Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center in Los Gatos was selected as one of several JCCs nationally to pilot Project Welcome Home, a JCC Association initiative meant to educate them to better assist U.S. service men and women and their families and to engage with their communities.The
The project, which will be steered by JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, a program of JCC Association, incorporates the needs of veterans, their families and caregivers, as it helps ease their way back into community.
The initial training was held last week in New York City, and included input from the Department of Veterans Affairs and a presentation by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).
“Project Welcome Home is a chance for the JCC to express our appreciation to those who served this country, and to support returning veterans and their families as they transition home after deployment,” said Rabbi James Greene, the JCC’s Program Director.
“It is an embodiment of our most important values. It is our chance to say thank you. We hope that through PWH, the JCC will become a hub for recent veterans seeking community.”
The Addison-Penzak JCC was among six JCCS across the country to pilot the program,and also include JCC of Northern Virginia; Barshop JCC in San Antonio, Texas; Kahn JCC in Columbia, South Carolina; JCC Chicago; and Robert E. Loup JCC of Denver,Colorado.
These six represent a cross-section of JCCs by size and location.
The Addison-Penzak JCC has agreed to offer membership incentives to returning veterans and their family members, ranging from free or reduced membership to discounts on early childhood programs and day camp.
They have also agreed to be part of intensive training regarding the needs of veterans and their families and will have staff dedicated to working with them.
They will create programming that highlights the service of Jewish men and women in the military, engage leadership skills that veterans possess,and include them in ongoing educational projects.
Project Welcome Home also recognizes the needs of caregivers and will educate the JCCs to coordinate with community organizations to engage in activities such as providing respite opportunities. They will work to remove barriers to community engagement that isolates caregivers and those they care for.
“We feel it’s important to participate in this program because we need to honor our veterans,” said Nate Stein, CEO of the Addison-Penzak JCC.
“They’ve put their lives on the line for the freedom we enjoy in this country. By assisting veterans and their families,we’re fulfilling the Jewish value of tikkun olam, repairing the world.”
JWB Jewish Chaplains Council is the first Jewish organization to work with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation in a coalition of public, private, non-profit and faith-based groups addressing the unmet needs of veterans and their caregivers.
In early April, the Dole Foundation released results from a RAND Corporation study that found military caregivers struggling to shoulder enormous responsibility caring for wounded servicemembers.
The coalition hopes to address these needs, and has cited Project Welcome Home as providing a template for other organizations wishing to do so.
"I am truly grateful that these six JCC's have stepped forward to receive training on how to incorporate caregivers into their veteran reintegration programs. There is suchwonderful potential for this new resource to uplift caregivers in these communities and,in time, serve as a model for communities across our nation," said Sen. Elizabeth Dole.
"As the first Jewish organization to join our national coalition, and one of the first communities of faith to pledge its support to our military and veteran caregivers, JWB Jewish Chaplains Council has shown tremendous leadership and commitment to these hidden heroes. I look forward to the difference we can make on this critical issue together."
Information provided by Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center of Silicon Valley