Cindy Smith

Executive Director

Cindy was appointed Executive Director in 2021 after a national search. Cindy joins the Asheville community by way of Seal Beach, Calif. She served in various roles for the Jewish Federation of Orange County (formerly Jewish Federation & Family Services – JFFS), most recently as the Director of Community Engagement. Her passion for engaging and supporting underserved communities and helping those who are most critically in need is what landed her on the doorstep of JFFS in 2013. She spearheaded the efforts of a new department, focusing her work on team leadership, and program development and fundraising for families with young children, young professionals, Holocaust survivors and community in crisis. Born and raised in Southfield, Mich., Cindy is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism. Prior to her career as a nonprofit professional, for 10 years, she worked in various capacities for The Detroit News, and The Detroit Media Partnership. She loves exploring the wonders of nature with her husband, toddler son and terrier. Together they camp, hike, travel and get into all sorts of mischief!



Liz Drake

Finance Manager

Liz is a native of Chicago who moved to the Asheville area in 2003.  She received a BS in Resource Conservation and a JD from the University of Florida.



Brendan Hanover

Elder Club Program Manager

Brendan just joined JFS as the Elder Club Program Manager in July 2021. She is originally from Memphis, TN and earned her BA in Psychology and her MS in Social Work with a concentration in Organizational Leadership from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Before completing her master’s degree, she committed 4 years to providing person-centered social services and education to high-need clients from diverse backgrounds. She is passionate about community building, using a strength-based approach to support her clients, and advocating for improved mental and physical wellbeing. During her free time, she loves to hike with her partner and two dogs, attempt different crafts (macramé, knitting, weaving, pottery…), and spend time with family and friends.


Laura Gutierrez

Elder Club Program Coordinator

Laura joined JFS Elder Club as a volunteer and she and her father were able to share this experience together. She was the primary caregiver to both her parents for the last five years of their lives where she cultivated compassion for seniors and the aging process. A former laboratory manager, Laura, has proven success in managing people. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology from University of Florida and a Master in Business Administration degree from New York Institute of Technology. Laura is a former Member of the Board at The Driskell Foundation, a nonprofit, medical research foundation. She has completed yoga teacher training and taught physical fitness and yoga to seniors and adults for over 10 years. Laura believes that providing a safe space for seniors to socially interact improves their well-being and quality of life. 




Deborah Wood


Deborah Wood is one of JFS’s mental health counselors. She graduated from ETSU in 2006 with a masters in clinical social work. She started her career at a local hospital with inpatient psychiatric and substance abuse treatment. Deborah is trained in EMDR and utilizes techniques from CBT, DBT, and solution-focused therapies. Her goal is to create a warm, inviting, and safe space utilizing the client’s strengths to achieve their desired outcome.


debbie crane headshot

Debbie Crane


Debbie comes from a Jewish family who has long been active in the field of mental health.  Her belief in the mind-body connection informs her practice and she tends to specialize in helping people who struggle with medical problems, chronic pain and with families who struggle with chemical dependence. She is knowledgeable of approaches that include CBT, EFT, EMDR, SE and DBT.  She strongly believes in working in coordinated fashion with a client’s MD. She is aware that many issues originate from family trauma. Her areas of special interest include weight loss, pain management, habit control and gender identity. She makes it a practice to listen carefully, validate internal strengths and liberate a sense of personal empowerment in clients so that they can create the outcomes they desire.


Rebecca M. Gibson


Rebecca is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.  She has been a Mental Heath Clinician since 1976 and has worked in psychiatric hospitals, Community Mental Health Centers and in private practice.  She co-authored the suicide prevention book “The Suicide Dilemma: Finding a Better Choice.”


Tamara J. Cohen

Tamara has a BSW and MSW from Florida International University. She has been a therapist in various settings for thirty years and has experience working with all age groups. She is passionate about what she does and uses a client centered gentle approach. She loves hiking and spending time in these beautiful mountains.


Melissa Woodworth


Melissa recently joined JFS following a relocation to Asheville. She graduated with her MS in Social Work from Nazareth and Brockport College’s combined social work program in 2018. She has 10 years of experience working in residential programs for individuals with mental health difficulties, as a care manager, and most recently, as a therapist at a mental health clinic. She is passionate in empowering others to achieve their mental health related goals and utilizes a strengths-based, person-centered approach. In her free time, she relishes the outdoors, spending time hiking, kayaking, and bike riding and enjoys spending time with people she loves. 



Carrie McGuire

Case Manager

Carrie has her MS in Human Services with a specialization in Social and Community Services.  She has worked in this field throughout her career.  Carrie has worked for the last 5 years as the Senior Case Manager for the Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry Steadfast House Transitional Housing program serving homeless civilians, families and female Veterans.  Carrie lives in Asheville with her two teenaged sons and helps to support her aging parents.


Rabbi Wolff Alterman


Rabbi Wolff Alterman grew up in upstate NY. Educated by Dominican Sisters, his bar mitzvah long held the “Most Nuns attending” state record. His journey has included teaching elementary school art, serving as a rural route mail carrier, and walking from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail. He received clinical training in chaplaincy at Johnson City Medical Center and Rutherford Hospital and has served as a chaplain at Mission Hospital, Care Partners and Jewish Family Services of WNC. He was ordained in 2013 by the Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute, a Jewish Universalist seminary based in NY. The grey in his beard was made possible through the ongoing efforts of his wonderful daughter; his blood pressure is kept in a safe range by the world’s most glorious coonhound. Rabbi Wolff has lived in Western North Carolina for a quarter century, and is the region’s only regularly kilted Rabbi. His lifelong ambition is to be named Emperor of Japan.


Jo Kelvin

Office Administrator 

Jo provides administrative support to staff members, programs and agency operations, and greeting our clients and visitors when they call or come into the office. Jo was born in South Africa and grew up in Israel. She has four grandchildren with whom she loves to spend time.


Rachel Miriam Kalin

Chef/Kitchen Manager

Rachel relocated to Asheville in 2016 from the greater Fort Lauderdale area. She graduated with a degree in Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales University (Miami) in 2014 after deciding to leave the field of Urban and Regional Planning, where she sat stationary for the most part of five and a half years dreaming of what to cook for dinner. Rachel was recently named one of the top chefs in Asheville!


Tracy Levi


Tracy was born in Gelnhausen, Germany and raised in Miami, Florida. She attended the University of Florida graduating with a B.S. in Zoology, and earned a Masters of Engineering from the University of South Florida. She worked for 11 years as a civil engineer in both Tampa and Miami before moving to Asheville almost eight years ago. In her spare time, she enjoys anything outdoors, including hiking, biking and kayaking. She also plays keyboards in a local Tom Petty tribute band. 



Alison B. Gilreath

Emeritus Executive Director

In 1999, after 20 years of work in management in the private sector, Alison founded the WNC Jewish Council On Aging (JCOA) and created the Elder Day Club group respite program at the Asheville Jewish Community Center (JCC). As JCOA Director she administered a variety of programs for older adults and their families. In 2007, she implemented the transformation of JCOA into Jewish Family Services of WNC (JFS), a program of the JCC. As JFS Director, she expanded services to meet the needs of families and individuals of all ages. In 2011, she oversaw the process of JFS becoming an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, the subsequent move to independent space in 2013, and the agency growth and expansion that continues to better serve the community.