Federation, JFCS partner to serve Jewish seniors

By Mindy Rubenstein

Janet Husney was a new bride when she came from Brooklyn to Jacksonville more than 60 years ago. She and her husband, Murray, raised three children here, and now have more than a dozen grand and great-grandchildren. Known for her hugs and positive attitude, she’s very grateful for the help that she and her family receive from the Jewish community.


“I was on the giving end. Now I’m on the receiving end,” said Husney, who is one of the hundreds of local Jews receiving assistance and support from Jewish Family & Community Services.


She worked as an assistant to the director at Mt. Carmel Gardens, including helping to coordinate their kosher food program. A member of Etz Chaim Synagogue, she enthusiastically explains how JFCS has helped her family over the years, and especially more recently.


Jewish Federation of Jacksonville provides JFCS with annual funding, which is earmarked for Jewish programs and services, including those received by Husney. When her kids went to college, for example, she took out a low-interest loan. The past few years, her husband has faced some medical issues, and JFCS has helped her in various ways, from transportation to food to counseling, as well as with financial assistance. They even helped her get hearing aids.


“I would not have been able to get through this rough time without their help,” she explained.


She receives food from JFCS's Meals 4 U Program, a partnership with the Max Block Food Pantry, River Garden and Feeding Northeast Florida. “The food is very good, but it’s not just the meals,” she said. “The people who deliver it are so friendly.”


Hilary Rotenberg, Director of Jewish Services, and Allison Ginsburg, her case manager, help connect her with resources. "We provide wrap-around services to Janet so she can continue to live independently and be happy, healthy and safe," said Rotenberg. "Janet is the perfect illustration of JFCS's mission of how we help people help themselves.”


“They’re very sensitive to clients’ needs,” Husney said. “They were very, very helpful in helping me get some services for my husband." 


Her case manager also helps support her during meetings with social workers. “Sometimes social workers speak in a language you don’t understand,” Husney said. “They’ve been there with me for everything that I’ve needed. They’ve just been outstanding. I can’t say enough good things about them.”


JFCS, which has been serving Jacksonville since the early 1900’s, has programs for people of all backgrounds and ages, and connects people throughout the community. Recently, Partnership2Gether, part of Federation, hosted a group of Israeli teens, and JFCS brought them together with local Jewish seniors for an afternoon of creativity at Painting with a Twist, where they created colorful hamsas


Husney told one of the teens, “You have to have seven hugs a day to be happy,” and asked if she wanted a hug. Another teen saw the heart-warming intergenerational embrace and asked, “Where’s mine?” 


Janet’s gratitude and loving attitude are contagious. “It’s just amazing what they do,” she said. “They really do fill a gap and go the extra mile. I don’t know if people realize what a gem JFCS is for Jacksonville.”