Category Archives: Social Services

Sexual Assault Victims Afraid to Come Forward

chana banner

As almost 20 women across the country have come forward to accuse an iconic entertainer of sexual assault and many other express outrage, hundreds of people give him a standing ovation at a comedy performance in Florida. And this is not unusual. People who speak about being sexually assaulted or abused often find that the general public seem to feel entitled to pass judgment on their motivation, their character and even the truthfulness of their claim without the benefit of any knowledge of the facts in the matter. All the while the accused perpetrator is lauded and in many cases defended.

Knowing that complete strangers, who may only have a hint of information, find it acceptable to discuss these personal, intimate matters, while voicing strong, and not necessarily positive opinions about the victims, can be part of what prevents those assaulted from coming forward. Unfortunately, there are many obstacles standing between those who experienced abuse and justice.

Victims quite often blame themselves about what they could have done differently, or how they should have known the assault was going to happen. There is often fear of the perpetrator. Whether real or exaggerated, victims often are afraid of what other harm could come to them or to their loved ones.

There is also a great deal of shame for those who have had their bodies violated. When we are shamed, there is a huge urge to avoid any situation or interaction that will bring attention to what happened. So the idea of being asked intimate details and then having those answers scrutinized is just too much for many people.  When the perpetrator is famous, there is even more negative attention.

What can also be particularly discouraging for those who have not felt comfortable speaking up, is hearing friends and family criticize other victims. Many of us do not realize that 20 percent – or two out of every 10 individuals – are sexually abused. That means that when we share these comments in a group — wondering out loud why a victim didn’t speak up sooner or commenting about a victim’s clothing or choice in companions — we may be contributing to a victim’s reluctance to come forward for fear of being hurt again, Yet telling someone is the only way to start the healing process.

The Baltimore Jewish community provides a channel for victims to tell and that is CHANA.

CHANA provides crisis intervention, education, trauma therapy and consultation for victims and their families while advocating for community awareness, safety and healing.

While it is the job of the staff at CHANA to directly respond to these courageous victims, it is everyone’s responsibility to be mindful of their words and actions in the face of stories about abuse.  Let us not allow our thoughtless comments create any additional barriers for the silent victims in our presence to come forward to find help, hope and healing.

Learn more about CHANA.



Leave a comment

Filed under Families, Social Services, Uncategorized, Women

Meet Ellen Jarrett

Chai Ground breaking

Twenty-three years ago, Ellen Jarrett, arrived at CHAI: Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc., an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, to help the organization develop affordable senior housing. The organization had recently commissioned a study which determined a need for 1,500 units in Northwest Baltimore.

Ellen, who had recently received her Masters in Real Estate Development from Johns Hopkins University, and had some background working at HUD, brought knowledge on the development process to make this dream a reality. The first project she worked on for CHAI was Weinberg House, which opened 20 years ago.

From the beginning, it was a huge success. “I’ll never forget opening our first senior living community. I remember we had 1,000 applications for only 116 units. The northwest community hadn’t seen anything like this project. I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

Since then, Ellen has been involved with the development of CHAI’s 16 affordable senior housing projects.  We talked to Ellen about her role at CHAI and how senior housing has evolved in the past two decades.

Tell me about Weinberg House.
We wanted to provide state-of-the-art senior housing in the Jewish community. The first project we built was Weinberg House, 116 units for seniors, located near the Giant in Pikesville. We wanted to include technology so that individuals could live there as long as possible.

CHAI decided to offer a number of amenities to enable “aging in place” including implementing a congregate meal program and hiring staff to link residents to outside services. In the design of the building we decided to build public spaces so residents could socialize, and we put in showers even though that was not the trend in senior housing at the time. But we understood that having showers would make it easier for these individuals to age in place and be safe.
We also used BG&E incentives to make the project energy efficient, even before green was popular.

What else made Weinberg House special?
This was an apartment building for low-income seniors that didn’t look low income. They felt as if they were living in a market rate apartment building.

