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SPRINGFIELD — After a yearlong national search, the board of directors at Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts (JFSWM) announced the hiring of a new CEO, Rabbi James Greene, who brings more than two decades of expertise in the Jewish nonprofit world from the interdenominational space of Jewish community centers (JCCs) and independent camps.

JFS’s current CEO, Maxine Stein, whose vision and leadership was responsible for the agency’s unprecedented growth and expansion during her tenure, will retire at the end of January 2023.

After 20 years of professional communal work, Greene sees the need for bringing core Jewish values to the work of building a stronger community and is excited by the challenge of empowering people to build better lives and growing organizational capacity to meet the needs of this unique moment at JFS. He spent nine years in the JCC movement, first as the program director at the Addison-Penzak JCC, and more recently as the assistant executive director for the Springfield JCC. In early 2020, he stepped into Jewish camping full-time as the executive director at Camp Laurelwood, where he successfully guided the agency through the pandemic, grew fundraising and grant revenue, took new programs from vision to successful execution in partnership with community agencies around the state, and oversaw the creation of a strategic vision to guide the organization into the future.

Greene has a bachelor’s degree in Holocaust and Judaic studies from Florida Atlantic University, and a master’s degree in Hebrew letters rabbinic ordination from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.

“One of the important lessons of the last three years is the importance of having a community that reflects our values,” he said. “Jewish Family Service is an organization that is deeply committed to the most cherished values of the Jewish community and of the greater community in Western Massachusetts. It is an honor to be able to carry forward that work in the years ahead.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts (JFS) is partnering with Yad Chessed to expand its offerings to Jewish individuals and families in Western Mass. struggling with financial insecurity.

As a social-services agency rooted in the Jewish values of kindness (chessed) and charity (tzedakah), Yad Chessed is committed to helping those in need navigate a path toward financial stability while preserving their privacy and dignity. This partnership will bring new resources to the Western Mass. community, including emergency financial aid, monthly food cards, and ongoing support.

In 2020, JFS was the recipient of a Jewish Poverty Challenge grant from the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies, and has been working to build a sustainable response to Jewish poverty in Western Mass., including food insecurity, unemployment, childcare and health crises. With the goal of raising awareness and building partnerships, JFS is excited to be partnering with Yad Chessed.

Individuals or families in need of assistance should contact Rosalind Torrey at [email protected] or (413) 737-2601.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts (JFS) announced the appointment of Gabriela Sheehan as its new Berkshires resettlement coordinator.

Sheehan comes to JFS with master’s degree in career and technical education from Northern Arizona University, and more than 10 years of experience teaching in the Pittsfield public-school system. In addition, she served on the United Educator of Pittsfield board for two years, and recently taught ESL to multilingual students in grades 5-8 at Du Bois Middle School.

She will join JFS’ New American Program to facilitate the reception and placement of Afghan evacuees in Berkshire County, including coordinating with legal, housing, education, government, advocacy, and social-service agencies and businesses to advance opportunities for refugees to survive, integrate, and thrive in Berkshire County. She will also work closely with volunteer leaders and organizations taking part in resettlement efforts. She will begin her new position on Dec. 6.

Sheehan credits growing up in a multi-lingual, bicultural home, and her late father, Ramiro Guerrero, who was a champion for justice for the Latino community in the Berkshires, for giving her the incentive to become a strong advocate for immigrant families. She looks forward to sharing her passion for cultural diversity with the greater community.

“The change to work more directly with families and join the community groups that have been doing this work for years, while building a unified system of advocacy for new Americans in Berkshire County, is so exciting,” Sheehan said. “Those who have worked with immigrant communities can appreciate their value to our society; new students and families from all over the world settling into Berkshire County made this opportunity a great fit for me. My life is infinitely better because of the students and families I have had the pleasure to serve: hardworking, faithful, resilient people who sacrifice so much for a life of safety and opportunity for their children.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts (JFS), in partnership with HIAS, has been awarded a four-year, $250,000-per-year Individual Development Accounts (IDA) program grant from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

The IDA program is a matched-savings program that assists individuals and families to save toward an asset that will increase financial independence. Refugees can save for one of four assets — to start or support a business, to purchase a vehicle to obtain and maintain employment and education, to increase capital to purchase a home, or to invest in post-secondary education or training. Individuals can save up to $2,000, and households can save up to $4,000, and have their savings matched dollar for dollar.

