This year’s JFS Mensches & Mimosas virtual celebration honored 30 unsung heroes from the Capital Region, who were nominated by partner organizations from the Jewish community for their selfless dedication and leadership. As part of the celebration, Alan Iselin received the JFS Anschel Weiss Community Builders Award for serving humanity with humility.

The virtual celebration included pre-recorded videos of the Honorable Menschen who answered, “What inspires you to be a mensch?” Honorees shared inspiring tales of their organization’s members, leadership and of their volunteerism being passed down from their parents, “It was the Jewish values instilled in me as a child,” said Melanie Hecker from Congregation Ohav Shalom in Albany. Mark Koblenz from Daughters of Sarah Community for Seniors spoke about their mensch nominee Neil Manasse who embraces the organization’s core values: honoring your mother and father and performing acts of loving kindness. Ruth Facher Mendel (Congregation Beth Emeth) was interviewed by her daughter Lisa Finkle to whom Ruth passed down the tradition of serving.

Rabbi Scott Shpeen (Congregation Beth Emeth, Albany) presented Alan Iselin the JFS Anschel Weiss Community Builders Award commenting on Alan’s years of leadership in the Albany Jewish community, greater Capital Region and nationally. In accepting the award, Alan Iselin, a JFS board chair in 1966, said he is “dazzled” by the services at JFS and the breadth of their coverage. “This organization has grown, it has added services, and continues to be a wonderful [resource] for the community,” said Iselin.

Several JFS service recipients shared their gratitude to JFS. Rosyln Foote commended JFS Project 5 for giving for helping her maintain her independence by giving her private rides to appointments. Steve Lobel recounted how the JFS Senior Resource Network provided critical resources and support so that he and his sister could move their mother from Florida to Albany after some serious health issues. Lenore Kesten expressed her appreciation for receiving kosher home delivered meals, particularly because she can no longer prepare her own meals.

“Monies raised from Mensches & Mimosas help support and grow JFS services that are provided regardless of an individual’s ability to pay,” said JFS president & CEO Jane Ginsburg. “It is through the generous philanthropic support from our community that helps our programs, and in turn our community, thrive.” JFS support groups, grocery and meal delivery, and senior adult services are just some examples of programs that are provided at little or no cost to recipients.

Here’s where you can watch this year’s celebration:
Watch on the JFS YouTube Channel
Click this Screen

Many Thanks to Our “M&M” Supporters! View them here!

You can still support our honorable menschen and JFS.  Proceeds from this event help support and grow the free services we provide to our community.
  1. Click here to use our online form,
  2. Click here to print a pdf form, or
  3. Call JFS to process your credit card via phone: 518-482-8856
If you have any questions, please call Monica Tan at 518-516-1104 or email
 See a list of past Honorable Menschen here.
We are delighted to once again partner with our Jewish community institutions for our
3rd Annual Mensches & Mimosas, adding 30 more honorees to our group of unsung heroes!

Over the past two years, the annual JFS Mensches & Mimosas has recognized 49 honorable menschen from organizations throughout our region for selflessly giving their time, their passions, and their hard work to our community. 

As part of this celebration, we will present Alan Iselin with the JFS Anschel Weiss Community Builders Award for his commitment to serving humanity with humility and being a role model for future generations.

Here’s where you can watch this year’s celebration:
June 2, 2022
7:00 p.m. Mensches & Mimosas
6:55 p.m. Preshow
Watch on the JFS YouTube Channel
Watch on the JFS Facebook Page
Click this Screen

Many Thanks to Our “M&M” Supporters! View them here!

You can still support our honorable menschen and JFS.  Proceeds from this event help support and grow the free services we provide to our community.
  1. Click here to use our online form,
  2. Click here to print a pdf form, or
  3. Call JFS to process your credit card via phone: 518-482-8856
If you have any questions, please call Monica Tan at 518-516-1104 or email
 See a list of past Honorable Menschen here.

Alan Iselin is the recipient of this year’s Anschel Weiss Community Builders Award for his extensive and inspiring work as a pillar of the Albany Jewish community. Alan is an American hero and veteran, having served as Lieutenant JG in the United States Navy from 1943 to 1947. He then earned a Bachelor of Naval Science at the University of Colorado and later a Bachelor of Arts in Economics at the University of Miami.

In his professional and humanitarian life, Alan has had a long and diverse career. He worked for more than a quarter century as an investment management consultant for many high-profile foundations (Lehman Brothers, Bankers Trust Company of Albany, B.T. Capital Investment Group), earning him high accolades in New York State and beyond. Governor Mario Cuomo appointed Alan as Chairman of the SUNY Albany Council and appointed him as a member of the New York Holocaust Memorial Foundation.

