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D'Var Torah

Lee I. Sherman

Two weeks ago, while I was in Israel, I had the pleasure of meeting with the professional and volunteer leadership of NAMAG (Association of AMD Patients in Israel). Gideon Naor and Ed Fineberg, volunteers from that organization, contributed the inspiration and discussion for this week's Torah thoughts. To find out more about Age-related Macular Degeneration, you can look here.


We often discuss the idea of inclusion in our communities. This month is Jewish Disability Awareness Month featuring much information about inclusion for the many among us with a variety of disabilities. Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly, reaching over 40% of those 80 and above. Although there is no known cure for AMD, there are a number of promising new treatments and early detection can arrest the development of this disease.


This week we read in parashah Yitro about the gift of Torah to the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai. Our teachings tell us that there were no blind people among those standing at the foot of Mt Sinai. They all saw, they were all able to participate equally. In preparation to receive the Torah, each individual had been healed from any disabilities developed during the crushing labor in Egypt.


Thus, at the base of that lowly mountain, and at that rare peak of national unity, all of the people together received The Ten Commandments. All were included. In one of its central statements, we are commanded to honor our parents. Through this commandment, the Torah stresses the importance of showing gratitude to those who have given us the gift of life. Once young, now aging, they may need us, just as we once needed their help. Despite all the odds, dispersion and exile, we as a people have survived and have retained this sensitivity to care for our aging seniors so they may continue to be fully among us.


May we enjoy a Shabbat of joy and happiness with our families.

AJFCA's Resource Library

As an additional benefit to being a member of AJFCA, we are pleased to announce that AJFCA's Resource Library has been updated and is accessible through the Members portion of the AJFCA website for your use. There are 10 categories within the Resource Library. Each category has a minimum of 2 sub-categories.The library is currently composed of documents that have been shared between agencies either through a former medium or through the current forums, in addition to several documents from affiliate agencies. Our hope is to continue to build the Resource Library as a valuable tool for your agency.


Please take a look at the Resource Library index. If you would like to contribute documents to the Resource Library please send them to Megan. She will convert documents into pdf files and upload them to the Resource Library. All comments and questions should be directed to Megan as well.

Jewish Disability Advocacy Day Makes Powerful Impact

On February 7th, leadership from Jewish communities across America traveled to Washington to inform their Members of Congress about the critical work of Jewish organizations and social service agencies on behalf of individuals with disabilities and their families, as well as to express how vitally important Medicaid is to people in the disability community. 

jdam 2012 logo

The day began with a briefing from members of Congress that attracted a full room of advocates and Capitol Hill staff. In the afternoon, the advocates visited 30 Congressional offices in the House and Senate and discussed the importance of Medicaid to people with disabilities and the agencies that serve them.  


More than 8 million individuals with disabilities across the U.S. rely on Medicaid as their sole source of comprehensive health and long-term care coverage. Medicaid ensures people with disabilities have access to essential services, including transportation, medical care, and personal care assistance, which, in turn, allows them to contribute economically, socially, politically, and spiritually to their community. Unfortunately, under several prominent congressional proposals being considered as part of deficit reduction efforts, Medicaid would be restructured by capping funds flowing to states and/or creating a block grant formula. These kinds of spending cuts and harmful changes to Medicaid would limit health care opportunities for people with disabilities. Collectively, the Jewish community believes there are better ways to reform Medicaid which would improve the delivery of services and at the same time, generate savings. These include allowing funding for home- and community-based services to be accessed without a waiver, promoting preventative measures such as chronic disease management, and enrolling beneficiaries into drug and care management programs.  


During the month of February, the Jewish community observes Jewish Disability Awareness Month. This is an opportunity for us to raise awareness of the needs, strengths, opportunities and challenges of individuals with disabilities in our communities and to ensure we are building more inclusive communities that celebrate all of our neighbors. February 2012 is the fourth annual Jewish Disability Awareness Month, presenting congregations and other Jewish community organizations with an opportunity to become truly welcoming. Shelly Christensen from the Jewish Family and Children's Service of Minneapolis demonstrated her leadership once again in helping to inspire this advocacy day as part of Jewish Disability Advocacy Month. Please consult the Jewish Federation of North America's resource guide and the Union for Reform Judaism's Disabilities page to help recognize Jewish Disability Awareness Month. Please contact Shelley Rood, Washington Director if you have any questions.

Innovating Together

AJFCA's Canadian agencies recently participated in a webinar presented by the Tamarack Institute of Waterloo, Ontario, an organization "dedicated to the art and science of community engagement and collaborative leadership." Webinar presenters discussed the role of social innovation in solving seemingly unsolvable social issues and noted some key success factors of sustainable social innovation at the community level:

  • Think and act like a movement - we can't on our own achieve the kind of impact that we want in terms of reducing poverty, ending homelessness, addressing abuse, etc.
  • Convening - learning how to speak and be together, how to be hospitable, how to bring people together so that problem solving comes in a civil and accountable way
  • Marrying our social connections and economic power - create opportunities to harness market forces to influence operational practicestamarack

While it is hard enough to come up with a good idea, it is even harder to work together to implement it well. Three categories of innovation were discussed:

  • Disruptive innovation - results from the efforts of "passionate amateurs" who affect change because of their dissatisfaction with the status quo
  • Receptive Innovation - harnesses existing systems and infrastructure to assist in the disseminating and scaling-up of innovation
  • Mediating Innovation - results from the linking together of formal and informal sources of innovation through collaboration

The critical importance of government's involvement in community innovation, particularly as it relates to receptive innovation, was highlighted. To read and hear a more detailed summary of the webinar, click here.  