After Weinberg House, what were your next projects?
CHAI began to build senior living facilities every two years. We built Weinberg Terrace, Weinberg Woods and Weinberg Gardens. We knew, overall, we needed 1,600 units, but one of our primary sources of funding – funding from the HUD 202 program – was decreasing, which resulted in us having to build smaller projects, with fewer units. We were fortunate. CHAI developed a partnership with the Weinberg Foundation, , and we were able to secure funding from them as well as from the State of Maryland, Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

Weinberg Village in Owings Mills?
We built five apartment buildings on the Owings Mills campus and we tweaked the design from some of our previous projects. We realized that it would be more appealing if we opened up the kitchen and living/dining area. We added green technologies and gave seniors pendants to wear to keep them safe. As technology became more efficient, we were able to add such things as video entrance systems.

I see CHAI was involved with a project outside its core market.
Yes. Last winter, in a partnership with Park Heights Renaissance, we opened Jean Yarborough Renaissance Gardens, a 60-unit independent living apartment complex for limited income seniors. It was the area’s first new construction project in over 10 years. Although not in our core neighborhood, we believe it’s important to focus on the neighborhoods around us. If they are strong, we are strong.

What’s next?
Weinberg Manor South, a 90-unit facility for low-income seniors, located in Upper Park Heights, opens this winter. We’re also beginning to develop small-scale housing for people with disabilities, buying existing homes and renovating them for- three people. And, CHAI is continuing to investigate ways to create affordable family housing in the area. We recently purchased a small complex of 13 units which we intend to renovate and preserve as affordable housing for families in our core service area.

What have you learned?
You never stop learning in this industry. Change continues with government funding and regulations.   We’ve learned how to look for other sources of funding and partnerships as federal government money dried up.
In addition, we learned to look at each project separately to determine what would make them most effective for seniors. Some, like Weinberg House, have a grocery store nearby, so we didn’t have to worry about transportation. When we built others, like Weinberg Village, we realized we needed to build a transportation program.
Learn more about Weinberg Senior Living.

Leave a comment

Filed under Social Services, Women

Empowering Women to Embrace Healthy Relationships


By Nancy Aiken
Director, CHANA

Even as women have increased their presence in the workplace with meaningful occupations in the past few generations, we have not abandoned our concerns with relationships and caring for our families. It has not been an “either/or” for most women but rather a “how many balls can I juggle at one time?”  We just keep adding to the intricate collection flying in front of our eyes.

The past few generations of women have built the foundation for those who follow us to be empowered to expect equality and to speak up when what they receive falls short. We have taught this message to our daughters, with an unprecedented number of dating violence programs and websites changing the manner in which we view what once was thought of as a harmless rite of passage for our youth.

Many of us reach the point in our individual lives of what may seem like a plateau when the stress of finding a healthy relationship and then putting our children on the path to finding their own seems to abate and we can take a breath. Of all the things to worry about, abuse, seems to finally be low on the list.

But as the old saying teaches us, “a woman’s work is never done.”

Our community of engaged women, intent on everyone we care about being safe and happy is now confronted with the increasing concern of Elder Abuse.

Our defense mechanisms want us to believe that all we have to worry about is the nursing home worker or the home health care assistant, and yet for an elderly person to be treated with respect we must again look at trusted individuals. It is an alarming situation in our country when we know that if a person over 60 is murdered, that 24 percent of the time the perpetrator is a child and 42 percent of the time it is a spouse.

As the children of this growing senior population, it is imperative that we recognize the warning signs that our parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents are being mistreated. It is important to remember that this is not just about physical harm, but also neglect and abandonment. Is a neighbor taking advantage of an older person’s generosity? Is a family member pushing to have legal documents rewritten and signed? What are those bruises? Why does grandma look so scared?

