Sigel will retire after 23 years with Jewish Family Service of St. Paul; the public is invited to a Dec. 4 celebration
By ERIN ELLIOTT BRYAN / Community News Editor
Marjorie Sigel, a longtime therapist at Jewish Family Service of St. Paul (JFS), will retire at the end of the year, with a collective 23 years at the agency. She is known for her outreach in the Jewish and general communities, particularly to seniors, and has been instrumental in promoting wellness and a holistic approach to healing for all JFS clients.
JFS will celebrate and honor Sigel on Thursday, Dec. 4 at Sholom East in St. Paul. The public is invited to attend.
“We hope they’ll come to help celebrate Marjorie’s contributions, not only to the agency but to the community at large,” Ted Flaum, JFS executive director, told the AJW. “This is a way for a lot of people who Marjorie has touched to come and, without identifying them as her clients, to thank her for all that she’s done.”
Mitch Wittenberg, JFS’ counseling supervisor, added, “Whether they say anything in public or not, their mere presence is a testament to Marjorie’s impact.”
Sigel was first introduced to social work through her stepmother, a “very forward-thinking pediatrician” who embraced social work in her own clinic. Sigel then spent a summer working as a social work case aide and was inspired by a woman who created family assessments.
Sigel, a native of New Hampshire, finished her undergraduate education at Boston University and earned her MSW from the University of California–Berkeley. She first began working at JFS in 1978, staying for about 10 years; she returned to the agency in 2001.
As a psychotherapist, Sigel provided counseling services to people with a variety of needs. She has also been involved in administrative functions, served as supervisor of the counseling program, and worked as a mental health consultant in other JFS areas, and in grant writing and program development.
“It was a place that truly offered me an opportunity to pursue my interests and develop skills in areas that I didn’t have just from my social work background,” Sigel said. “I like working in an interdisciplinary way… I love that feeling of providing a range of services to people to help them manage their lives. And I think, in some ways, that’s what drew me back [to JFS].”
Wittenberg noted that Sigel had a particular passion for those in the LGBT community and their families, partnering with the national PFLAG organization and offering several educational programs. She also partnered with the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) and helped to facilitate a support group at the St. Paul JCC.
Sigel’s most important accomplishment is her work with JFS’ collaborative community project LEAP for Seniors (Life Enrichment Action Program), an in-home assessment and intervention program that promotes meaningful activity, particularly creative arts activities, for seniors to decrease depression and prolonged sadness.
Sigel said she’s always been interested in the arts, and working with LEAP has proven how beneficial that type of programming can be to overall health.
“There’s much more talk about this integrated way of looking at people,” Sigel said. “I was just very excited to learn about that and see that in action in our work with some of our older adults. And I hope that will continue. I think from this experience, we’re positioned to be part of a much bigger dialogue that could really impact service delivery in the future.”
Though she will be retired, Sigel will continue on a consultant for the LEAP program. Additionally, in recognition of her contributions to the agency, JFS has established the Marjorie Sigel Endowment Fund for Wellness and Creative Arts Programming.
“We wanted to make sure that there was a legacy in honor of Marjorie,” Flaum said. “The idea of this endowment fund will be supporting programs through JFS that would support helping people through creative arts. These funds will be used in perpetuity in Marjoire’s honor so that her impact will continue to be felt throughout the community for years to come.”
Sigel said her work at JFS has been a privilege, especially as clients often share experiences with her that they may not share with anyone else.
“As they’re looking at themselves and their lives and their struggles, that whole process is one in which they inform my life, too. It’s their process and I’m there to help them and guide them, but that process is one that touches me. I’m a human being and I learn from them, too,” Sigel said. “I truly view it as a privilege to hear about and come to some understanding about people, what are the influences in their lives and resiliencies to how they deal with really serious trauma or disappointment in life, and find a path to go forward in healthier ways.”
Wittenberg said that Sigel, who is also a Master Gardener, has “planted a lot of seeds around [JFS] that will continue to grow.”
“We sometimes wonder, who embodies what it is to be a mensch?” Wittenberg said. “And Marjorie, to me, is the living definition. She cares deeply about clients, the community, colleagues, and she always strives to do the right thing.”
Jewish Family Service will celebrate and honor Marjorie Sigel 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 4 at Sholom East, 740 Kay Ave., St. Paul.Those wishing to attend are asked to RSVP to JFS at 651-698-0767 by Nov. 24. Contributions to the endowment fund may be made by sending a check payable to Jewish Family Service of St. Paul, 1633 W. Seventh St., St. Paul, MN 55102, and specify the purpose of the donation. For information about JFS’ services, visit: www.jfssp.org. (American Jewish World, 11.21.14)
Since 1912 the AJW has served as an important news resource for the Jewish community. The Jewish World unites the main Jewish communities in St. Paul and Minneapolis, as well as those in Duluth, Rochester and smaller cities, and bridges the divides between the various Jewish religious streams.