IN THE NEWS: Sun Sentinel Highlights Collaboration between JFS and the Levis JCC

Randall P. Lieberman

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Nov 11, 2014

Since September, the Adolph & Rose Levis Jewish Community Center's Helene & Roy Schwedelson Special Needs Programs and Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services have combined to provide two new support groups in Boca Raton.

The first is for parents and caregivers of school-age children with special needs; the second for siblings (ages 6-13) of children with special needs. The groups are led by professionals from Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services (JFS).

"Support groups serve an important purpose for families and caregivers who have children with special needs," said Marianne Jacobs, director of the Levis JCC's Helene & Roy Schwedelson Special Needs Programs. "I've seen firsthand how our families benefit from the support of professional staff facilitators and other parents and caregivers in similar life situations.

"The network of support that forms in these groups creates a warm and welcoming environment to talk through the delicate issues facing each family. All of us at the Levis JCC are proud to collaborate with JFS in providing these two new support groups."

Added Randy Colman, executive director of the Levis JCC: "We are thrilled to be partnering with JFS, one of our sister agencies, to provide support and assistance to our Schwedelson Special Needs Program participants and their families."

Danielle Hartman, JFS president and CEO, said: "We are excited to partner with the Levis JCC on these support groups. We believe strongly in leveraging our impact through community partnerships and this is just one example of how we are accomplishing this goal. By working together and not duplicating services, the entire community benefits."

The parent and caregiver support group is led by licensed clinical social worker Esther Lupin, JFS community outreach coordinator.

Lupin said: "As a parent of a special-needs child, I recognized the need in our community for a place where those in a similar situation could safely come together for advice, comfort and support. The special-needs journey is difficult to navigate alone. As a group, we can align ourselves to achieve a common goal of helping those with special needs and their caregivers."

Jenn Betesh, of Boca Raton, mother of Ryan, 8, a child with special needs, said: "This support group provides me with a safe environment where I can spend time with a group of individuals who can relate to the daily life challenges that most outsiders are unable to understand. In addition to the support, it's a great place to share resources and help others by sharing my own experiences."

The sibling support group is led by licensed clinical social worker Shlomit "Shelley" Karasik, JFS community outreach coordinator.

Karasik said: "I am so excited to be facilitating this new group for children who have siblings with special needs. I have learned that many children of special-needs families have a dire need for a safe place to express their thoughts and feelings. This creative-arts therapy group will ensure they have a place to call their own; a place where they feel validated and have a voice."

Workshops take place at the Levis JCC's Phyllis & Harvey Sandler Center for Jewish Life Enhancement (21050 95th Ave. S.), on the Boca Raton campus of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County (off Glades Road, between Lyons Road and U.S. 441).

Groups are ongoing and free. For dates and times, or for more information, contact Jacobs at mariannej@levisjcc.org or 561-852-3256.

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