When Shari Cashman of Marblehead saw the success of Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JF&CS) Café Hakalah at Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline, she thought the North Shore would benefit from a Café for its own community of Holocaust survivors and victims of Nazi persecution. A co-chair of the JF&CS North Shore Advisory Committee, along with husband Robert Cashman, Shari had already been volunteering with friends at the monthly Café Hakalah in Brookline. She knew that the program could be vital to elderly survivors on the North Shore – survivors isolated from the community with few, if any, resources – so she and friend Maria Samiljan spearheaded an effort to bring the Café to the North Shore.
Café Hakalah began in Brookline in 2007 as a social gathering for Holocaust survivors and victims of Nazi persecution. Held once a month, the program offers survivors a reason to leave their homes, giving them an opportunity to talk and make meaningful connections with other survivors in an environment that fosters intellectual and cultural enrichment. The name “Hakalah” means “relief” or “the easing of a burden” in Hebrew.
The Café brings a variety of performers, from internationally-recognized Klezmer musicians to local harpist Ruth Maffa (a Senior Development Officer at JF&CS), who provide entertainment with a Jewish theme. Volunteers like Cashman provide snacks and even transportation. They eagerly and cheerfully greet attendees, offer coffee and snacks, talk with them, and help introduce them to other attendees.
In their mission to bring the café to the North Shore, Cashman, a Vice President of the board of the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore (JCC), and Samiljan met with Marsha Frankel, JF&CS Clinical Director of Services for Older Adults, to come up with a plan. Together, they set up meetings with Marty Schneer, the Executive Director of the JCC. The JCC community was thrilled to help out in any way they could, providing the Café with a beautiful meeting room with an ocean view free of charge, as well as a dedicated staff to set up and clean up.
“It’s a great partnership,” says Cashman. “I’m so excited about being able to bring both agencies together seamlessly under one roof. For years, my family and I have been attracted to JF&CS because of the breadth of work they do and how they touch so many people’s lives in such a pertinent way.”
A grant from the Jewish Federations of North America covers most of the costs of the North Shore café, with the remainder funded through philanthropic donations. At each Café, services are available to address any challenges the participants might be experiencing. By having a caseworker at every Café, survivors get to know her and feel comfortable reaching out to her for any assistance they might require, from applying for reparations, to dental care, to referrals to JF&CS Family Table (New England’s largest kosher food pantry), to community resources such as state-funded services, home care, emergency assistance, or assistance with a myriad of other unmet needs. The caseworker is also trained to spot any signs of medical or mental health issues that might be affecting a participant, who as a survivor might be prone to depression or post-traumatic stress issues. “They trust the JF&CS caseworker. Trust can be a huge issue for survivors and they adore the JF&CS staff members,” remarks Cashman.
Originally posted on the JF&CS blog.
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