After a 30-year career at Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas (JFS), Debi Weiner is retiring from her post as senior director of Older Adult Services.
The organization expressed appreciation to Weiner for her many services to the older adult community, including in-home care management and counseling, indigent burial, caregiver support groups, grief support groups, community chaplaincy services, transportation services, a guardianship program and more.
CEO Cathy Barker described working with Weiner as an honor and privilege:
“She leads with her heart and a passion that is unparalleled in this profession. Services to older adults in our community are accessible, comprehensive and impactful to the individuals and families we serve due to her tremendous efforts.”
Next month, Deborah Leibensberger, LCSW will step into the leadership role as director of Older Adult Services. She has been working with Weiner for 19 years.
“Deborah is an exceptionally caring therapist and supervisor to staff,” Weiner said. “I can’t think of a better person to continue the wonderful progress we’ve made for the older adults in our community.”
Leibensberger said: “Debi’s kind, compassionate, intelligent and dedicated leadership have served to inspire and motivate not only myself but the entire agency. We wish her health, happiness and new adventures in her next journey.”
Weiner, a native of Detroit, moved to Dallas from Chicago in 1980 and quickly formed rich relationships in the Jewish community. Like many, she first became acquainted with JFS Dallas as a volunteer, when Annette Wolk, of blessed memory, invited her to deliver kosher meals with her. She continued to volunteer until her children, Allison and Russell, became school-aged and she decided to return to work.
In 1991, Weiner was hired by JFS as a case manager. At that time, the organization was operating out of the basement of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.
Bunny Radman was Debi’s predecessor and mentor who spearheaded many of the social service programs JFS continues to provide today. Weiner said she did not realize at the time how much she’d learn from Radman. She thought back to her first day on the job when she was sent out to visit clients in their homes. She knew to her core that she could help.
“There was something that felt very right to me, like I could make a real difference here,” Weiner said. “So Bunny decided to take a chance on me, and I decided to take a chance on working with older adults for the first time. That was 30 years ago and I honestly haven’t looked back since.”
Weiner has worked alongside Ariela Goldstein, senior director of Clinical Services, for the past 26 years. Together, they have led teams that made JFS a well-recognized provider for clinical counseling in the greater Dallas area.
“Debi’s care for her clients, her staff and community has no bounds,” Goldstein said. “Her compassion, infused with a depth of knowledge and professionalism, has impacted not only her work with her clients and colleagues, but with the entire agency and community at large.”
Weiner also is credited for laying the groundwork to provide psychotherapy in the Older Adults Department.
After more and more older adults were utilizing the age-specific counseling services, she encouraged JFS to look into Medicare reimbursement, which has saved the agency hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years and allowed for that money to be allocated to other important services for older adults.
For homebound seniors, it was hard to access counseling. JFS found that meeting those clients’ mental health needs directly helped them remain independent in their homes.
“Our program really evolved over time to provide that counseling component,” Weiner said. “This in-home service was something that no one else in the community was doing at the time.” She said she is most proud of this addition in JFS’ array of mental health and social services. “Being able to provide a treatment for depression and other mental health concerns can change a person’s life, and thus enable them to live independently.”
Weiner became director of the Older Adults Services department in 2000, working under the leadership of longtime CEO Michael Fleisher. Under her tenure, JFS has also expanded services in the areas of grief and caregiver support; coordination of burial services for the indigent; chaplaincy and delivery of kosher meals to those in need.
“As Debi reflects on her long, productive career with the agency, I hope she feels a bit overwhelmed with all she has contributed and accomplished here. It is very impressive,” Fleisher said. “I hope she knows that she is surrounded, in person and in spirit, by many people who have great respect for her as a person and professional and who have benefited from her expertise.”
Community Chaplain Rabbi Howard Wolk worked with Weiner in the development of his position and the two have partnered to identify and meet needs in the community. “Debi has always been patient, thoughtful and considerate. These qualities and others contributed to a great working relationship and are vital to all human interaction. She will be sorely missed at the office.”
Weiner is looking forward to spending more time and traveling with her husband Doug, children Allison Mages and Russell and their grandchildren Abby, Sophie and Talia.
Weiner described the word “evolution” as the one idea that encapsulates her experiences at JFS. “The world is changing and we have to change with it. I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished together. Not one person or organization can do it alone.”