Just a few weeks ago, Jeremy wrote that even in the aftermath of a tense election, the values of our organization and our Jewish community have not changed. For young adults who are particularly unsettled in this uncharted territory, volunteering could provide the keys to resiliency. While we take the time to practice self-care, let’s also challenge ourselves to take action in caring for one another.
For nearly seven years, ReachOut! has given Jewish young adults in Greater Boston the opportunity to give back to their own communities, volunteering in places they might not otherwise with people they wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to encounter. These volunteers are idealistic, committed and deeply connected to their peers and the people they serve. Thanks to ReachOut!, volunteering once a week has become a part of their way of life and their weekly schedule, enabling them to act on their most cherished Jewish values. Here are just two examples:
United South End Settlements (USES), serving residents of the South End and Lower Roxbury, was Boston’s first settlement site in 1891. Formerly known as Harriet Tubman House, USES offers a wide variety of services for low-income families, including adult basic education classes which prepare students of all levels to earn the HiSET, (formerly the Graduate Equivalency Degree). ReachOut! volunteers, including site captain Joseph Lichterman, tutor adults studying for the HiSET every Thursday evening.
Joseph and his peers work individually with those enrolled in the classes to give them the much-needed individualized attention they need to pass the test. Typically, Joseph coaches students on their reading, both by reading aloud and guiding them through comprehension exercises. “I’ve been able to see the students’ reading abilities improve,” he says. “Their pronunciation and comprehension tend to get better, but also it’s really fun to see them get into the books we are reading and to be able to talk to them about the plot and themes of the novels.” Joseph has profound admiration for his student’s hard work and commitment, and draws inspiration from them. USES’s English teacher finds the work of the volunteers invaluable to his students’ achievement. He relies on the support of regular volunteers, like the team from ReachOut!, and sees marked improvement from the students after they work individually with a volunteer.
Leah Robbins, Co-Chair of the ReachOut! Steering Committee and USES volunteer, finds that her participation in the program gives her the opportunity to learn about the lives of peers from different backgrounds than her own. “I got matched with a student who had moved to the US from Cuba four months ago and we had a conversation that touched on his life as an actor; his experience of being perceived first as a member of an outsider group rather than an individual; his impressions of the US so far; and even who Harriet Tubman was in US history,” Leah says. “What a conversation! Getting to speak with someone who's had such different experiences wouldn't have happened for me any other way.”
Joseph and Leah’s stories are just two snapshots of committed ReachOut! volunteers who not only give their time and energy each week, but are so enriched by the experience. In this time when we are helpless, it is even more important to dedicate ourselves in service to others and to celebrate those who act on their commitment to make the world a better place for all.
Yet another volunteer opportunity is coming in January, this one also open to families and teens. January 16th is JCRC’s 2nd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, and we hope to see many members of our community there. We will send more information as it becomes available.
Young Adult Social Justice Programs Coordinator