CHANA, in partnership with Jewish Community Services and Levindale Geriatric Center, offers a new program, SAFE: Stop Abuse of Elders. SAFE offers prevention and educational workshops for survivors, seniors and their caretakers, advisors and family members. In addition, SAFE offers crisis intervention, emergency shelter and counseling.

This new role of CHANA will prove to be challenging at times. Many of us may even be reluctant to speak up out of respect to our parents and older family members. But, we must step forward together and take a stand for our loved ones. Our work may never be done but the safer, healthier world we leave behind for our children and grandchild will be our legacy.

The individual and collective efforts of women, long before Ray Rice was a household name, have made tangible improvement to domestic violence laws and availability of resources.

Leave a comment

Filed under Social Services, Women

One Gift Reaches Thousands

By Michael Hoffman
Chief Planning and Strategy Officer

We may not agree on everything, but we can all agree on this: We are part of a special community, and The Associated is the gateway to supporting the needs of the entire community – from baby to bubbie. The Associated is committed to being as efficient and effective as possible, maximizing the limited human and financial resources for the overall benefit of our community. We bring together Jews from across the spectrum – Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, secular and everyone in between – to help one another live better lives in Baltimore, in Israel and around the world.

This year, with the help of our donors, The Associated distributed $47.2 million in total resources to support efforts that strengthen Jewish life here in Baltimore and overseas. These resources are anchored by the power of the unrestricted Annual Campaign which raised $30 million. Thanks to the stability of these resources, we will once again to be able to provide our local and overseas agencies with 100 percent funding so that they can continue to provide meaningful services to our fellow community members in need. Here in Baltimore, we have much to be proud of. This year’s accomplishments ensured that next year’s funding plan continues to be a safety net for everyone in our community. And it was.

We pioneered care for the vulnerable

senior nnc
CHAI’s Northwest Neighbors Connecting (NNC) continued to develop a diverse, interdependent community in northwest Baltimore City and is now one of the fastest-growing villages in the country with over 175 members in its first year.

We invested in our youth

Jewish summer camps are an immersive way to ignite positive Jewish memory and lasting Jewish living for our children. Understanding the powerful potential of summer experiences, we launched the Center for Jewish Camping to build excitement and participation in Jewish day and overnight camps.

We deepened Jewish life

The active participation of Baby Boomers in Jewish life became a priority. Baby Boomers have the time, resources and drive for meaningful, active life that can benefit the community and themselves. We convened the Baby Boomer Task Force which identified volunteer service as an opportunity for significant engagement. Looking forward, Jewish Volunteer Connection will develop strategies to connect these skilled Baby Boomers with specific community needs.

We developed a global peoplehood

global peoplehood
For more than 20 years, the Baltimore-Odessa Partnership has advanced the revitalization of Jewish life in Odessa and built personal connections between our two communities. This year, our support was critical as we rushed to the aid of the Jewish community in our sister city. By making funds immediately available to our overseas partners and raising additional funds from our community, we were able to add heightened security measures for Jewish institutions across Ukraine and provide a much needed life line to the vulnerable in Odessa.

These are just a small sampling of all of the wonderful projects, initiatives and efforts that happened right here in Jewish Baltimore. The need is real and so is your power to make a difference. Together we are creating a stronger, more vibrant Jewish community – day by day and from generation to generation. Whether it’s providing care for the vulnerable, investing in our youth, enriching the quality of Jewish live or deepening our sense of global peoplehood, The Associated exists so you can give – and receive – meaningfully.

To read our 2013-2014 Report to the Community that includes the full FY14 Funding Plan, click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Families, Israel & Overseas, Philanthropy, Seniors, Social Services, Special Needs, Uncategorized, Volunteering & Advocacy, Women, Young Adults

Perils of Prom

Robin Sweeney

By Robin Sweeney
Client Information Services
Jewish Community Services

As prom season approaches, the most important things on my daughter’s mind may be her dress, make-up and hair. But those are only minor details compared to what’s going on in my head. I’m thinking about inexperienced teenage drivers, alcohol, and risk taking, and I’m just praying that my daughter and all the other teens attending proms will come home safely. Although I believe they are “good kids,” we parents know that even “good kids” can make “not so good” choices.

