Q&A with retiring Family Life Education Coordinator Barbara Rudnick

Barbara Rudnick, JFCS Family Life Education Coordinator, will be retiring this month after 25 years with JFCS. Read a Q&A below with Barbara about her time with JFCS and what she enjoyed most about her position. To read Barb’s final column for JFCS, click here.


What position did you start in at JFCS?


My first position at JFCS was in 1988 as an agency volunteer. My 13-year-old daughter started volunteering at JFCS to fulfill a mitzvah requirement for religious school. She responded to an ad that was in our synagogue bulletin for young teens to participate in educational role plays for JFCS. She became a JFCS Player. I would drive her to rehearsals and programs. At one point she said to me, “Mom, you would love this. You should do it, too.” So I became a JFCS Player and shortly after that, my other daughter also became a Player.


A few years later, I started working for an MA in counseling and psychological services. I applied to JFCS for my graduate internship placement and became a JFCS intern in the counseling department. Later I got a call that a family life educator position was opening up and would I be interested in applying. The rest is history. My first day was September 23, 1993. (As fate would have it, I became in charge of the JFCS Players program and my kids continued to be players for several years.)


How has your role evolved over the years?


I was originally hired as a family life educator and then in 2002, I became the FLE program manager. What I have loved about my job is that some of the work has stayed the same. I started out doing grief work, interfaith work and parenting and I still do programs and groups in those areas. Some of the work is constantly changing depending on what’s happening in the world. When I started, I was doing AIDS prevention education programs – now I do bullying prevention programs. When I started there was no technology to speak of and now screen time and the impact of technology on our relationships, our kids, etc., is a big topic. I could go on and on.


And then there was the AskBarbara column I did. That was a wonderful and challenging experience. I got letters on all different topics from bedtime troubles and potty training to gender identity questions, addiction issues, abusive situations and so much more. People trusted me with their secrets and often needed a listening ear, resources or permission to seek help.


I have believed that my work prepares me for my life and my life prepares me for my work. Working with clients, helping people live healthier lives, and working with the Jewish and secular communities has been an honor and a privilege. Even though I’m usually “out there” working alone, I have always known and felt that JFCS had my back and I have always felt supported in my work. I don’t think I could have done my job well without that, but I also know how rare that is and how lucky I have been.


What have you enjoyed most about your time at JFCS?


In addition to the things I have already mentioned, I have LOVED the staff. It is a warm and caring community of hardworking people with a wonderful sense of humor, who at the same time respect the daily challenges and struggles of the clients we serve. We have become more inclusive and diverse, which just makes it better and more interesting to be here. And who wouldn’t love things like Grazing Day?


What advice do you have for your successor?


  • Be flexible
  • Say yes to requests for programs as much as possible
  • Stretch, grow and take professional risks.
  • Ask for help, advice and support when you need it
  • Enjoy the ride