It’s hard to believe JFS has been helping families in the Capital Region for 160 years. That makes JFS older than the car (1920), but younger than the steam engine (1698). We are slightly older than the telephone (1876) and way older than the frisbee (1948).
Imagine our founding volunteers going to a home visit on a horse, or how far families had to walk to get the services they needed. Transportation and communication have come a long way, but many of our services have remained the same. JFS social workers visit with seniors in their homes every day and families come to our offices for professional guidance. At the core of our services, and something that has endured for 160 years, is that we are guided by the Jewish tradition of repairing the world.
We’ve come a long way and were are scheduling celebratory events. Stay tuned!
Look how far we’ve come…
A small group of volunteers worked together to help new immigrants and their families who came to Albany from Europe.
JFS created a home for the aged and infirm, which was later expanded to care for orphaned children.
Social services were developed and volunteers were replaced with professional staff.
JFS helped German refugees, placed children in foster care, helped families search for relatives, and provided a range of resettlement services including housing, employment, healthcare and citizenship.
JFS expanded its capacity by providing employment and financial counseling services.
JFS continued to assist new Americans with financial help, food, household goods, and furniture.
JFS integrated services to the wider community, instituting programs at Daughters of Sarah, local high schools, SUNY and other groups with critical needs.
Serving the elderly was in the forefront as JFS initiated  support programs at the Ohav Shalom Apartments.
Services to the Jewish community were expanded to include JCCs, day schools, and bereavement counseling.
JFS launched the Supervised Visitation program, which has tripled in size. Services to seniors remain a priority as JFS is the lead agency in caring for seniors in the NNORC (Neighborhood Naturally Occurring Retirement Community). Counseling, both in-home and at JFS remains a primary service for the community.

Do you wonder what you missed, if you have not yet participated in the LIVING HEALTHY WORKSHOPS?   Would you like to participate in a series of six, free, award-winning workshops developed by Stanford University to empower you to manage aging and chronic health conditions with success?  Are you looking to participate in a group with supportive and fun people? Are you a graduate of Living Healthy and in need of a refresher course and curious about the new updated curriculum?
NNORC Nurses Judi England and Pat Gumson will be offering this program after the summer and before the cold weather sets in.
This is the perfect time to learn about living healthy; we just need your participation to make it a perfect experience. Every participant in these FREE workshops receives a free workbook and relaxation CD.
DATES: Tuesdays, October 15, 22, 29 and November 5, 12, 19, 2013
TIME: 1:00–3:30 p.m.
PLACE: B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation on Whitehall Road from
RSVP: 514-2023

Did you know that you were sort of, kind of, like a daisy?
Not just a daisy, but pretty much like any kind of plant. The ability to utilize and metabolize sunlight (and the resulting Vitamin D) isn’t just the territory of plants. Human beings can do it too! And not only can we do it, but we need to do it too for our health and well being.
You can get Vitamin D from the foods you eat. Deep cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel or fish oils are terrific sources.  So are mushrooms, beef liver and Swiss cheese. But being out and about on a sunny day, soaking up all those vitamins for free is a very cool idea.
The complex alchemy by which we transform the rays of el sol to Vitamin D has far-reaching effects that keep us strong and disease free.  A series of chemical reactions when sunlight hits our skin involving enzymes in the liver and kidneys is responsible for it all. (Read more.)
Remember too for all this to work you need some sunscreen free skin to come in contact with the sun’s rays. It doesn’t take much, and it doesn’t take too long either. Articles I’ve read say somewhere in the vicinity of 10 minutes or so—depending on where you live and how fair your skin is.  You don’t have to channel your inner Lady Godiva either.  Baring your arms or legs for a bit works just fine.
Most are aware of the link between sufficient Vitamin D and bone health and strength.  Health providers more frequently test women for adequate levels of the vitamin.  Here in the Northeast where sun is weak and grey skies frequent, I and many of my women friends are taking supplements to ensure our supplies are adequate to prevent osteopenia/osteoporosis.
Since Vitamin D is fat-soluble and can be stored in the body, there is a risk of overdose. Since the sunlight that helps us make Vitamin D also helps to break it down in the body, there’s a very small danger of overdoing it, except perhaps through over supplementation.  Signs of overdose are: nausea, vomiting, constipation, loss of appetite, heart rhythm abnormalities, and an increased risk of kidney stones
Besides bone health, sunlight is good for us in many, many other ways.  Here’s just a few:

  • Exposure to sunlight may aid in the prevention of cancers especially breast and colon.
  • Alzheimer’s patients experience less agitation, and nighttime wakefulness when exposed to full-spectrum light during the day and full darkness at night. As a matter of fact, sunlight exposure during regular waking hours increases sleep-inducing melatonin as the sun sets resulting in better quality sleep for all.
  • Sunlight may reduce the risk of developing MS, particularly if exposure happens in the first two decades of life.
  • It helps to clear psoriasis.
  • Sunlight is a mood elevator.  The brain produces more serotonin on sunny days than cloudy ones…..and this is a surprise???

