I Have a Deep Understanding About the Complexities of Families.

Philadelphia Business Journal Executive Profiles

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 1.00.16 PMWhat’s the mission of Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia? To strengthen families and individuals across generations and cultures to achieve stability, independence and community.

How many lives, would you guess, your organization affects each year? Over 20,000.JFCS has been around in one form or another for 160 years. That’s a long time. How did it start out?
We began in 1855 as the first Jewish orphanage In North America, started by Rebecca Gratz.

You have a history of working with the Jewish community for more than 30 years, what about your work most intrigues you? How strong a pull people have to seeking help at times of crisis from the Jewish community.

You began at JFCS as a social worker, which of your attributes most contributed to you rising to be the first female in charge? I think it was a combination of being a strong communicator as well as my passion for the organization.

How does being a mother and grandmother help you in your work? I think I have a deep sense of compassion and understanding about the complexity of families coupled with a good sense of humor about parenting ones children. I love my role as mother and grandmother.

A significant part of JFCS’ work involves adoptions. How is the Open Arms adoption program structured, how’s it work? We’ve been doing adoptions since 1855. Open Arms a revision of our adoption service began about 10 years ago with a focus on open adoption and Intensive work with birthmothers as well as prospective adoptive families.

You’ve had a fair measure of success with adoptions, right? We have happily. Wwe do about 35 adoptions a year and work with over 100 birthmoms each year. We’ve expanded service to New Jersey, New York and Delaware.

Where and how does JFCS, with a budget between $10 million and $13 million, get its funding? It is a $13.5 million budget. We receive funding from the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the city of Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services, the Department of Behavioral Health, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Conference on Material Claims Against Germany, fee for services, many family foundations, and so many very generous donors.

Where would you like to see JFCS in 10 years, any big changes? 1. with a strong leadership team, 2. with strong and continued diversified funding 3. as a provider of choice for the community, 4. an organization that has embraced the “big tent” concept, a place of safe and culturally sensitive services for the whole Jewish community. 5. an organization that has continued tremendous impact on those that we serve.

Let’s shift gears a bit. We know you love what you do but if you HAD to have a totally different career what would you like it to be? I think I would love to run a bed and breakfast. It would encompass my love of people and my enjoyment of cooking and entertaining.

What are your favorite things to do with your grandchildren? I love being at the beach with my grandchildren at a time of day when the beach is empty and they can run free. I love cooking with them, and taking them to fun places that kids enjoy.

You love to cook and make a mean challah, do you have a favorite dish? I don’t have one favorite dish but my favorite foods are hearty meals like beef stew, chili, and lasagna.
What’s you favorite vacation spot? I love being at the beach with my husband and family. It is the only place that I really relax.

We also love to go to Israel to visit our daughter who lives there.

Is there any place you haven’t been but would love to visit one day? Oh, so many places. I would love to go to Spain and Portugal. I’ve been to London and Italy and love going to Europe because of the history, culture and food! I’d also love to go to Ireland, my parents said it was the most beautiful place ever.

If you could spend a day conversing with one person, living or dead, who would it be? It might be Eleanor Roosevelt. Her story, particularly the difficult childhood, that how she still became such a strong female leader fascinates me. She was a very complex person. I’ve always been interested in her and so many others where there Is a great story.

You’re a big movie fan, let’s talk about that. What’s the most romantic movie you’ve ever seen? I would have to say Pride and Prejudice. I am a huge fan of British movies/stories and classics.
Was there a movie that everybody seemed to like but just didn’t do it for you? I would say Babel with Brad Pitt. Most people loved it and as a parent I was horrified. The parents travel without their kids and the mom gets kidnapped in the Middle East. I almost had to leave before it was over.
If you had to pick two movies that were your all-time favorites, which would they be? Parenthood was one with Steve Martin, so funny, so on target and purely relatable. Most recently The Theory of Everything, an Oscar winner. I loved it.

And last, they are making a movie called The Paula Goldstein Story. What period of your life should it focus on and which actor would play you? Really tough question … but I would say that I would focus on this time in my life now, a time where I have lived a significant portion of my life, I have attained more wisdom and I feel I have the most to give back as I am gratified to see my children become adults — and they are all so interesting and different — as I can enjoy my grandchildren — there is nothing like it — and where I can serve as a leader to my colleagues at JFCS and in the larger community. It’s a good time in life. What actor should play me? I would have to say a combination of Ellen DeGeneres and Mary Steenburgen. Why? Sense of humor coupled with true grace.