Maddie (left) and Hern enjoying an outing to an arcade.
Maddie (left) and Hern enjoying an outing to an arcade. (Gesher)

The name “Gesher” was chosen to reflect the work the organization does in connecting people with services and providing support to help people reach their goals.

JVS Human Services + Kadima Mental Health Services unveiled the new name for their joint entity at the Strictly Business 25th anniversary luncheon this week. They will now operate as a combined entity under the name Gesher, which means “bridge” in Hebrew. 

Their merger, which was announced in August of last year, reduces operational and administrative costs and allows the organization to maximize its use of funds for programming to help its combined client base of thousands access vocational, residential and clinical services. 

Gesher Logo

Janny Milton, of Southfield, has been involved with JVS since 2006. It’s been a place where her son Brian, 42, who is autistic, has been able to learn job skills and find work. He now holds a job cleaning in an apartment building with JVS’ support. “To me, it’s a big deal,” she says. “JVS is very dear to my heart because of that. They got him a job and people there are very nice to him — I feel safe when he’s at JVS.” 

She says she appreciates the organization and hopes the merger only enhances the seamless experience she’s known at JVS. “They might have more programs. I’m hoping that’s what will happen,” she says. “I hope they continue doing the good work they’re doing.” 

Paul Blatt

Paul Blatt, CEO of Gesher, says that’s indeed the plan, and the new name is designed to let people know the essence of the new organization. “We are still the place for our community, whether it’s work-related, residential services for people with mental health issues — however we can help support the community,” he says. 

The new name came as the result of the combination of the organizations, he explains. “Each of our names didn’t describe this larger organization.” 

Connecting People with Services

The name “Gesher” was chosen to reflect the work the organization does in connecting people with services and providing support to help people reach their goals. “We’re the bridge for so many of these different populations and, in essence, bridging people from where they are to where they want to be,” he says. 

The almost three-year process of the two organizations coming together gave them a chance to delve deeply into how to best serve the community, Blatt says.  

“We have grown a critical integration piece to serve all of the different populations we are a part of,” he explains, adding that 70% of the people with developmental needs they serve have mental health challenges as well. 

For the past five months, the organization has been referred to as JVS + Kadima, but bringing it under one name, Gesher, and one identity solidifies the message, he says. 

“It allows us to really let the community know we are the place to come for people who are looking for support for work, who are looking for residential services, for people looking for mental health services, and any other way we can be involved in the community,” he says. “That message of one organization serving the community is really what I’m most excited about.”

Kristen Gross
Kristen Gross

Kristen R. Gross, chair of the board of directors for Gesher, says the combination allows the agencies to serve more people in one place. Whereas historically, someone with a severe and persistent mental health issue might have been receiving vocational services from JVS and residing in a Kadima home, now all these services will be offered under one roof, which means more streamlined service for clients, she says. 

“I know that the path to services can be very daunting, and the fact that a person could call us, and we could provide either the services or the direction that they need to go is a beautiful thing for someone who is very lost and can be overwhelmed by these processes.”

The organization isn’t taking on a new role in the community, Gross stresses, but rather combining to better serve clients.

“This way, a person makes one call. and we can assist that person in navigating so their needs are met at home, at work and in the community.”

JVS was formed in 1941, and the need for Kadima grew out of it, Gross says. Kadima was formed in 1984, and though it continued as its own organization, in a sense, this has been noted by some Kadima leadership as the agency “coming back home.”

“This has been a very good process for both JVS and Kadima. We’re really proud of the way in which this combination was rolled out,” Gross says. 

“We have a fantastic group of professionals running the agency, and the new board of directors is a very impassioned group to be working on this new endeavor to serve the community.”

Michael and staff member Mo growing lettuce in the Clubhouse.
Michael and staff member Mo growing lettuce in the Clubhouse. Gesher

Sybil Offen, who has a loved one with schizophrenia who has found a living arrangement, a job and engagement through Kadima, says she’s already been impressed by the combined entity and their collaboration. Involved with Kadima since 1995, she says she’s seen more elaborate programming and more outreach from the joint organization. 

“This last music fest was more elaborate — there were more participants, and it just had a better flavor because they were working together with clients from JVS as well,” she says. “I think everybody was just very happy.” 

Offen’s seeing more excitement about their events as well, including from her older son, who heard about a speaker JVS + Kadima was having and commented that he wished he could come in for it. “In the past he really hasn’t participated much in Kadima’s activities, so JVS’ merger with Kadima is bringing in some other things which so far I see as positive, and I’m glad in that sense.”

Offen says she’s looking forward to this exciting new chapter for the organization, which in her first impressions is efficient and moving ahead full speed. “I think they’ll be able to expand and reach more individuals,” she says. “I just sense it’s a good collaboration.”

Steven Ingber
Steven Ingber

Steven Ingber, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, says the move is a strong one for the community. “We are incredibly grateful to the professional and lay leadership of both JVS and Kadima for taking this bold step, recognizing that the underlying goal is always to better meet the needs of our community and, most importantly, to improve care for those served.

“Gesher Human Services is not only a bridge for its clients, it also represents a bridge to a stronger future for our community. We are proud to count Gesher among our local partner agencies and look forward to working closely with them.” 

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