Some startling facts:

  •  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in America. Mile for mile, teenagers are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers.
  •  This problem is aggravated by inexperience and immaturity, combined with speed, drinking and driving, other drug use, not wearing seat belts, distracted driving (cell phone use, loud music, other teen passengers), drowsy driving and nighttime driving.
  •  In a 2005 survey conducted by Chrysler Group and MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), 74 percent of teens reported feeling pressure to drink during activities surrounding prom and graduation, and 44 percent reported pressure either to drive after consuming alcohol or to ride in a car with someone who had been drinking alcohol on prom and/or graduation night.

As parents, we can and must play a crucial role to help ensure our children’s safety on prom night. While we may help our teens with some of the prom expenses, the most important thing we can do for them is actually free!

We can talk with them!

We need to tell our teens that we want them to have a wonderful and memorable prom night, but we are also concerned for their safety. We need to ask them how they plan to stay safe. They may roll their eyes and give us the “I know, Mom,” but we’re talking here about possibly saving our children’s lives.

Here’s what to discuss with your teens:

Getting from here to there and back. Find out who is driving and who will be in the car. Get their promise that they will absolutely not get in a car with a driver who has been drinking or using other drugs. Another option is to consider sharing the expense for a limo.

Know where they are going. Where is the prom being held? Are they going to an after-prom party? If they will be gathering at someone’s home, you have the right, and the responsibility, to ask the parents if they allow underage drinking in their home. As an alternative, many schools have supervised after-prom parties offering fun activities, food, music and prizes. I volunteered at my son’s after-prom party last year. The kids had a great time, enjoying the action until after 4:00 a.m. when the drawings were held to give out the prizes.

Stay in touch. Be sure your teen has a cell phone that is fully charged. Make it clear that they should call you if any of their plans change or if they want to talk with you for any reason. This includes your commitment to pick them up at any time, with your promise not to pester them for details about the situation. Marc’s Promise Foundation has designed cards with this agreement for you and your child to exchange with each other specifically for this purpose.

Although our teens may not admit it, we are helping them feel loved and secure when we communicate clear and reasonable guidelines and expectations. Keeping a healthy balance between sharing our teens’ excitement at this special time, while taking our parenting responsibilities seriously, can help ensure a fun and safe prom night.

Leave a comment

Filed under Social Services, Teens, Women

Letting Go: Easing Separation for Young Children and their Parents

jcs blog

By Myra Strassler, LCSW-C, Therapy Services
Jewish Community Services

Is this a scene you can relate to? Your child, with her face puffy red, tears streaming down her cheeks, is holding on to you for dear life because you are leaving her for a night out with your spouse. Or maybe your child is throwing a massive temper tantrum: yelling, screaming that he does not want you to leave him alone when it’s time to go to sleep. For any parent, reactions like these can be pretty upsetting. What to do?

As unsettling as moments like these can be to parents, we need to remember that it is natural and normal for a young child to be anxious and upset about leaving a parent. There are times when parents and children must separate. By having a better understanding of what is happening, you can develop strategies for coping that can go a long way to easing your child’s discomfort — and your own — at these times.

Even after young children begin to talk, they rarely have the skill to convey fully what they want their parents to know. More often young children use repeated actions to communicate. Over time, parents become experts at reading their children’s cues and are able to meet their needs.

From this give-and-take our children learn they can depend on us and develop an internal sense of well-being. This “internal safety net” enables children to separate and move toward exploring their world. They continue to need their parents to feel secure, and yet they have a strong desire to explore. It is no wonder that childhood separation is so difficult for parents and children alike.

