BY DEBORAH MOON
Jewish Family & Child Service board of directors voted unanimously to appoint Ruth Scott as executive director. Ruth has been serving as acting executive director since the resignation of David Block Aug. 14. She previously served as JFCS interim executive director from Nov. 1, 2017, until David Block took the reins of the organization on Feb. 17, 2020.
Ruth recruited Hannah Holstein as the new development director effective Sept. 8. Before joining JFCS, Hannah was an associate director at the Portland State University Foundation, overseeing the university-wide annual giving program and major gift fundraising for the School of Social Work, Honors College and Library.
“Hannah is an essential piece of my excitement to lead JFCS,” says Ruth. “I needed a strong partner who really knows and cares about the Jewish community. … The cultural competency of the agency needs to be reflected in the leadership.”
JFCS Board President Larry Holzman says it was important for Ruth to be able to assemble her team “now that she has the permanent ED moniker.”
“When we were looking at what to do after David, it was only natural to offer the position to Ruth,” says Larry. “She has always been the right person for the job, but initially she wasn’t looking for a permanent position.”
He says she provides continuity and certainty for the agency.
“Over the last nearly three years, she has demonstrated skill, leadership and expertise, and the staff likes her,” he continues. “She has been dedicated to the agency. She’s battle-tested and has shown us what she can do.”
Larry says Ruth had identified Hannah as a good fit for JFCS development a year ago, but the time wasn’t right.
Now the advent of remote work has made JFCS a good fit for Hannah professionally and personally.
“During the last six months of remote working, I realized I wanted a job I really feel passionate about,” says Hannah. “There is not an aspect of this organization that is not personal for me.” Additionally, the job gives her “options to keep ourselves and family safe during” the pandemic. She says her 1½-year-old son, Hudson, “makes my work experience exciting, but I always get my projects done.”
Hannah’s husband, David Holstein, serves as JFCS board treasurer. With unanimous support from the board, he will continue in that role and follow the JFCS conflict of interest policy regarding decisions pertaining to his wife.
Ruth says that community connections and communications are the key areas of focus for the agency, especially during the pandemic. “Helping people communicate and connect is something I want to amplify.” She says she is inspired by a quote she read in the New York Times – “We are all in the same weather but all in different boats – some are in a yacht and some with only one paddle.” She says that reminds her that it is especially important to make JFCS and its services accessible in these times.
Ruth says the top goal on her list is to “put the Child back in JFCS.” She says, “We started working on this with Dina Gilbert’s trainings for parents about a year ago. We want to expand and have a therapist to work with children and families.”
The agency recently launched a twice-monthly Zoom discussion group for LGTBQ youth. Ruth says that youth have had discussions about life transitions, how to cope with who you are and how to look at college.
While all JFCS therapists can serve seniors on Medicare, Missy Fry, LCSW, recently was certified as a Medicaid provider, enabling her to help children on the Oregon Health Plan.
A focus during the pandemic is also the agency’s emergency aid program to help those impacted by COVID. Ruth says JFCS has a wonderful partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and the Oregon Jewish Community Foundation, which jointly launched the crisis fund that has funded emergency aid to individuals. She says a recent “transformational gift” from Nathan Cogan has enabled the agency to further expand emergency assistance and case management to those in need.
For Hannah, a priority in the immediate future is to re-imagine the agency’s annual Thanksgiving food box program and see “how we can make it work in a safe way.” She also plans to “tackle the COVID version of the Annual Report.”