Jewish Family Service Staff
The JFS Board of Trustees listing can be seen on this page.
Jerry Starr, LCSW
Executive Director of Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties
Jerry is the Executive Director of Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in New Jersey and New York and has, for over thirty years, provided supportive services in the community.
His professional experience includes psychotherapy with individuals and families and social work in school settings and in group homes for individuals with developmental disabilities. In addition he has developed programs and services to help the elderly age in place and has coordinated support services for Holocaust survivors.
“Our mission at JFS of SHW is to put Jewish values to work and to be there when an individual, family or community needs us.”
Contact Jerry via email at Jstarr@JewishFamilySvc.Org
Tova Friedman, LCSW
Tova Friedman received a B.A. in Psychology from Brooklyn College, an M.A. in Black Literature from CCNY and an M.S.W. from Rutgers, The State University with a specialty in Gerontology.
Tova is the former Executive Director of Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties and has over 20 years of experience providing psychotherapy services and managing programs and agencies. She has provided psychotherapy services to individuals, families, couples and groups. She has also managed and provided Employee Assistance Program services for many companies in Somerset County.
Mrs. Friedman has extensive experience working with special populations including immigrant families, the elderly and individuals dealing with difficult children.
Tova, a Holocaust survivor, shares her experiences in Auschwitz with many schools and organizations. She hopes that her stories will emphasize that prejudice and violence will destroy both the victim and the victor. Her story and that of two of her friends appears in the book, Kinderlager, edited by Milt Nieuwsma, and published by Holiday House in 1998.
She has 4 children and 7 grandchildren. For 10 years, she and her family lived in Israel where she taught at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Contact Tova via email at TovaF@JewishFamilySvc.Org
Ruth Edelman, LCSW
Ruth Edelman, LCSW is the Manager of Community Based Support Services. Ruth has an MSW from the University of Michigan, and holds postgraduate certificates in Infant Mental Health and Geriatrics. She has worked with children and their families for over 40 years in medical and social service settings. For the past 15 years, she has contributed to the creation and expansion of volunteer services at JFS through development and grant writing for programs serving children who have social challenges and their families, and for older adults. She created and guided Soup for the Soul and the Annual Spring Symposium bringing community members together to learn about and support vital JFS programs. She has presented numerous workshops locally and nationally on work with children from birth to three, grief and loss, and supervisory and management topics.
“I believe strongly in the power of relationships for healing in our lives. We need one another. Most of us have much more to give than we realize. A supportive word, a caring gesture can make a difference to someone when they are feeling alone and struggling with some issue. The Family Mentor / Senior Friendly Visitor Program and other newly created programs recruit and train volunteers of all ages who are then matched with Somerset County families or homebound seniors. These programs bring people with a need together with people who are in touch with their humanity. The volunteers are ordinary people, but they understand what ‘being there’ for someone is all about, and are willing to make a commitment for a few hours or a few weeks, or even a few years to be a mentor, a friendly home visitor, a cooking companion, a grocery shopper for isolated seniors, or to assist in leading study groups or shabbat services for those living in residential facilities who wish to continue their religious observances and traditions. I learn things from families and volunteers all the time. It is a richly rewarding experience to see how these remarkable programs have thrived and expanded over the past several years, and especially to hear from volunteers about the personal rewards they experience by caring in this very meaningful way.”
Contact Ruth via email at Redelman@JewishFamilySvc.Org
Elise Prezant has over 20 years of experience providing employment and vocational rehabilitation services in New Jersey and Georgia. Before joining JFS, she was the Manager of Career Services for Jewish Family and Career Services in Atlanta, Georgia. Ms. Prezant was responsible for the Career Counseling and Testing, Recruitment and Senior Employment programs. She has also provided vocational evaluation, vocational counseling, placement assistance and support to individuals with and without disabilities.
In addition, Ms. Prezant was the Executive Director of The Raritan Valley Workshop, an Easter Seal Facility in North Brunswick, NJ. The Raritan Valley Workshop provides vocational training for over 300 adults with disabilities on a daily basis.
Contact Elise via email at Eprezant@JewishFamilySvc.Org
Jennifer Walters, LCSW
Jennifer Ellis Walters received a Bachelors in Social Work from James Madison University and a Masters in Social Work from Rutgers, The State University with a specialty in Children and Families. Through her work in mental health agencies and school programs, Jennifer has provided psychotherapy services to individuals, families, couples and groups.
Her experience includes work with individuals suffering from anxieties or mental illness, struggling to adjust to life changes and recovering from traumas. Jennifer also has extensive experience helping clients on the autism spectrum and with special needs to better understand their strengths and limitations and more effectively communicate and function in relationships with others.
In addition, Jennifer collaborates with caregivers to help them understand and improve difficult behavior in children. Jennifer's approach is humanistic and interpersonal with a strong focus on strengths, family systems and a psychodynamic understanding of a person's condition as well as the social/interpersonal context.
Contact Jennifer via email at JenniferW@JewishFamilySvc.Org
Florence Zevin, LCSW
Florence Zevin is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who works with individuals and couples ranging in age from adolescence to senior adults. Florence utilizes a strengths based approach to therapy which encourages individuals to identify their core strengths and use them to make positive changes in their life.
