“I really like connecting with people. I’m empathetic, and I like helping people. I became a psychologist because it is a ‘helping profession,’ but I also like the challenge of it. I do assessments for Autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, and often it is a puzzle. I like the challenge of figuring it out,” shares Jennie Kellerstein. Jennie grew up in Kitchener- Waterloo, attended a French immersion school, where she was “exposed to all different kinds of families, all different kinds of children. I realize it helped me be more empathetic to others’ lived experiences. It is probably what led me to work in the public school board for the last 15 years. If I worked in private practice I would only see those children whose parents could pay for my services. Where I work, I see families who are new refugees, people who live in all corners of our city. It gives me different perspectives and makes me a better listener and more empathetic.”
Jennie has experienced personal challenges that have clearly also shaped her perspective. During her senior year of highschool, Jennie’s car was hit by a tractor trailer on highway 401. Her car rolled over and she was rescued by an off duty police officer. She had to miss 3 months of her school year recovering at home; her physical challenges didn’t end there. Following undergrad at UofT she had major back surgery and had to miss the first few months of graduate school. Jennie’s regular stress-relieving runs ended; she could not even walk for months. “It taught me to be thankful daily for my physical well-being. Being bedridden for so long showed me that I can do hard things. It may not feel like it at the time but knowing that things get better is a really powerful lesson that we can learn.” Jennie’s love for running has since continued; she recently completed a full marathon.
Thinking back to her experience as a child in a community where there were very few Jews, and where she had to really assert herself to make a difference; whether it was introducing Holocaust education (where Jennie faced tremendous pushback) or about her own religious experience. “Those were the things that motivated me to find a school that so closely reflected our family’s values. I think that is why I am so motivated to help out at Netivot – I feel so fortunate. Coming from a city that is so small in which you are grateful for any Jewish education, and then moving to a city like Toronto, where there are a plethora of schools… I feel so grateful to have these choices. It’s important to remember that not every community has these options.”
Jennie is married to Jeremy. They are parents of 4; 1 Netivot graduate and 3 current students. Jennie serves on the Board of Directors at Netivot.