Alan has been recognized and appointed to many roles by prominent local political figures, including Governor Hugh Carey; appointment to New York State Post Vietnam Coordination Committee by Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller; and appointment to the Board of Directors of the Albany Civic Auditorium by Mayor Erastus Corning. He has also served as a chairman in innumerable other institutions, such as: the Hebrew Union College Board of Governors; the College of Saint Rose Friends Annual Campaign; United Way of Northeastern New York; United Jewish Appeal; the Cerebral Palsy telethon; the Palace Theater of Performing Arts; St. Peter’s Hospital Board of Trustees; and more. He has served on the executive boards of a wide variety of organizations, including Jewish Family Services (President), the Albany Chamber of Commerce (VP), Blue Cross-Blue Shield (Director), Congregation Beth Emeth (President), Mercy Care Corp. (Board of Directors), and many more.

With his many accolades and achievements, Alan’s greatest sense of pride comes from his loving family. He was married to his dear wife, Barbara Hellman, for more than sixty years, and together they raised children Gayle, Harold, Linda, and Joanne. His 10 grandchildren are his joy and pride.

Past recipients of the Anschel Weiss Community Builders Award Herm Ungerman, David Alan Miller, Jean Becker, Amy Klein, Fred Erlich, Mara Ginsberg, Chanie Simon, Rabbi Beverly Magidson, The Golub Family, Jerry & Ilene Sykes, Michael Castellana, Steve Lobel, Morris and Esther Massry, Dr. Mark Sullivan and Representative Michael McNulty.

A photo of Ruth Pelham

Ruth Pelham is one of America’s greatest songwriters . . . and an even better community organizer.”  -Pete Seeger, legendary folksinger and activist

Come join singer and community organizer Ruth Pelham on Wednesday May 11 at 1:00 p.m. at B’nai Sholom Congregation at 420 Whitehall Road in Albany for NNORC’S annual Older American’s Month event. This year’s event theme is “Age My Way.” As the first in-person event that NNORC will host since the onset of COVID two years ago, all NNORC residents are welcome and masks are encouraged. 

 Ruth Pelham is a familiar presence in the NNORC community through the many workshops she’s presented through the years and the original songs she’s composed, like “Remember Well,” “Engage at Any Age,” “A Taste of My Childhood Delights,” and “Turn On the Light of Love.”  Ruth’s songs are full of warmth and wit, are easy to learn and sing along with, and they embrace themes that are poignant and relevant in these challenging times. 

 For the “Age My Way” event, Ruth will invite participants to join her in singing and chatting about how we can age in our own way. This may include remaining in our homes, supporting each other as friends and chosen family, contributing our time and talents to the enrichment of our communities, and so much more. As is always a part of Ruth’s presentations, participants will also join in a hands-on activity that catalyzes individual expressions of creativity and fosters group connection and friendship.  

 For the May 11th workshop, Ruth has composed a new song called “Age My Way” that features an upbeat melody and words that affirm elder power and camaraderie. About the goals for the workshop, Ruth says, “The negative effects of ageism often echo through self-images and societal expectations that do not correspond to how we truly want our lives to be. This workshop will give voice to discovering and naming our strengths, and to casting off the messages and habits that are barriers to us each living fully.” 

To register for this program, please call 518-514-2023 or email

 Ruth Pelham lives in Albany, NY where, since 1977, she has been the founder and director of Music Mobile whose concerts, residencies, workshops, special initiatives, and international cultural exchange projects have impacted the lives of generations of Capital Region residents. Ruth is currently working on “The Music Mobile Legacy Project” that will tell the story of Music Mobile and its long history of building peaceful communities through music, learning, and community engagement.  

 Note: Ruth will be performing two concerts for children and families at the Albany Tulip Festival on Saturday, May 7 and Sunday, May 8 at the Kid Zone Stage. Concerts are free and will take place from 3:30 – 4:00 pm and 5:30 – 6:00 p.m. on both days. 


The JFS Caring for Aging parents panel provided vital information to a growing segment of the community who are now in a caregiver role.

On Tuesday, April 5th, over 50 people attended the virtual panel discussion that featured an author who wrote a book about caring for her own aging parent (BJ Rosenfeld), dispute and mediation specialist (Alice Rudnick), an occupational therapist who specializes in aging safely at home (Lynda Shrager, OTR, MSW, CAPS), a clinical social worker (Tara Hempel, LCSW-R). The latter two are part of the staff of experts at JFS who specialize in working with seniors, adults and families who are coping with life transitions.

