Moving Forward Together


Apr 12 2023

Border Report

JFS is condemning President Joe Biden’s new expedited asylum plan for migrants at the southern border as “inexcusable and horrific.” The policy is a revival of two Trump-era policies known as Prompt Asylum Claim Review (PACR) and Humanitarian Asylum Review Process (HARP). Under the new plan, I.C.E. officers will screen migrants in custody, instead of Border Patrol agents. JFS says the plan will require migrants “to be detained in horrific conditions that no one, especially vulnerable populations fleeing from violence and persecution, should ever have to experience.” JFS cites “freezing temperatures, contaminated drinking water, and lack of food — conditions that have yet to improve, despite Biden Administration promises.”

Apr 10 2023

The San Diego Union-Tribune

JFS’s College Avenue Center has resumed its weekday schedule of socialization, educational programming, and nutrition for older adults at Temple Emanu-El, a Synagogue in Del Cerro. The center had been on hiatus for three years, and community members are happy to re-engage with friends. “As the pandemic changed,” said Kristine Stensberg, JFS senior director of Aging Service, “we heard daily from older adults how much they missed the community connection at the center.” The center offers a variety of programming including exercise classes, educational programming, and music appreciation along with a hot, healthy lunch planned by JFS’s dietician. Some participants use JFS’s free On the Go transportation to travel back and forth to the popular center. View the page in the print edition of The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Apr 1 2023

L'Chaim Magazine

Retired Sheriff’s Commander Dave Myers has been named director of safety and security for Jewish Family Service of San Diego and will oversee security protocols for all JFS programs and services. “The safety of our community has always been a top priority,” said JFS CEO Michael Hopkins. With more than 35 years in law enforcement, Myers worked his way up the ranks from patrol deputy to Commander and ran for San Diego County Sheriff in 2018. Myers has received multiple awards, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Excellence in Law Enforcement Research Gold Award. He established the Sheriff’s Department Youth Advisory Group, was board president of Barrio Logan’s YES Program, and was twice elected chairman of the board of the San Diego County Employees’ Retirement Association. Story on page 28.

Mar 28 2023

The New York Times

The Biden administration’s tough new border policies have created a dangerous bottleneck in border towns, with Mexican shelters reporting massive overcrowding and increasingly desperate conditions involving tens of thousands of people. The policies have sharply reduced the number of migrants crossing into the U.S. “The number of people in our care has been halved since the start of the year,” said Kate Clark, senior director of immigration services for Jewish Family Service of San Diego, which operates the SDRRN migrant shelter.

Mar 27 2023

San Diego Business Journal (SDBJ)

The San Diego Business Journal has named JFS CFO Bernadette Griggs as the 2023 CFO of the Year in the Nonprofit Organization category. Since joining JFS in 2018, Briggs has played a pivotal role in helping JFS adapt, revise, and expand services to provide critical assistance to our community.

Mar 22 2023

eJewish Philanthropy

One in five American Jewish households are financially insecure, according to a statistic quoted by Rachel Sumekh at a recent Jewish Funders Network conference. Sumekh is the new project executive for JFN’s National Affinity Group on Jewish Poverty and is working to increase education around Jewish poverty and mobilize JFN’s members to address it. In addition to deepening education for funders, Sumekh says the affinity group is “also working to lift up the work of the amazing community organizations,” including Jewish Family Service. In San Diego, JFS has partnered with San Diego for Every Child to launch the region’s first guaranteed income project, with the goal of significantly reducing the experience of child poverty and lifting families out of poverty. “I think there’s a really important moment in time right now,” Sumekh said, “for us to really raise the people’s recognition of how much people are barely making it day by day.”

Mar 17 2023

East County Magazine

A federal court has largely denied the Biden administration’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought JFS and the Immigrant Defenders Law Center on behalf of thousands of asylum seekers who have been stranded outside the United States because of the “Remain in Mexico” program. JFS is praising the judge’s decision. “Asylum seekers should have access to protection in the U.S.,” says Luis Gonzales, JFS Directing Attorney for Immigration Defense, “instead of being left in perilous situations across the border when they are already fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries. We must get back to centering humanity.”

Mar 5 2023

Times of San Diego

The Senior Gleaners of San Diego County is looking for volunteers to help harvest unwanted citrus fruit from thousands of local trees. The fruit, which would otherwise go wasted, is sent to a network of nonprofits that feed thousands of people. “We are almost through with the tangerines, now come the lemons and oranges,” said Margaret Burton, president of the group.