Florence has been trained in various therapeutic techniques including psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral, mindfulness and motivational interviewing. In addition, she has experience working with the LGBT community. Florence has worked as a psychotherapist for over nine years following an earlier career in information technology.
In addition to her MSW, Florence also has an MBA which combined with her previous career provides her with a unique background supporting her ability to relate to people from all walks of life. In addition to her work at JFS, Florence also works as a Per Diem Therapist in the Inpatient Psychiatric unit and Partial Hospitalization Program at Robert Wood Johnson Somerset Hospital.
Contact Florence via email at florencez@JewishFamilySvc.Org
Eric Harris, LCSW
Mr. Harris has been the Executive Director of Family and Community Services of Somerset County since 1994. He started as an MSW intern at Family and Community Services in 1980. He was then hired as a full-time clinician.
A few years later he also became a clinical supervisor. He also served as the agency’s Clinical Director for a few years prior to becoming the Executive Director. Mr. Harris has served on many Somerset County Commissions and Committees for many years as a representative of Family and Community Services.
Mr. Harris received his MSW from Rutgers School of Social Work in 1981. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.
His areas of expertise include stress management, parent effectiveness, depression and anxiety, domestic violence, marital and other couples work, children and adolescents.
Contact Eric via email at EricH@JewishFamilySvc.Org
Young-In Shin, MSW
Young-In Shin, MSW, is the coordinator for the Family Mentor Program that connects families and volunteers in a supportive relationship to help strengthen families.
Young-In has B.A. in Public Health and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from New York University.
She has years of experience advocating for children and families involved with Family Court and supervising volunteers in New York City.
Young-In also has experience in providing intensive in-home therapy to youths and families.
Young-In is excited to join JFS to work collaboratively with families and focus on strengthening relationships.
Contact Young-In via email at Young-InS@JewishFamilySvc.Org
Maris Chavenson, LCSW
Maris Chavenson, LCSW, is the Coordinator of our Senior Mentor Program, a volunteer visiting program that matches volunteers to homebound, frail seniors in the community.
She received her Bachelor's degree from Temple University and her Master's degree in Social Work, with a certificate in aging services, from Rutgers, the State University. As a clinical social worker Maris works with adults, couples, older adults, and groups on issues such as depression, anxiety, grief and loss, and the challenges of caregiving.
Most recently she was the project director at Jewish Family Service of Central NJ for a Federal grant program designed to provide innovative, trauma-informed care services to Holocaust survivors and their family caregivers.
Maris also has a diverse background working in non-profit human resource management as well as public health, where she coordinated programs for the NJ statewide asthma coalition at the American Lung Association in New Jersey.
Contact Maris via email at MarisC@JewishFamilySvc.Org
Debra Rimmer, LCSW
Debra Rimmer, LCSW, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in NJ and Texas. She received her (BSW) Bachelor in Social Work from SUNY/Albany, and Masters degree in Social Work (MSSW) from the University of Texas/Austin.
Throughout her 20+ year career as a Social Worker in the US. and Canada, Debra has worked with clients who have a variety of life challenges including mental health issues, adoption, post adoption, critical and chronic illness, dementia, abuse, anxiety, depression, stress, trauma, compassion fatigue, grief and loss and pet loss/bereavement.
She has been employed as a clinician,caseworker, supervisor, director, and middle manager in many Social Service agencies, and at a private rehabilitation hospital. She has also created and facilitated a pet loss and bereavement group in Austin, Texas.
Debra provides supportive counselling for youth, adolescents, families, adults, and elder adults. She is highly skilled, and works with her clients with a compassionate,kind,and strengths based approach- striving to first understand their perspective, and then support and empower them to work towards comfort with growth and change. Additionally, she is a certified Compassion Fatigue educator and believes that it is essential to take time to care for ourselves if we choose the sacred responsibility of helping others.
Contact Debra via email at DebraR@JewishFamilySvc.Org
Marjorie Slass, Psy.D.
NJ Licensed Psychologist #6062
Dr. Slass earned her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from Rutgers University along with a degree in Early Childhood/Elementary Education. After spending several years teaching children she gave up her teaching career to raise three children.
Later on, Dr. Slass went back to school earning a Master's Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Farleigh Dickinson University, a Master's Degree in Educational Psychology from Kean University, and a Doctoral Degree in Clinical and School Psychology from Kean University.
Dr. Slass has been working at Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties since 2016. She provides psychotherapy services to children, adolescents, adults of all ages, couples and families helping them with life's challenges.
Contact Marjorie via email at MarjorieS@JewishFamilySvc.Org
Lauren Panciello, MSW
Lauren Panciello is the Senior Shopper Program Coordinator. Lauren has an MSW from Kean University and was a student intern at JFS while pursuing her degree.
Lauren also has experience co-facilitating social skills groups for children and young adults at JFS, providing case management for adults with mental illness and working as a Front End Supervisor at ShopRite for over 10 years.
Contact Lauren via email at LaurenP@JewishFamilySvc.org