So with summer in full swing, get out there and catch some rays. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you.

Once again, JFS NNORC is coordinating a day trip to Otsego Lake for lunch at the grand Otesago Hotel. This magnificent hotel occupies 700 feet of lakefront on the soutehr shore of Lake Otsego, the famed “Glimmerglass” of James Fenimore Cooper’s novels.
We will head home but NOT before visiting the Fly Creek Cider Mill for some wine-tasting and a visit to the gift shop and pastry shop.  It will be a day full of good food, fun and a little drink too.
This trip was one of our favorites last summer.  Don’t wait to sign up.  This trip will fill up fast.
When: Wednesday, August 21
Departure: 10:15 a.m. – St. Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Church, 440 Whitehall Rd., Albany
Cost: $45 for NNORC members and $49 for non-members

Did you know that you could get all the benefits of a yoga practice without having to get down on the floor?
Join us at St. Sophias for the last two sessions of this series. We will practice yoga postures (asanas), breathwork (pranayama) and relaxation (yoga nidra ) either seated in a chair, or standing with the chair for support. Our practice will include opportunities to build flexibility, balance and strength in a safe and non-stressful way.
Instructor: Judi England, RN, NNORC Nurse and Health Educator
What: Gentle Chair Yoga
Where: St. Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Church, 440 Whitehall Rd., Albany,
When: Tuesdays, 11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m., October 1, 8, 15 & 22
Please wear clothing comfortable for movement. Bring a water bottle.


Featuring Corey Ellis and Kathy Sheehan

Want to learn more about the potential candidates’ positions?

The landscape in Albany is changing. With the imminent retirement of Mayor Jerry Jennings, the City of Albany will have a new feel. Both Corey Ellis and Kathy Sheehan continue to vie for the Democratic Party backing in the Albany City mayoral race.
NNORC residents and neighbors will have a chance to have their questions about the future of Albany seniors and the City answered by potential mayoral candidates Corey Ellis and Kathy Sheehan.
Audience members can submit their questions at the beginning of the night, so come prepared to discuss what’s important to you: neighborhood violence; scams perpetrated on the elderly; property taxes; gun violence; unemployment; the Affordable Care Act and healthcare in Albany; and more. It should be a great night for the NNORC, for those who love politics and those who want to be part of Albany history.
DATE Wednesday, July 17, 2013
TIME 6:30 p.m. (Come early; seats fill up quickly.)
PLACE St. Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Church, 440 Whitehall Road, Albany, NY 12208
FEE Free

Days are longer and milder. Nothing like a good “stretch of the legs” to get your heart pumping, your lungs working, and your brain clear of those winter cobwebs.
Walking is great exercise. Walking in good company is even better.
Let’s get together once a week for a moderate walk and some easy conversation. We’ll begin gently with a ONE-MILE ROUND TRIP from the parking lot at St. Sophias’ Greek Orthodox Church, 440 Whitehall Road to the Sidney Albert Albany Jewish Community Center, 340 Whitehall Road, and back.
Depending on interest, we may finish our walk with a stop at Spinner’s Restaurant in Crestwood Plaza for refreshments.
WHAT A one-mile round-trip moderately paced walk along level terrain on Whitehall Road, Albany, New York
WHEN Monday evenings beginning June 3rd, 2013 at 5:30pm (Ongoing through the Fall)
WHY Because it feels good and is good for you too!
WHAT TO BRING/WEAR Water bottle. Comfortable clothing. Supportive, secure footwear. Dress for the weather, however, we will NOT WALK IN HEAVY RAIN.
RSVP We will leave the St. Sophias’ Parking lot promptly at 5:30 p.m. and would like to know if you are joining us. Call Judi England at the NNORC office to let me know if you are coming: 514 -2023.
And remember:…”The best form of exercise is the one that you will do!”

