Rachel Rosenblum, a resident of Lexington, is a JF&CS donor and member of the Tree of Life Society. She and her guild, the LexArt Weaving and Fiber Arts Guild, wove dozens of warm clothing items to donate to JF&CS’s Center for Early Relationship Support clients. Their woven scarves, hats, jackets, and gloves are keeping dozens of families and children warm this winter. We spoke to Rachel about her connection to JF&CS, the importance of communities supporting one another, and what her donation means to her.

What was your first connection to JF&CS?

My first connection was informal. My husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. I think the doctor at the time recommended that we call Nancy [former Director of the Charlotte and Richard Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support program at JF&CS], particularly for an Occupational Therapy evaluation of our home, to be sure it was safe. She checked the house and then told us about the program at JF&CS. That was around 2013. My husband was involved with the Parkinson’s program until about 2015, when he couldn’t do it any longer.

I hope Parkinson’s Support program was a useful and beneficial experience for your husband and for you too, as his partner and caregiver. How did you feel that the Parkinson’s Support program benefited you specifically?

In two ways – when I went with Myron [my husband] to all the meetings and the various things we did, we each had a wonderful time and met people, and I learned a lot. That was very good. But the other part is that I was in the support group for spouses of people with Parkinson’s. It is a superb support group. It was beautifully led and beautifully handled. It was just a great experience, a very supportive experience.

What are some things that you think most people don’t really understand about the experience of being a caregiver and being a partner to someone with Parkinson’s? What are some things that others might not expect about what that life looks like?

I have a friend now who is going through this with her husband who has Parkinson’s. I can anticipate what they have to expect, because I see what’s happening with him. And I see the pace at which it’s happening. And I would say she has no clue. She really has no clue. I think if she had a group like this, and she doesn’t because she’s not in the area, it would be enormously helpful. She would learn an enormous amount and it would really support her and help her. I think the learning is terribly important, getting to learn and listen to others, listening to a number of people with Parkinson’s and supporters and caregivers of Parkinson’s disease, you can learn from everyone.

What was your motivation to move from being participants in Parkinson’s Support to becoming donors and supporting JF&CS?

I did that after my husband died in 2016. It was after that I wrote my will, and it included three bequests, agencies I really wanted to give a chunk of money to. I wouldn’t be able to do it until I passed on – not expecting to be passing of course! But that was the way I was going to have to do it. So, my donations year by year are small relatively, and my donations at the end of time will be a little more substantial.

We encourage people to think about leaving a gift in their will to JF&CS or giving a gift from their real estate in another way. I was wondering if you could talk about the process, was it challenging, what it entailed for you to make such a significant impact in that way?

It was not problematic at all. I decided I was going to do the three agencies and I guess the first thing I did was talk with my children, because that was money they were not going to get. Of course, they were totally supportive of any level that I wanted to do. I just met with my lawyer, told him what I wanted to do, and he put it into writing. And that was easy, that was it. A letter was sent to each of the agencies indicating a gift had been made. Then I made a chance to meet with the director of each agency and confirm the intention.

I want to ask you a little bit more about the woven clothing donation, and a little about your involvement with your guild. What motivated your guild to think of JF&CS for such a generous donation?

I always think of JF&CS! I learned from them that they distribute clothing to people who they’re serving, for the cold weather. We certainly make that kind of stuff, and frankly, I think we wanted to do something that was giving rather than just selling and making money on things. So, this was a good thing to do. I just brought it up to the Weaving and Fiber Arts Guild within the Lexington Arts and Crafts Society and they were very enthusiastic. We’ve had a box in the back of the room and we put things in the box. When I went to take the box out, I was amazed at how much was in there. Frankly, I was really impressed and we are now putting things into the box again for next year. Someone has already put something in the box! It’s a good way to share what we do and to give a bit.

Knitwear donations made by The Weaving & Fiber Arts Guild from LexArt - donated to Center for Early Relationship families!

One of the reasons I wanted to speak with you is that it’s great when we have donors that can give both financially and give, like with the woven clothing, something more tangible and physical. Going off that, do you have any insight for others who may be interested in donating to JF&CS and making it a consistent part of their life to support us? For anyone who is on the fence, why should they invest their time with JF&CS?

That’s not the question! The question is, how nice it is to be able to do something for somebody else using the craft that you have, whether it’s knitting or needle pointing, and making something for somebody else to use. I think it’s a lovely thing. It just comes naturally to me.

At the “You Are Our Light” donor appreciation evening in December you attended, our CEO Gail Schulman discussed rising antisemitism and her belief that to combat it, we can stand up and show that the work JF&CS does is what the Jewish community does, that helping others in need is what it means to be Jewish. How did you react to that idea?

Well, I thought that expression of hers, that this is what the Jewish community does, was very important and a very meaningful statement and a position that she operates from. I think what she’s doing is impressing the world with the image of JF&CS. It is not just a Jewish agency, it serves everybody. The Jewish people are supporting this effort to serve the general population. And I know that’s true, I know a lot of people who get food from Family Table are not Jewish. And I’m sure that a lot of people whose children get services, whose kids with special needs get services, or who themselves get services, housing, etc., are not Jewish. I think that is a wonderful thing for the world to see. I think that’s just very impressive. If we did things only for Jewish people, that wouldn’t be big enough or adequate.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your involvement with JF&CS?

You know, I consider my involvement to be minimal, really. I don’t consider it to be a major commitment of my time and energy at the moment. I think that even a minimal involvement can do so much good. I think that’s important for people to know. Even just knitting a scarf or a sweater in your own free time and then giving it is a wonderful thing to do.

Learn more about the Tree of Life Society here.