It’s that month again where love is in the air, and I am thinking about a different form of love that often gets overlooked. A love from a community that can be seen, heard and felt in the heart.

When I began working for JFS in December 2000, I distinctly remember the feeling of suspicion. I had a warm welcome that seemed to never end. When I interacted with staff and community members, I was always greeted with such kindness, enthusiasm and appreciation. I remember thinking this is too good to be true and wondered when I would begin to see the real dynamics of the community. That day never came, and I am still greeted with the same love and enthusiasm today. I grew to trust and know that love and caring is the backbone of the community.

As a social worker, I get to witness and create love on a daily basis. Love can be created in many forms at JFS. Working with volunteers to bring light to Hanukkah through gifts, sending food to a family in need to ease their financial stress, checking in on an isolated senior with a smile and hug, being present for someone during a crisis and supporting a family through the emotional ups and downs of an adoption. I am in a unique position to create love for others but the kind of love that is most meaningful to me as a social worker is the love I see from the community.

One of the core commandments of Judaism is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Our community excels with this commandment, and I can always count on their help. As someone in direct service, I am lucky to be working in such a caring community. I have a list of generous people that I call my “angels.” I call on them from time to time when special situations arise. I am always greeted with, “What do you need and when can I get it to you?” While the community demonstrates a love for each other with a willingness to help, I also feel loved and supported in the work I do. The synagogues and Jewish agencies are always open to assisting whenever possible. The love of our community is never far from my reach.

I am also in a unique position to see the fruits of our labor of love. The heartfelt thank yous from individuals and families, the smiles on the food recipients faces, the gentle touch of a senior's hand as I ask how they are doing, and the eternal gratitude when someone’s life is improved through counseling or adoption. Sometimes the person’s love and gratitude is almost palatable. I wish I could bottle it up and share it with every one of you. The Nashville Jewish community is a special group of people and one that I am proud to be a part of. This month, I am thinking about, and grateful for, the love of community.

Toni Jacobsen, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker and serves as the Clinical Director of JFS. You can reach Toni at tonijacobsen@jfsnashville.org or 615-354-1672.


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