The IDA program provides asset-specific training, financial-literacy classes, and technical assistance to increase participants’ capacity to increase self-sufficiency, become financially stable, and achieve their savings goals.

“JFS is honored to have received this grant for our new Americans in the area. The ability to have this program allows us to offer unparalleled support for economic independence and integration to all qualified new Americans in the area,” said Maxine Stein, CEO of JFS.

Economic independence is the greatest challenge faced by refugees in the U.S. The lack of sustaining income; career trajectories; access to financial education, assets, and capital; and benefits that come with entry and middle-level jobs often mean that refugees face long-term struggles with housing, transportation, healthcare, language acquisition, and health. The challenge of economic integration is underscored by limited access to credit, banking, and networks that can further economic independence.

By enrolling participants in IDA, HIAS and JFS will help refugees establish savings accounts; create regular saving habits; promote participation in the financial banking system; increase knowledge of financial topics, including developing a household budget, building and maintaining credit, and saving; acquire assets to build individual, family, and community resources; advance education opportunities; purchase homes; gain access to capital for microenterprise development; and foster community economic development by which the historically marginalized are now accessing resources and opportunities.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts (JFS) has been awarded a competitive two-year $250,000 Citizenship and Integration Grant from the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This grant enables JFS to continue its work helping legal permanent residents become U.S. citizens.

The fiscal year 2021 grants, which run through September 2023, will fund legal services for citizenship applicants and educational programs designed to deepen an applicant’s knowledge of English, U.S. history, and civics.

Since it began in 2009, the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program has awarded more than $112 million through 513 competitive grants to immigrant-serving organizations in 39 states and the District of Columbia. Now in its 13th year, the program has helped more than 290,500 lawful permanent residents prepare for citizenship.

JFS is one of 40 organizations in 25 states to receive nearly $10 million in funding to support citizenship-preparation services. Now in its 13th year, the USCIS Citizenship and Integration Grant Program has helped more than 290,500 lawful permanent residents prepare for citizenship. A ‘permanent resident’ is a person authorized by the U.S. government to live and work in the country on a permanent basis.

Jewish Family Service is a nonprofit social service agency that has developed both substantive legal and programmatic expertise during its 10 years of experience in citizenship and naturalization services.

“The program began as a response to a glaring unmet need in our community. Today, JFS is a well-respected and trusted partner in engaging the immigrant community in Hampden County,” CEO Maxine Stein said. “JFS is excited and pleased to have received this grant opportunity. It will allow us to strengthen our current work in citizenship and positions us to be a leader in helping those on the path to becoming U.S. citizens. As a Jewish organization, we are proud to provide this important service to our local residents. Like all of us, we value freedom, safety, and opportunity. Citizenship helps to provide that, and we can help make that happen.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts has partnered with Soccer without Borders and Springfield College to host a first-of-its-kind soccer clinic in Springfield. The week-long clinic will be held June 28 to July 2 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Springfield College for 50 refugee and immigrant Springfield high-school students.

The soccer clinic will provide a positive summer experience for refugee and immigrant students who attend Springfield public schools. For some students, this will be the first in-person activity of the school year, and for others new to the city or the U.S., it is an opportunity to meet peers in person and find common ground.

“As one of the few global languages, soccer has the power to shape the world for the better,” said Bruno Contreras, Soccer without Borders Boston program director. “Soccer Without Borders (SWB) uses soccer as a vehicle for positive change, providing underserved youth in the U.S. and abroad with a toolkit to overcome obstacles to growth, inclusion, and personal success. SWB Boston has been serving the refugee and immigrant community in and around East Boston since 2012 with a culture of welcoming and belonging that supports newcomers to build a new home.”

JFS and Springfield College are excited to have Soccer without Borders make its debut in Springfield. The clinic will bring together youth and coaches from diverse cultural backgrounds to create community, exercise, build leadership, and practice their English-language skills. Over the course of the week, teens will have the opportunity to foster teamwork, connect and build friendships with other teens, and, of course, have fun.