Who is Upstream Pushing Them In?
By Amy Rubin, Director of Community Services for Jewish Child & Family Services
People in need often turn to their faith leaders and faith community for help. As a young domestic violence advocate I learned this reality first hand, and it guides the work I now lead at Jewish Child & Family Services.
JCFS’s mission articulates the agency’s commitment to services that are “infused with Jewish values.” Community Services programming is imbued with Jewish cultural competencies and religious tenets. The education, support and advocacy we provide leaders is meant to heighten knowledge and comfort. When someone turns to a rabbi, synagogue board president, fellow congregant, teacher, camp counselor or youth group leader, they are prepared to respond. We introduce conversations about addiction, illness, bereavement, domestic or sexual violence, infertility and trauma – issues that are easier to talk about from a proactive, prevention perspective than when in the midst of a crisis.
Community Services convenes educational programming instead of trainings. We don’t tell faith leaders what they should do. Instead, we collaborate with them to perpetuate safe, healthy Jewish homes and families. We continually assure them that there is ample capacity and sensitivity to engage with stakeholders across Jewish denominational lines and religious observance.
We keep our focus on the ultimate goal, which is illustrated by this adaptation of a public health parable by John McKinlay:
I am standing by the shore of a swiftly flowing river and hear the cry of a drowning man. I jump into the cold water, fight against the current and force my way to him. I hold on hard and gradually pull him to shore. I lay him out on the bank and revive him with artificial respiration. Just when he begins to breathe, I hear another cry for help, this time from a woman. Again, I jump into the water. I lift her out beside the man and work to resuscitate her. As soon as she breathes, I hear third cry for help: a child. Because I am tired, it takes great effort go after him. The cries keep on coming. Now exhausted, it occurs to me that I'm so busy jumping in, pulling one person after another to shore, there is no time to consider: who is upstream pushing them all in?
Jewish people are commanded to accept the obligation of tikkun olam, meaning repairing the world. Those of us who devote our lives to caring for others have days when that responsibility is daunting and we are overwhelmed by the seemingly endless numbers who need to be pulled to shore. That’s when Community Services travels upstream to identify the issues involved, engage and educate community leaders, and collaborate on appropriate strategies to cope with the situation.
That’s when our community has to face the big, systemic questions, and when we move a little closer to that ultimate goal: a safer, healthier world.
To learn more about JCFS Community Services programming and our upstream strategies, email Amy Rubin.