Jewish Family Service adjusts practices

By Leah Vann
Special to the TJP
Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas continues to operate, adapting its services to meet the demands of its clients amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“JFS’s role during and after a crisis is to assist those who are impacted now and as they recover from their losses, whatever they may be,” JFS CEO Cathy Barker said. “JFS is here to help our community and those most vulnerable to navigate the journey to stabilization and recovery.”
The new “shelter-in-place” order issued by Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins Sunday as well as Mayor Eric Johnson’s set of emergency regulations issued Tuesday urge residents to only leave their house for essential activities. JFS continues to deliver meals to those in need, but in a more cautious way.
Debbie Weiner, JFS director of Older Adult Services, said that the food deliveries come less frequently, but in larger bulk, and delivery volunteers have a special procedure to minimize contact.
“We’ve instructed them to set the meal down on the doorstep, ring the doorbell and stand 6 feet away,” Weiner said. “If it is not picked up, they will call them [the clients], and if they do not pick up the meal, then the volunteer is required to take the meal back. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s the best we can think of.”
Since the older population is one of the more susceptible groups to severe cases of the virus, Weiner understands that their anxieties are heightened about letting health care workers and food delivery volunteers physically into their homes.
But the emotional impact of not having human interaction can also be detrimental.
“Isolation is not necessarily good for older people,” Weiner said. “There’s a real delicate balance in observing isolation and having too much. It’s very important they stay in touch with friends and family as much as possible over the phone.”
Phone calls and telecalling, which includes face-to-face video chat, are helpful, but for the hearing impaired, Weiner also encourages handwritten letters.
JFS Chaplain Rabbi Howard Wolk believes there are positives to putting a pause on regular life in quarantine if people use their time wisely
“We should sanctify the time that we’re shuttered in to expand ourselves intellectually and spiritually,” Rabbi Wolk said. “Read a chapter from the book of Psalms every day.”
JFS is still offering counseling services over the phone or through telehealth resources and encourages people to call at any time to work through potential anxieties or loneliness. The organization suggests that people not watch the 24-hour news cycle all day, which repeats itself and can be anxiety-producing. Watching a variety of programs, listening to music, reading books, doing crossword puzzles or playing board games can help pass the time in a positive, stimulating way.
For Jews this year, though, people will see a different Passover, which begins April 8. Passover programs across the country and travel plans to see family are being canceled. It’s a time when Jews might have Seders limited to the people in their household.
“People are prepared to have a very small number of people at their Passover seder,” Rabbi Wolk said. “It’s going to be a very different answer when the question, ‘Why is this night different from all other nights,’ is asked at the Passover Seder. There are going to be a lot of new responses to that.”

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