The panel answered dozens of questions submitted by participants from accessing resources for a parent who lives in another state to having difficult conversations with aging parents to finding balance and managing stress when adult children are caring for their parents and their own families.

Clearly, the number of people who are in a caregiver role is expanding and the need for supportive services and helpful information grows in tandem. JFS will continuing to assist those caregivers and seniors as we work to enrich the lives of individuals and the community through compassionate and collaborative human services.

The Zoom presentation can be viewed here.

If you are a caregiver and need resources and support, please contact the JFS Senior Resource Network or the JFS clinical team.

JFS NENY is delighted to partner with Jewish Family Service Houston (JFS) Alexander Institute for Inclusion which shines a light on the lives and aspirations of individuals with disabilities in Houston and beyond. They seek to lower stigmas and increase access for individuals with disabilities in the workplace, places of faith and communal organizations through direct service, education, arts and advocacy.  

This February is JFS Houston’s 10th annual ReelAbilities Houston Film & Arts Festival, which brings an array of virtual programs that promotes inclusion and celebrates the lives, stories and talents of people with disabilities, making an impact that lasts far beyond the Festival. The timing of this festival is beshert – coinciding with Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance & Inclusion Month.  

JFS Houston is graciously giving JFS NENY full access to the virtual portions of ReelAbilities Film Festival, including the opening event on February 15th with a special JFS access code (a $10 value)! 

Beyond the initial two programs, the 12 streaming films from February 16 to 24 provide an intimate and educational view into various disabilities including hearing loss, ALS, cerebral palsy, mental health conditions and more. These feature-length, narrative, and documentary films can be an excellent tool for the workplace or classroom to enhance awareness of people with disabilities. 

Below is the full roster of virtual events and here is a link to the event brochure.

UP Abilities—An Extraordinary Evening with Extraordinary Speakers

February 15, 7:00-9:00 PM CST
Featured speakers for the evening include: 

  • Josh Blue, a comedian with Cerebral palsy who finished third in the last season of America’s Got Talent;  
  • Christine Ha, the first-ever blind contestant and season 3 winner of the competitive amateur cooking television show “MasterChef”; and  
  • Mike Veny, a mental health expert focused on building emotional wellness. 

Use the promo code JFSNENY to attend this event for free. (Tickets are normally $10.) 

Click here for registration. 


February 17, 12:00-1:00 PM CST
Meg O’Connell, CEO & Founder, Global Disability Inclusion, and Peter Rutigliano, Managing Director – Data Analytics, Mercer-Sirota will present their first analysis of new data from a multi-year study of more than 3 million employees and explore the intersection of gender, race, age and disability. This is an opportunity to enhance DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) efforts by learning how to engage—and attract—employees with disabilities. The event is free to attend. 

Registration and additional speaker information is here   


February 20, 21, 22 and 24 from 7:00-8:00 PM CST 

Each evening, there will be a virtual, hosted discussion around a variety of films depicting various disabilities, ranging from ALS to hearing loss to mental health conditions.  

Here is a link to watch a film and register for the discussion.

On Demand ReelFilm

February 16-24  

During this time, participants can have on demand access to a catalog of free, streaming feature-length, narrative, and documentary films covering a variety of disabilities such as traumatic brain injury, hearing loss, dating with a disability, Alzheimer’s, blindness, and so much more. All films are captioned and audio-described.  

Here is the link to the full catalog of films. 

Dr. Rela Mintz Geffen z”l dedicated her life’s work to serving the Jewish community through education and building understanding. In her honor, on the third anniversary of her passing, her sons Uri Zvi Monson and Rabbi Amiel Tuvia Monson have created the DR. RELA MINTZ GEFFEN JEWISH COMMUNITY CHAPLAINCY FUND to provide spiritual connection and support for Jewish residents in Capital Region long-term and elder care facilities and their families served by Jewish Family Services of Northeastern New York (JFS). 

Dr. Geffen was born in the city of Troy, NY and passed away on February 3rd, 2019. She was a renowned Jewish Sociologist, former President of Baltimore Hebrew University, and Dean and Professor at Gratz College in Philadelphia. A prolific writer and lecturer, she thrived on being a Jewish resource and educator. She was an enthusiastic champion of both her own work and her students’, sharing in their proud accomplishments – both personal and professional. In her final years, she was dedicated to the study of Jewish grandparenting and the role of the Aging Population in American Jewry.  

