Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Northern New Jersey (JFCSNNJ) is an invaluable asset to local Teaneck residents and the broader Bergen County community. In a trying society, JFCS helps enhance the well-being of all who call upon them by providing professional and compassionate human services, helping adults and children meet life’s many challenges. JFCS recently underwent a merger combining JFCS Bergen with JFCS North Jersey. JFCS CEO Susan Greenbaum received her MSW from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University in 1978. It turns out that two senior clinicians,
Debbie Fox from the Teaneck
agency and Ellen Masnaghetti from the Wayne agency, are also graduates of the Wurzweiler class of 1978.
“I find this all to be an incredible coincidence. First, when I came on board at JFCS Bergen, almost four years ago, it was interesting that I was working with Debbie Fox, whom I had met years ago when I came to Teaneck with my family and with whom I discovered that we had gotten our MSWs together at Wurzweiler even though we never knew each other then. But then, when JFCS Bergen merged with JFCS North Jersey a year ago, and I was introducing myself to my new staff in Wayne, I discovered that Ellen Masnaghetti, another clinician in our newly formed agency, also graduated with her MSW from Wurzweiler in our year. What are the odds? We could not be more different, each of us from the other, but it is clear now, almost 40 years later, that our Wurzweiler training was impeccable and it produced professionals who were empowered to pursue very productive, yet very different paths, and somehow, we came together in this remarkable organization,” said Greenbaum.
It is evident from the achievements of these three women, all pillars of JFCS, that their education at Wurzweiler provided the foundation for a comprehensive and successful career in social work. JFCS is based on Jewish tradition and values, something it shares with Yeshiva University, a nucleus of the global Jewish community.
Masnaghetti, who is retiring after 25 years of service at JFCS, began her career with the agency in 1993, primarily working with seniors. From there her responsibilities expanded to other areas. Most recently she has been working with a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor whose aunt was one of her first clients at the agency. “After 25 years it feels as though I have had some sort of contact with everyone in the area, be it through a family member, friend or neighbor. It has always been very flattering to have gotten calls from clients who were referred by previous clients of long ago,” commented Masnaghetti. She has counseled countless numbers of people, in many cases two generations within one family. Seeing people who are struggling and facilitating their recovery is extremely gratifying, she shared.
She was born and raised in Fort Lee, and when asked why she chose Wurzweiler, she explained that she was a mere 20 years old upon completing her undergraduate studies and Wurzweiler was the only program accepting applicants under 21 years of age. Though she enrolled by default, she credits much of her professional success to the education received at the Yeshiva University program.
Masnaghetti described working at JFCS as an extremely positive experience. She has always felt surrounded by hard-working, dedicated colleagues, truly committed to each and every person who needed help. “I have been asked, on no small number of occasions, why I have stayed at the agency so long. Always I have replied that working at JFCS has given me the opportunity to work in a profession I have loved, in an atmosphere that was supportive, professionally forward thinking, and felt like ‘home,’” she expressed.
Debbie Fox, senior clinician at the Teaneck location, has been with JFCSNNJ for 20 years and has witnessed tremendous development within the agency. The recent merger has brought with it many upgrades to the agency as well as an overall feeling of progression and growth among staff members, she said. One thing Fox emphasized is the teamwork that exists at JFCS. In many cases there are families in distress with multiple members in need of counseling. At JFCS, a group of clinicians will be assigned to a specific family and can collaborate as a team to create the best overall treatment plan.
Fox always wanted to pursue a career in social work. As a young girl, she read an article in Seventeen Magazine about a play therapist and she said she knew that was the type of occupation that suited her. She recalls having one teacher for both years at Wurzweiler who truly shaped her career. “To this day I occasionally think of her and what she would do in certain situations,” said Fox. “She really formed me as a social worker.” She went on to say that the staff at JFCS sincerely care about their clients. They are invested in each individual’s well-being.
JFCS is a non-profit organization, and like most non-profits, JFCS requires funding to offer services to the ever-growing number of individuals who seek help. JFCS offers patrons clinical services, employment services, senior care, afterschool programs, aid and advocacy and emergency financial assistance. Many of the people who turn to JFCS are members of our community who need support, and JFCS responds to anybody who calls upon them for assistance. The tremendous number of services provided to local families provided support that is immeasurable. To learn more about JFCS go to www.JFCSNNJ.org.
By Andrea Nissel