to move forward in the transformation process, and people would be left without services.”
The Jewish Family Service of MetroWest is another agency that sustained a cut in its allocation from the GMW federation. It received $475,000 in funds from the federation for fiscal year 2017; in fiscal year 2016 its allocation was $477,928.
JFS turned to the Healthcare Foundation for a grant of $62,600 to train its counselors in mindfulness techniques. JFS executive director Reuben Rotman defined mindfulness as “a body of practices that help an individual to find ways to reduce stress and anxiety and to respond to changes in one’s life in as calm and rational a way as possible.”
The program will begin in January and will incorporate yoga, meditation, and breathing techniques. The funding will be used to cover program expenses and the hiring of psychotherapist Beth Sandweiss, who cofounded the Jewish Meditation Center of Montclair and will train JFS counselors in mindfulness.
Rotman said the program will be conducted at the agency’s Florham Park office as an adjunct to individual therapy sessions with clients. The targeted participants are adults who are chronically ill or are living in stressful circumstances.
The third grant was a $40,000 allocation to Jewish Family Service of Central NJ for “Bringing Health Education Home,” a project that will engage a part-time registered nurse and a social worker who will partner with area synagogues, senior housing, and senior centers to lead health education seminars on heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and nutrition for at-risk seniors.
Tom Beck, executive director of the JFS of Central NJ, said the project will cover 50 people with home visits and more than 200 others who attend the agency’s health lectures. “We are taking this program on the road,” said Beck. “It will be delivered as a PowerPoint presentation at senior citizens’ centers, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and synagogues.”
Unlike the other two grant recipients, the Central NJ JFS has received increases in its allocations from the federation, as well as another $25,000 for the program from the Merck Company Foundation. Its allocation rose by 10 percent to $250,000 for the current fiscal year.
“We have always funded health programs in the Jewish community that the agencies couldn’t cover with their funding from the federation,” Atkind said. “I’m not saying the reason we give these agencies these grants is because their budgets have been cut; but their budgets have been cut substantially, and in the last few years they are all having a greater emphasis on fund-raising.
“The agencies come to us for things they need that they can’t fund from their core allocations,” she said. “Health is not a priority of the federation — and I’m not saying that it should be. The federation has to make its own decisions about what the priorities should be.
“But health is our priority,” said Atkind, “and we want to help the agencies with things we think will help the health and well-being of the Jewish community.”