 The Community Chaplaincy Program of JFS focuses on meeting the spiritual needs of aging residents, primarily in long-term care facilities. The breadth of services includes: 

  • Providing pastoral care and counseling; 
  • Visiting with individuals who are otherwise unaffiliated, isolated and disconnected from Jewish life; 
  • Providing programming on Jewish topics; 
  • Consultation/education with facility staff on Jewish traditions, holiday preparations and dietary guidelines to help them become more culturally sensitive to Jewish residents and their needs; and 
  • Collaboration with Jewish and non-Jewish professionals in the community. 

 The DR. RELA MINTZ GEFFEN JEWISH COMMUNITY CHAPLAINCY FUND of JFS will ensure that funds are available for programs and supplies for the benefit of the Jewish aging community in the Capital District of NY. Through the fund, the Chaplaincy program will provide: 

  • Sabbath and holiday foods, meals and related gifts to regional long-term care residents 
  • Supplies for ritual and holiday observances  
  • Large print prayer books: machzorim (high holiday prayer books), haggadot (Passover books), and siddurim (prayer books) 
  • Funeral and Shiva mourner’s companion books and special resources to provide comfort to those who are in mourning). 
  • Special programming and expansion of the virtual capacity to broadcast Chaplaincy programs 

The DR. RELA MINTZ GEFFEN JEWISH COMMUNITY CHAPLAINCY FUND of JFS is a fitting tribute to Dr. Geffen’s life and legacy. All gifts earmarked for this fund will enable the Chaplain to continue to expand the program’s role and reach, providing more resources to older adults and the facilities in which they reside. 

To learn more about named funds and bequests, please contact Jane Ginsburg at JFS:

JFS is proud to announce the receipt of a $250K bequest from the estate of Alvin Brown, the single largest one-time gift in the agency’s history. The funds were put in an endowment which will provide vital support for the many programs and services of the agency which serves people of all ages.

When asked about why Alvin Brown listed JFS in his bequest, his son David said, “My dad recognized the good that JFS does locally. Growing up in a very conservative Jewish faith, traditions meant a lot to him, including the tradition of giving. It gave my dad a warm sense of helping the Jewish community.”

JFS is grateful for this significant bequest. “Alvin Brown was a longtime and significant supporter of JFS. He was sure to let me know that he had included JFS in his estate planning as he wanted his support to continue in perpetuity. Legacy planning and giving such as this are so important for JFS and help sustain our organization for years to come,” said Jane Ginsburg, JFS President and CEO.

JFS welcomes the opportunity to speak with families about ways they can continue to support the agency beyond their lifetime. There are many types of bequests and no minimum amount for a gift. Every dollar helps JFS continue their mission. Please contact Jane Ginsburg at 518-516-1101 or about this and other ways you can support JFS.

Since 1854, Jewish Family Services (JFS) has been continuously providing a continuum of support, services and resources for individuals and families of all ages and backgrounds. Our programs and services range from counseling to guidance for those aging in place to assistance for those facing food or financial insecurity – and so much more. Their mission is to enrich the lives of individuals, families, and the community by providing compassionate, collaborative human services, guided by Jewish values. For more information visit

Thanks to the generosity of legacy donors, Jewish Family Services of Northeastern New York was able to award five scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students scholarships to help with their college-related expenses. To be considered for a scholarship, applicants were asked to write a brief essay on their understanding of Jewish Family Services’ impact on the community and suggest innovative ways for college-aged people to support JFS’s mission to serve those in need.

The 2021-22 Awardees:


SARAH BEARDEN was awarded $2,000 from the Hessberg Trust. She is a freshman at Columbia University studying Civil Engineering.

DAVID BERIN received $1,000 from the JFS Combined Scholarship Fund*. Hailing from Bethlehem, he is currently a freshman at UCLA.

ELIJAH FERET was awarded $1,000 from the David and Rose Udelson Bray Scholarship Fund. A member of Agudat Achim in Schenectady, he is a sophomore at Catholic University of America studying Biomedical Engineering on the premed track.

DANIEL GULKO received $1,000 from the David and Rose Udelson Bray Scholarship Fund. He is in the MD program at Albany Medical College and is interested in studying Neurology.

SHIRLY TSUR-MAGEN received $1,000 from the JFS Combined Scholarship Fund*. She is a former JFS intern and is working towards a Master’s in Social Work at the University at Albany, SUNY.


“Leaving a legacy can be done in many ways. It is particularly special to leave a portion of a person’s estate to a charitable organization for the good use of the organization and related uses, said Jane Ginsburg, president & CEO at JFS. “We are honored to steward planned gifts from donors who established scholarships in their Wills for the organization to distribute.”