Feb 23 2023

Times of San Diego

The San Diego Rapid Response Network (SDRRN), a coalition of humanitarian organizations led by Jewish Family Service, is condemning a new Biden Administration proposal that will deport asylum seekers who enter the country illegally, or who did not first seek protection in the countries they passed through. “What the administration has announced today is essentially an asylum ban — a reprehensible step backwards,” the coalition said. “Asylum seekers are not the enemy; our broken immigration system is.”

Feb 20 2023

The San Diego Union-Tribune

The State of California will begin phasing out financial support for migrant medical screening centers including the San Diego Rapid Response Network Migrant Shelter Services, which is operated by Jewish Family Service. The shelters provide medical screenings, along with COVID testing and vaccinations for migrants seeking asylum. Governor Gavin Newsom says the state can no longer afford to contribute and that he is lobbying the Biden administration to increase aid. “We’re continuing our operations and again calling on all levels of government to make sure that there is an investment,” says Kate Clark, senior director of immigration services for Jewish Family Service of San Diego.

Feb 18 2023

The San Diego Union-Tribune

The film “Seeking Asylum: A Mother’s Journey” is available on Amazon, iTunes and other platforms beginning Feb. 21. As Kate Morrissey reports, filmmakers Rae Ceretto and Kelly Scott initially had to call JFS’s immigration attorneys for guidance in order to understand the complexities of the case. JFS attorneys subsequently decided to represent the woman, who was obligated to stay in Mexico while her case was making its way through the courts, but was released in America when the border was closed by the pandemic.

Feb 7 2023

FOX 5, ABC 10 News, Times of San Diego, Border News, Voice of San Diego

In a unanimous vote, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a comprehensive plan sponsored by Chairwoman Nora Vargas and Supervisor Joel Anderson to ensure that asylum seekers and refugees have access to the resources they need if federal enforcement of Title 42 is ended. The Rapid Response Network, operated by JFS, has welcomed 125,000 asylum seekers since 2018. “Let’s put politics aside,” JFS CEO Michael Hopkins told the Supervisors, “and get back to what matters: Treating people with dignity and humanity.”

Feb 6 2023

The San Diego Union-Tribune

Ashley Frez-Clark, director of the SDRRN Migrant Shelter Services operated by Jewish Family Service, says government officials need to create solutions to support asylum seekers in the US. “The immigration system and its policies for seeking asylum continue to change,” she says, “without consideration of the impact on those needing asylum and the legal and humanitarian organizations supporting them.”

Feb 6 2023

The San Diego Union-Tribune

JFS’ directing attorney for immigrant legal defense and cross-border projects Luis Gonzales provides pro-bono legal representation for asylum-seekers, many of whom have stories he calls heartbreaking and horrifying. He criticizes the politicization of immigration courts, saying “It is a shameful time for a country that’s entire foundation is rooted in immigration, welcoming and diversity.”

Feb 5 2023

The San Diego Union-Tribune

Two local leaders on the Steering Committee of the San Diego Rapid Response Network are urging the County Board of Supervisors to support a proposal to provide needed resources for asylum seekers and refugees. Norma Chávez-Peterson, Executive Director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, and David Garcias, the former president of SEIU Local 221, are urging the Board of Supervisors to support the bipartisan response plan – sponsored by Supervisors Nora Vargas (a Democrat) and Joel Anderson (a Republican) – at the meeting on Tuesday, February 7.

Feb 3 2023

The San Diego Union-Tribune

Monica Garcia describes her ordeal fleeing her hometown of Colima, Mexico to escape her gun-obsessed husband’s violent attacks and death threats. Monica and her four children are being represented by Luis Gonzales, JFS directing attorney for immigrant legal defense and cross-border projects, and are living in temporary housing in San Diego.

Jan 25 2023

San Diego Jewish World

JFS CEO Michael Hopkins, along with several other members of the San Diego Jewish community, testified in front of The San Diego County Board of Supervisors as they considered a proposal to provide a venue for a Holocaust exhibit focusing on Survivors who have settled in San Diego County. Hopkins stated that JFS staff “compassionately cares for Holocaust Survivors throughout San Diego to assure that they age with dignity and with their health, independence and connection to our community.” He noted the growing number of antisemitic incidents throughout the country, saying many Survivors now face challenges that can trigger memories of traumatic experiences. He expressed the hope that the Holocaust Remembrance exhibit will “bring attention to what can happen when antisemitism goes unchecked.” The Supervisors voted unanimously in favor of the exhibit, and to provide $25,000 in funding. The proposal was introduced by Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who called the exhibit “a commitment of us to stand against Holocaust denial and to stand against the spread of hate speech and disinformation.”

