Nonprofit merger adopts new name, continues work

Gesher provides job assistance, support services for those in need

By: Andy Kozlowski | Metro | Published July 13, 2022

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METRO DETROIT — Earlier this year, two prominent nonprofits in the metro Detroit area merged into one, but they lacked a name for the new organization — until now.

The combined operations of JVS Human Services and Kadima will now be known as Gesher Human Services. Prior to the announcement of the new name at the end of June, the merger had gone by the temporary brand of JVS + Kadima. Based in Southfield, the group now known as Gesher will continue to serve vulnerable populations in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, helping an estimated 12,000 people annually.

“Gesher” means “bridge” in Hebrew, and the organization’s new tagline is “Gesher: The bridge to where you want to be.” Eric Adelman was previously the executive director of Kadima and now serves as the chief advancement officer at Gesher. He said in a statement that the new moniker captures the spirit of the group’s mission.

“The metaphor of a bridge kept coming up, and we were reminded of the old Jewish saying, ‘The whole world is a narrow bridge; the important thing is to not be afraid,’” Adelman said. “Our work supports people on that bridge, so they can make it across.”

The two groups that formed Gesher each bring different resources and programs to the mix. Both trace their roots to the Detroit-area Jewish community.

JVS Human Services was the older of the two. Founded in 1941, JVS began as a group of women helping women find work while their husbands were off to war. Over time, it expanded to help all job seekers, including people with disabilities, senior citizens, students, the homeless and more.

Kadima came along later, in 1984. Its mission was to provide safe and stable housing for adults with mental illness. As it grew, so did its scope of care, which came to include clinical services, day programming and more.

The idea of merging the two came about in 2019, when seven Jewish social service agencies met to address how they could better serve the community. It was decided that combining JVS and Kadima into one agency was the answer. In early 2020, a consultant was hired to develop the merger, which was then approved by the boards of both groups in January 2022.

Gesher has partnered with the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, a fundraising and planning organization. Dozens of services continue to be available through Gesher, including career counseling and job placement for those with obstacles to employment. According to the organization, unemployment can be as high as 60% for those with severe and persistent mental health issues, a group that Gesher aims to help.

There are also supportive housing services for individuals with severe mental illness, as well as day programs for adults living with developmental disabilities or mental issues. One day program, done in partnership with Jewish Senior Life, caters to people living with dementia.

There are also counseling services for families in crisis, financial education and assistance, and support coordination for adults living with mental health challenges, enrichment activities for them and more. Gesher’s expectation is that all of these programs will benefit from the merger by way of additional resources and expertise, as well as administrative and operational savings — funds that will be reinvested to the benefit of underserved community members.

Paul Blatt, the CEO of Gesher, said that the last two years have been especially difficult for the people they serve, including those who haven’t gotten back into the workforce yet.

“Everyone is experiencing the lasting effects of COVID and are looking for ways to address the losses and move forward. That’s compounded by stigma and other barriers those we serve have experienced their entire lives,” Blatt said via email. “We do what can to support the whole person by providing them with the services they need to not only survive, but to thrive, by serving as a bridge for people from where they are, to where they want to be.”