There are periods when heightened separation anxiety is a normal part of development. At seven months, your infant begins to cling to you and become fearful of new faces. These feelings peak over the next two to three months. They now know when you are there and when you are gone, but they become anxious because they don’t know if you will return.

For toddlers, separation anxiety is the highest between 18 and 24 months. Physically they are able to get around more easily. Walking and reaching for any new thing they see, they can separate themselves physically from you, but constantly peek over their shoulders to make sure you’re still there.

While separation anxiety is normal during these early years, it does vary from child to child, with some children showing more signs of it than others. How long it lasts varies, depending on the temperament of the child and how the parent responds. Here are some concrete things you can do to ease the way.

  • Play disappearing games such as peek-a- boo and hide and seek when your child is 9 months and older.
  • Schedule separations after naps and feedings. Children manage stress better after resting and eating.
  • Give your child a chance to get to know a new caregiver before being left.
  • Children do better with brief separations first.
  • Create a “hello-good-bye” book with pictures of mom and dad.
  •  Never leave without saying good-bye.
  • Before leaving make sure your child has a favorite object as a reminder of you.

If separation anxiety continues, first make sure that the situation in which your child is being cared for is appropriate. When the anxiety persists for weeks, parents need to consider talking with a mental health professional. If it is necessary to get a professional evaluation, seek a professional who is specifically trained to diagnose and treat emotional problems in children.

The Emotional Life of a Toddler by Alicia F. Lieberman, Ph. D.
Effective Parenting for the Hard- to- Manage Child by Georgia A. Degangi and Anne Kendall
Separation Anxiety: Preparing You and Your Child for Separation by Kristen Learnard

Questions about parenting? Send an email to For more information on parenting click here or call 410-466-9200.

Leave a comment

Filed under Families, Social Services, Women

A “Big” Impact

Karen Schloss

By Karen Schloss
Match Support Coordinator
Jewish Community Services

What if someone gave you the opportunity to change a life? And what if you were told that you must have fun while doing it? That’s the essence of the Jewish Big Brother, Big Sister Program at Jewish Community Services. If you’re like most volunteers who sign up to be a ‘Big,’ what you give won’t even come close to what you get in return.

Here’s some information to consider: Studies show that children who have mentors do better in school, have improved self-esteem and social skills and are less likely to engage in substance use and abuse.

In the words of one mother of teenage sons, is an appreciation of what a mentor has done for her family.

“I am a single, widowed, full time working Mom of two sons, whose Dad passed away a few years ago. I learned about the Jewish Big Brother program from a friend.

Approximately six months after the death, I decided to inquire about the program because I wanted my sons to have a male role model in their life. I know that the person would never replace their Dad, but just to have another male person in their life was important to me. Someone that would just hang out with them, have similar interests and just ‘have fun.’

I believe that having Big Brothers for my kids has impacted their lives in so many ways. They have special foods that they eat together, go to movies, a Ravens game, or text when they want to catch up. It gives me comfort to know that my sons can always call their ‘Bigs’ or text them when they just want to either hang out or chat.

There are many qualities that I admire in both of these Big Brothers. They are compassionate, responsible, fun and just good guys. In fact, when my Dad passed away last year, both Big Brothers attended the funeral. I was really touched.

I would encourage other families to participate in the Jewish Big Brother matching program because it allows the ‘Littles’ to create new friendships and long lasting relationships with male role models. It is another social outlet that allows the ‘Littles’ to bond and create new memories. I am so thankful for the Big Brothers in my sons’ lives.”

For some “Littles” their relationship with their Big Brother or Big Sister is so powerful that when they grow up, they want to give to a child what they received. What better gift to be able to give than to pay it forward.

If you want to make a difference in the life of a child, please consider becoming a “Big.” A few hours a month is all it takes, and JCS provides training and support. For more information on becoming a “Big” call Katie Cohen at 410-843-7462 or email

Leave a comment

Filed under Families, Social Services, Volunteering & Advocacy, Young Adults