Jan 24 2023

Times of San Diego

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the creation of a Holocaust remembrance exhibit on county property Tuesday. Supervisors directed Helen Robbins-Meyer, chief administrative officer, to work with the Jewish Federation of San Diego on finding a location for the exhibit. Michael Hopkins, CEO of Jewish Family Services, said his organization “compassionately cares for Holocaust survivors,” who lived through one of the darkest periods in human history. He added that “lessons of recent years have taught us that it’s not enough to react — if we are not proactive against these forces that hurt and harm, they will continue to injure and even become deadly.”

Jan 24 2023

NBC 7 San Diego

The County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the creation of a Holocaust remembrance exhibit on county property and approved funding for the Jewish Federation to develop the year-long exhibit. Several community leaders spoke in support of the proposal, which was sponsored by Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, including JFS CEO Michael Hopkins. Supervisors were told that a memorial is especially important in light of recent attacks. “Lessons of recent years have taught us that it is not enough to react,” Hopkins said. “If we are not proactive against these forces that hurt and harm, they will continue to injure and become deadly.” JFS compassionately cares for about 400 Holocaust Survivors in San Diego County. Once a site is selected, the exhibit isexpected to open on April 17.

Jan 13 2023

The American Prospect

It’s the mayors who have stepped up as the leading problem solvers struggling with a genuine conundrum: What should an effective response to migrant issues look like for the affected cities and towns? A national coordination plan that designates a federal agency or a federally designated nonprofit with strong communications lines into specific cities and towns to handle arrivals’ needs once they are discharged would alleviate some of the chaos. For solutions to short-term emergencies, immigration advocates point to one San Diego organization as a leader in adapting its frameworks to handle the shifting demands of asylum seekers. Naomi Steinberg, an immigration advocate, has called the San Diego Rapid Response Network Migrant Shelter Services operated by Jewish Family Service of San Diego as “the gold standard” and told The San Diego Union-Tribune, “They have really shown organizations around the country how it can be done and how it should be done.”

Jan 11 2023

Voice of San Diego

The Vista City Council early this week approved a safe parking lot for people living in their vehicles. It’s the first of its kind for the city and the second in North County. The lot will be operated by Jewish Family Service of San Diego and is part of their Safe Parking Program. In addition to providing a safe overnight environment, JFS case managers will be on-site to help connect people with stable housing options. “We’re able to intervene and deliver services before folks experience further decline into the spiral of homelessness,” says JFS’ chief of staff Chris Olsen, who is expecting a high demand for the Vista lot. “Based on our experience operating the program in Encinitas, there’s definitely a strong need in North County,” he said.

Dec 30 2022

The San Diego Union-Tribune

Dana Toppel, Chief Operating Officer at Jewish Family Service, serves as a community board advisor for The San Diego Union-Tribune. She has a new year’s resolution for everyone, let’s be intentional about how we communicate with teens about mental health. As suicide rates continue to rise, we all can make a difference by reaching out to the teens we know.

Dec 28 2022

The San Diego Union-Tribune

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Border Patrol created mass disruptions at local transportation hubs by leaving hundreds of migrants at San Diego bus stations “without any support to reach their final destinations around the country.”

Normally, migrants stay no more than a few days in the care of local shelters before traveling on to their loved ones across the United States. But with winter weather and holiday travel — along with the collapse of Southwest Airlines’ flight schedule — shelters haven’t been able to move migrants onward as quickly as usual, meaning there is less capacity to receive new arrivals. When the shelters do not have enough space, they triage based on vulnerability, prioritizing families with children, among others.

“At this moment we are grateful to have regained some capacity,” said Kate Clark, JFS’ Senior Director for Immigration Services. “We know the ongoing national travel challenges persist and will be continually assessing capacity to welcome guests into our care post-release from the Department of Homeland Security.”

Dec 25 2022

The San Diego Union-Tribune

Due to flight delays from winter storms, migrant shelters haven’t been able to move guests through as quickly as normal and are now at capacity, meaning many new arrivals have been left on the streets.

Normally, after crossing the border, migrants who are released in the San Diego area go to one of two shelters, one run by the San Diego Rapid Response Network and the other by Catholic Charities. Both shelters provide hotel rooms for migrants to stay in due to pandemic precautions.

“These types of events are an important reminder that additional federal resources and meaningful reform are needed to support appropriate border infrastructure that reflects current needs,” Brian Ferguson of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services said.

Dec 25 2022

The San Diego Union-Tribune

It’s a refrain heard often from people who suddenly fall into homelessness, and it’s being heard more and more these days.

For some, homelessness came about for economic reasons, such as with Robert Prokosh, who began living in his car when his rent went from $700 to $1,400 in one month. He and his wife moved into the Safe Parking lot operated by Jewish Family Service in Mission Valley.

For whatever reasons, more people are becoming homeless, and service providers across the county say they are seeing a surge in people seeking help. Why are so many people falling into homelessness for the first time? There is no one reason.

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