PHOTO: JFCS Deputy Director Susan Greenberg leads a new communications and outreach team including Marketing Manager JoAnna Wendel, top, and Volunteer Coordinator Sammy Monk, bottom.
Renews focus on children, adapts new models, expands outreach
BY DEBORAH MOON
Jewish Family & Child Service was in the middle of a three-year strategic plan to enhance its programs for, and awareness of, services for children and families when COVID-19 changed reality.
Now a new outreach and communications team led by Deputy Director Susan Greenberg is poised to help usher JFCS into a new era. The new era reflects both the priorities of the strategic plan and new ways of providing service fueled by the pandemic.
“Telehealth is not going away,” says Susan of the virtual counseling launched during COVID restrictions. “We are changing with the changing times … some (changes) will continue post-COVID.” She notes that “some things are easier to Zoom into” rather than having people drive 20 minutes to the office for a five-minute or half-hour appointment.
The strategic plan is focused on five priorities: counseling, disability services, Holocaust survivors (including home care), emergency aid and agency-wide areas (which includes volunteers, outreach and community connection).
“Board President Larry Holzman and the entire board have put children and families as the top priority,” says Executive Director Ruth Scott. “I’m so grateful to have Susan on board. Susan and her team are an important part of this new era.”
Susan became deputy director on Jan. 1 after serving the agency as program and development officer since October. JoAnna Wendel, who was named marketing manager January 4, and Sammy Monk, who became volunteer coordinator Feb. 1, will work under Susan to increase the awareness of and participation in JFCS programs. (See story below for more about the team.)
“JFCS is first-stop shopping for Jewish families,” says Susan. “We can be their first call.”
JFCS’s mission is to improve the quality of life and self-sufficiency of the Jewish and broader communities throughout the Portland metro area in accordance with Jewish values. To that end, JFCS offers services including counseling, workshops, financial help, support groups, and services for Holocaust survivors and those with disabilities, she says. But JFCS also can help people find the resources they need beyond the agency.
Some of that support may come from the new volunteer cadre Sammy is recruiting to provide pro bono expertise in areas including legal, financial, medical and housing. In addition to recruiting volunteers to create the pro bono program, Sammy will recruit and match volunteers for a wide variety of roles in JFCS departments including “friendly callers.”
Susan sees partnerships with Jewish and secular groups as an important tool to expand resources. For instance, the local volunteer group Positive Charge made greeting cards to send out with the gift cards JFCS distributed to those in need at Thanksgiving; COVID had prohibited volunteers from gathering to assemble and deliver the traditional Thanksgiving food boxes.
Ruth says JFCS is also exploring a partnership with B’nai B’rith Camp to share a child/family therapist to help meet the needs of children and teens dealing with the stress and isolation of the pandemic. JFCS has budgeted to hire a part-time therapist, but the position could become full time if the partnership with BB Camp comes to fruition.
“There is a growing community need with COVID,” says Ruth. “The pressure on children and families is huge, and we don’t expect it to go away. The fallout will be huge, even when we reopen. For kids, the challenge is to bridge the gaps they are experiencing.”
BB Camp Executive Director Michelle Koplan agrees: “During the recovery from the pandemic, families will be eager for their children and teens to regain social experiences, which Jewish camp provides. BB Camp’s counselors and staff must be prepared for children and teens who have lacked social contact for over a year, which we expect will exacerbate challenges relating to mental health and other disabilities. Strengthening our relationship with JFCS will ensure that our campers receive much-needed resources.”
To help meet the growing needs of children, families and individuals, the agency is focused on raising awareness of the agency in the Jewish and general community.
“I’m looking critically at the website … to better communicate what we do,” says JoAnna. “I work with the project managers on what they want to be more visible to the community … and hopefully create a consistent strong brand.”
Holocaust Survivor Services
Disability Support Services
Emergency Assistance: JFCS has funds available to help individuals and families weather the economic storm triggered by the pandemic. For assistance, contact Caitlin DeBoer: 503-226-7079 ext. 134 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community Connections: 10 am, Fridays. Open to the entire community to discuss challenges and anxieties of pandemic living. Moderated by JFCS Clinical Director Douglass Ruth. Find the Zoom link on the JFCS homepage jfcs-portland.org under Weekly Video Chat.
Support group for parents who have children and adults with disabilities: 7:30 pm, 2nd and 4th Wednesday of month, on Zoom. To register, email JFCS Inclusion Specialist Janet Menashe at email@example.com.
QJY Portland (Queer Jewish Portland): Zoom group for Jewish LGBTQQI+ youth and their allies in the greater Portland area: 4:15 pm, two Wednesdays/month, moderated by Becca Dorn-Medeiros, Ed.S., LPC-Intern, NCSP. Contact QJYPortland@jfcs-portland.org for meeting ID.
For information on other virtual programs – including parenting workshops offered in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and Wise Aging groups in partnership with the Holzman Foundation – visit
JFCS communications and outreach team
Susan Greenberg has been an active member of the Jewish community and a member of Congregation Neveh Shalom for nearly 20 years. She and her husband, David, have a son, 24, and a daughter, 17. Susan led the August 2020 launch of the CNS COVID-19 Outreach and Services team funded by the Oregon Health Authority. Previously, she served as assistant director for the Dental Foundation of Oregon and campaign specialist for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
“I am passionate about what JFCS does, I make things happen and I am connected – I know a lot of people in the Jewish community.”
Susan calls her work at JFCS a way to give back and pay it forward, which is deeply personal for her. While Susan was pregnant with their son, her husband had a stem cell transplant following chemotherapy to combat Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Members of the Jewish community, including Felicia Rosenthal and Sallie Cohen, bought a deep freezer and filled it with food. “The feeling of paying it forward is really important.”
Her work for children also has deep roots. Susan is in her eighth year on the Beaverton School Board, where she has been engaged in helping the most at-risk children. She plans to run for another term in May because, “when I look at the kids out of school for over a year, so many kids are so far behind, it breaks my heart.”
JoAnna Wendel is the daughter of Portlanders Peter and Sue Wendel, who is co-coordinator of the Next Generations Group (descendants of Holocaust survivors) and editor of Portland Israeli Folk Dance News. After graduating from the University of Oregon, JoAnna moved to Washington, D.C, and worked as a science writer for NASA and the American Geophysical Union.
“From science writing, I have skills to break down complex topics for lay audiences. … When I talk to the case managers about messaging, I use my interview skills.”
She returned to Portland to be near family when the pandemic began.
JoAnna met Susan Greenberg while serving on the CNSCOS team. “We were always on the same page about ideas, and she liked the work I did on flyers, graphics and articles.”
“JFCS does wonderful work, so I am happy to help increase the visibility of all their programs. It is very clear they really care about the people they serve. … They want to get programs out there.”
(Funding for first year provided by a grant from Jewish Federation of Greater Portland)
Sammy grew up in New York and enjoyed the trees and mountains of the Northeast. She lived in Los Angeles for two years, but says “I was not connecting with the city, and it was hard to carve a place in the Jewish community there. … Portland was a smaller community with great access to the outdoors.”
Sammy immediately began connecting with the Jewish community when she arrived in 2019. She lives next to Moishe House and went to many young adult programs there pre-pandemic. She also volunteered for JFGP’s Super Sunday phonathon before COVID hit, and she is now part of Federation’s PDX Pathways cohort for leadership development. She met with many synagogue executive directors and rabbis and now participates in Congregation Beth Israel’s young adult group Jews Next Dor.
Sammy earned a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the Newhouse Communications School at Syracuse University, where she worked as an engagement specialist at Syracuse University Hillel.
“I’m a good people connector and a good listener.”