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150 Years of Volunteers
April 28, 2014
150 Years of Volunteers

JF&CS Volunteer News Spring 2014

One hundred fifty years ago, Boston businessman Nathan Strauss gathered a group of “26 responsible men” to help needy and indigent Boston Jews, calling themselves the United Hebrew Benevolent Society (the UHBA), and the predecessor to modern day JF&CS was formed. These men gave freely of their time and effort in distributing food, money, and clothing to the needy. Guided by Talmudic law, which compels acts of charitable kindness to others who are less fortunate, the UHBA was completely run by volunteers.

Throughout the first decades of our predecessor agencies, volunteers ran the show. Groups of Jewish women volunteers taught recent immigrants how to sew, as well as how to earn wages and become self-sufficient, at the Hebrew Ladies Sewing Circle and at the Hebrew Industrial School. Women volunteers also organized and sponsored country summer outings and activities for disadvantaged urban mothers and children.

Volunteers were instrumental in opening medical clinics such as the Jewish Dispensary for Women and Children, which offered free medical care to the poor. They organized everything from Passover distributions to a Prisoner’s Aid Society, orphanages and old age homes to a Hebrew Free Loan Society. Many of the programs we have at JF&CS today originated in the early years of the UHBA and were entirely established, staffed, and run by volunteers - who have remained an important feature of JF&CS throughout our 150-year history.

Currently, JF&CS has more than 2,600 active volunteers who exemplify what the Talmud says about providing deeds of kindness to others in need. More than 75% of our JF&CS workforce is made up of volunteers! And some of them have been with us for more than 30 years.

Our volunteers allow programs like Family Table to function and thrive. Last year volunteers donated their Sundays to pack and deliver 19,500 bags of food to more than 400 families who might otherwise not have had enough food on their tables.

Our award-winning Lauren and Mark Rubin Visiting Moms® program depends almost entirely on caring, empathetic volunteers to provide support and guidance to new mothers who feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities that come with a new baby. Our Friendly Visitor program matches kindhearted volunteers with isolated elders to provide companionship and a cherished connection to the Jewish community. Without volunteers, these programs simply could not exist.

But it’s not just our programs and our clients that benefit. Our volunteers say that the experience is so intrinsically meaningful and fulfilling that they get as much as they give. “Deeds of loving kindness” to others can often be unanticipated deeds of kindness to ourselves. Our volunteers have helped so many people in need for the last 150 years. We hope to provide our clients with compassionate volunteers – and our volunteers with fulfilling journeys - for another 150 years.

Learn more about our 150th anniversary.

Read more articles from JF&CS Volunteer News Spring 2014.
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