Posted by Sarah Raykhtsaum
I have been volunteering with Schechter Holocaust Services (SHS) for almost five months. Looking back, I am reflecting on how much I have gained through this experience. Beyond the research, communication, and organizational skills I have worked on while assisting the dedicated SHS staff with their office tasks, I have, even more importantly, been shown the true value of a strong community.
The Holocaust survivors and elderly Russian immigrants in my community have always been a powerful source of inspiration. I am truly in awe of how diligently and passionately the SHS staff work to ensure that these individuals have their needs met and are able to continue living meaningful lives. Even while helping out with behind-the-scenes office work, I felt proud to be volunteering at an organization that provides undivided attention to members of our community who, despite suffering unthinkable evil, survived and built a vibrant Jewish future. Not only does SHS honor our community’s elders, they also look towards the future. Since I began volunteering, I watched with amazement as my supervisor put together a Holocaust education program in which high school students are paired with Holocaust survivors they visit and learn from. This kind of work is crucial because it passes the survivors’ legacies down to the next generation.
The highlight of my time as a volunteer has been translating at Café Hakalah events. Meeting survivors and immigrants at Café Hakalah was truly special. As a child and grandchild of Russian immigrants, I grew up speaking Russian at home and was thrilled to be able to use my bilingual skills to help the Russian immigrants at Café Hakalah communicate with non-Russian speakers. My own relatives suffered greatly at the hands of Nazi persecution in Russia, and watching these survivors and immigrants come together to listen to Jewish music, watch Yiddish movies, and engage in Jewish culture was very empowering for me.
As I enter my last semester of college at Brandeis University, I take with me the many lessons I learned from SHS and JF&CS. Not only did I get a sense of the inner workings of a Jewish nonprofit, but I am inspired by the noble work of the SHS staff to dedicate my time to my Jewish community. I am very grateful for the opportunity to volunteer with SHS, and it’s a comfort to know that with organizations like JF&CS doing such important work, Greater Boston’s Jewish community will continue to thrive.
Sarah Raykhtsaum is a senior at Brandeis University studying history, anthropology, and Jewish studies. She plans to teach high school history when she graduates. When she is not volunteering for Schechter Holocaust Services, Sarah works as a gallery guard at the Rose Art Museum and as a Hebrew teacher at Temple Beth Elohim. In her spare time, Sarah loves reading and traveling and spent semesters abroad in London and Copenhagen.