What a better way to recap the day than to do it with neighbors and friends over ice cream. That’s what seniors in the NNORC are doing.  Every Tuesday at 6:30 pm, from now until July 23rd, you’ll find our seniors sitting at the cottage-like ice cream parlor, surrounded by a white picket fence, bright lights, colorful walls, candies, chocolates and sprinkles. They’re talking about family, current events and good times gone by.
If you want to take a break and enjoy great company and a sweet bite, join us on Tuesday nights at Emack and Bolio’s.

Jerry_Ilene_Sykes_WebMore than 100 people helped raise more than $30,000 at Jewish Family Services’ Annual Celebration held on June 6, 2013 at Shabbos House, reported event chair Karen Setzen.
At the event Jerry and Ilene Sykes received the Anschel Weiss Community Builders Award, which bestows the agency’s highest honor for outstanding leadership and a commitment to improving the lives of adults, children and families in our community. See electronic photo album below.
Longtime friend Dick Kotlow gave remarks about the Sykes saying, “Their commitment to the community encompasses both the Jewish Community and many other organizations of the Greater Capital District.”
In accepting their award, Jerry Sykes said that he and Ilene learned generosity from their parents: “Ilene and I both grew up with parents who gave time, energy and money to support their synagogues as well as many other charitable causes in their communities and they always encouraged us to follow their lead.”
Ilene and Jerry owned and operated The Party Warehouse since 1989. During those 24 years, both through their business and personally, they enthusiastically supported many not for profit organizations throughout the Capital District.
In addition Ilene and Jerry served on numerous Boards of Directors. Ilene is Past President of the Sidney Albert Albany Jewish Community Center, Congregation Beth Emeth, and Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York. She is currently President of Hillel at the University of Albany and sits on several other boards. Jerry is Past President of the New York State Museum Institute and past Board member of Capital Repertory Theatre and Saint Anne’s Institute. He currently is on the Endowment Board of Governors of Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York and is a board member of the Daughters of Sarah Foundation and Shabbos House.
About Jewish Family Services
JFS provides compassionate, healing services that enrich the community and improve people’s lives. JFS services are infused with Jewish values and help strengthen individuals, families and our community.
Our highly skilled staff provides individualized care for children, teens, adults, older adults and families. We are a non-profit agency that provides services which help nearly 3,000 people each year, through counseling, court evaluations, anger management groups, supervised visitation and parenting services—plus a range of supportive and wellness services for seniors and their families. For more information on Jewish Family Services, please call 518-482-8856 or visit
Photo Credit: Brianna Melanson


There were audible gasps from the audience as Dr. Mark Pettus painted a picture of a country whose health and well-being was in poor shape, and getting worse.
On Monday, May 20th dozens of community members took part in an evening program that was both informative and engaging, as we explored how we are anything but “prisoners” of our DNA.  The lecture was part of the JFS Miriam Adler Family Life Education series, and took place at Congregation Beth Emeth.
By taking charge of our “environmental inputs” Dr. Pettus stressed that we can play an active role in determining whether helpful genes are “turned on”, or non-helpful ones are “turned off”.  Some of these environmental inputs include:

  • The foods you eat
  • The amount of movement you engage in
  • How you interpret and respond to stress in your life
  • Quality of sleep
  • Environmental toxin exposure
  • Love and social connection
  • Meaning in one’s love, work, and play
  • Medications

Dr. Pettus argues that understanding how our “Book of Life”—the genetic information we receive from our parents—interacts with our lifestyle we can make choices that greatly improve our chances for a healthier future. These choices matter, whether we are 6 or 60!
A lively period of questions and answer followed the presentation, indicating an eagerness to become more proactive health-wise.
Although the science of epigenetics is in its infancy, the principles clearly reflect common sense wisdom. Consider this Thomas Edison quote shared by Dr. Pettus:
“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest her or his patients in the care of the human frame, in a proper diet, and in
the cause and prevention of disease.”
For those  looking to learn more, Dr. Pettus shared his website: The site hold a host of articles related to epigenetics, nutrition, sleep, meditation/mindfulness and other aspects of health.  In his discussion of environmental toxins, Dr. Pettus suggested we check out the Environmental Working Group site ( as a helpful resource.
Here at JFS and the NNORC we continue to look for ways to improve the well-being of our community members. We welcome your suggestions for future programs and activities that would support these efforts. Please feel free to contact us at 514-2023 to share your ideas.