Social Welfare History 

The Social Welfare History Project is a nonprofit designed with the goal of better informing the public about the rich and significant history of American social welfare. The Social Welfare History Project's website has sections detailing the contributions of social welfare pioneers, organizations, and social welfare programs. An Advisory Committee composed of distinguished social welfare historians and scholars was recruited to assist Dr. John E. Hansan, Ph.D. in designing and developing the website. The National Human Services Assembly is a supporter of the project and Irv Katz, CEO, is assisting Dr. Hansan in reaching member organizations in order to expand the depth and richness of the Social Welfare History website.

social welfare history project 

Dr. Hansan is seeking information about Jewish organizations that were in existence before or during the Progressive Era (1870 - 1920). Dr. Hansan can be reached by email.  

Understanding and Improving Email Deliverability

Understanding and Improving Email Deliverability, January 2012, Idealware, by Colin Pizarek and Chris Bernard 

Neither "snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night" might stay the U.S. Post Office's couriers from delivering the mail entrusted to them, but it's a cold fact of the digital world that email has no such steadfast guardians. Some electronic mail will idealware logosimply never reach its destination-it might go to a bad address, get caught in a spam filter, or routed to a "junk" folder where it's deleted or overlooked. This can be frustrating for nonprofits who work hard to nurture a list of email addresses. 


There are ways to increase your delivery rates when sending out mass mailings, however. You should already be using a broadcast email tool. (If you're not, find out why you should be, and learn about your options, in Idealware's "A Few Good Broadcast Email Tools" article.) These can greatly improve your email's chance of reaching the people on your list, but they're not perfect.


So how can you help ensure people receive the emails you send them? To find out, read the remainder of Understanding and Improving Email Deliverability.  

Steal These 42 Creative Pinterest Ideas for Nonprofits

Steal These 42 Creative Pinterest Ideas for Nonprofits, Frogloop, Care2's nonprofit marketing blog, January 13, 2012, by Avi Kaplan 

According to Avi Kaplan, a frogloop blogger, we're about to see Pinterest use among nonprofit organizations explode. Pinterest has a lot of potential, especially for organizations whose stories lend themselves to visual storytelling. 


Pinterest is a nefrogloopw(ish) and growing image based social network and the newest darling of social media marketers. It is always intriguing to see how nonprofits find creative ways to use new social media tools, but no one thought seriously about Pinterest's potential for nonprofits. Now, it's exciting to see how cause communities embrace this emerging network to create value and mission impact.


Part of Pinterest's potential is it's unique demographic user-base of women 25-44, which is what distinguishes Pinterest from other new social media platforms, which are generally populated by men 18-24.


Want to learn more about Pinterest and creative ideas for nonprofits? Read Avi's blog here.  

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Jewish Family & Child Service of Greater Toronto will hold the 7th Annual High Conflict Forum, Emotional Harm of Children in Separation and Divorce: The Clinical and Legal Conundrum on Thursday, April 19th in conjunction with High Conflict Forum.


Emotional harm to children chronically exposed to conflict has emerged as an important concern in separating and divorcing families. In high conflict custody cases the complexities of emotional harm are not well understood by child welfare professionals, clinicians, lawyers and judges. The absence of a common understanding within and between the clinical and legal communities has often left professionals at odds when working with these families. As a result, these cases are extraordinarily challenging to professionals involved with children, their parents and the family justice system.

Toronto JFCS 

Conference Objectives:

  • To summarize leading research on emotional harm and its impact on children
  • To provide professionals with a common framework for understanding the concept of emotional harm from both a clinical and legal perspective
  • To enhance clinical skills in assessing emotional harm in children
  • To provide a framework to develop recommendations and assist in clinical and legal decision-making in cases involving emotional harm to children

To read more about the conference and speakers, please download the brochure.


The Council on Accreditation (COA) is delighted to announce a discount to all member agencies who are interested in attending the upcoming three-part Performance Quality Improvement (PQI) series. Members can access this webinar series for only $75 (normally $200). The discount code is SPONSORS.


COA's PQI Webinar Series

Part One: An Introduction to COA's PQI Standards

Tuesday, February 21st ,3:00pm-4:30pm EST


Part Two: Outcomes and Measures

Tuesday, February 28th, 3:00pm-4:30pm EST


Part Three: Closing the Loop

Tuesday, March 6th, 3:00pm-4:30pm EST



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