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3.29.13 Issue

by Ozzie Nogg

In recent weeks, we’ve looked at Passover’s Four Questions from the perspective of Omaha’s Jewish Family Service. Our first installment answered the basic question: “Why do we have a Jewish Family Service?” The answer: “To strengthen and preserve life in the local Jewish community and the community at large through financial assistance, counseling and other vital human services.”

In subsequent stories, we answered questions regarding the role JFS plays in helping clients gain freedom from financial worries, and described the ways Jewish Family Service assists those with developmental challenges gain the freedom to live independently. Today, we address the needs of our neighbors enslaved by addiction, and of families that seek strategies to help them interact positively.

Contemporary families come in many configurations. Single parent households. Blended families. Interfaith families. Consequently, raising children is often more challenging than it was in the less complicated past. Being a good parent is a full time job. There are no shortcuts. And so, Jewish Family Service offers Parenting: the Love and Logic Way — a program designed for moms and dads who want to sharpen their parenting skills. Long before psychologists determined the impact of parental influence, the rabbis of the Talmud explained that a child speaks in the marketplace the way he hears his parents speaking at home. Even a very young child learns how to treat others by mirroring the behavior of his parents and siblings. Parenting: the Love and Logic Way teaches parents the importance of treating their children with dignity and respect. To communicate calmly, with empathy, while providing limits in a caring way.

In these JFS sponsored family education classes, parents learn how to establish healthy relationships with their kids and have fun parenting while, at the same time, teaching their children to be responsible for their actions. The sessions offer common-sense techniques that help parents raise children who are respectful, honest, self-disciplined, tolerant, generous and kind. Children who are decent human beings, prepared to make good choices and positive contributions. According to Jewish tradition, each boy and girl is considered a child of God, and it is a parent’s sacred duty to nurture and guide them toward their full potential.

Karen Gustafson, Jewish Family Service Executive Director, tells this story.  “A case comes to mind where adoption, counseling and parenting consultation were used together. In this instance, a single parent remarried. The new spouse adopted the child. Not only did this family seek counseling to help blend their new family, but they needed help creating a parenting plan they could all live with. At JFS we call this ‘wrap around services.’ I love this phrase, because I envision wrapping our arms around a family and providing whatever services and tools are necessary so clients can make good choices.”

Rabbinic sages regarded man’s freedom to choose between certain courses of conduct as a fundamental principle of Judaism. We alone determine our actions and are accountable for their outcomes. “People sometimes make choices for themselves, and their children, that may not be in their best interest,” Gustafson continued. “But, as luck would have it, we also come with brains, so more often than not we recognize, usually through unfavorable outcomes, when the choices we’ve made are unhealthy.” Bad choices often involve substance abuse. According to Gustafson, a very high percentage of Jewish Family Service clients require treatment for drug or alcohol dependency. “These cases,” Gustafson explains, “are handled by Nathan ‘Nate’ Bock, a Licensed Mental Health Practitioner and Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor, who has been on the JFS staff, part-time, since 2007. His educational background allows us to provide substance abuse treatment, a needed service we couldn’t offer before Nate joined us. Nate fit in perfectly. He’s the only male therapist on staff, which means JFS can address the ‘gender component’ that is sometimes very important to a client’s individualized treatment plan. Nate is our hidden gem.” Bock works full-time at the UNO Counseling Center. His former boss, Marti Rosen-Atherton, MS, LMHP, describes Nate as down-to-earth, authentic and approachable. “His understanding and skill make him a safe and trusted therapist. His contribution to clients at Jewish Family Service is invaluable.”

Much like the Hebrews who escaped from Egypt, each of us has the freedom to turn our life around. If you or someone you know wants to get back on a positive track, choose Jewish Family Service. Their professional team and Licensed Mental Health Therapists will provide counseling to help you grow as a person. Call JFS and choose a parenting class to enhance your skills and confidence. These choices will reap benefits for you and everyone around you.

You have other choices, as well. You can choose to show compassion, caring, connection and commitment — the four pillars on which JFS stands — by becoming a Friend of Jewish Family Service. As our programs and services continue to grow, your support guarantees that the agency remains available for individuals, couples, families and children, regardless of their religion, gender, ethnicity or ability to pay.

Your act of lovingkindness makes a real difference. To learn more, call Jewish Family Service. 402.330.2024.