Executive Director’s Blog

May 31, 2018

In honor of Memorial Day this weekend, I paid close attention to the “Prayer for Our Country” that we read in the synagogue each week.  In that prayer, we beseech G-d to “Pour out blessings. . . .” to our country and its leaders. I was struck by the word Harek, meaning “pour.”  It’s a graphic term and creates an image of a jug overturning, spilling its contents far and wide.  It feels much more effusive than a simple “please bless them,” which sounds like a discreet and more limited request.

What’s necessary in order to “pour out” blessings? (it’s worth noting that the word Harek is also used in the Haggadah when we beseech G-d to pour out G-d’s wrath upon the nations but for here, we’ll concentrate on the positive uses of the word.)  For a jug to pour out its contents, it must be filled; there must enough in the jug for something to be available to come out.

For G-d, this is no issue.  But what about for us?  Are we prepared to pour out our “blessings” of care, nurturing, attention, patience, thoughtfulness, and all the others things that are asked of us each day? Do we have enough in our metaphorical jug to pour out for those in our inner circle and even more to reach those people we don’t know but who need our attention nonetheless?

In May, the JVC Live With Purpose project was making sugar scrubs, which were given to clients of CHANA with the hope that the women can engage in a measure of self-care while navigating the traumas and uncertainties of being survivors of domestic violence.  Through this project, it was our goal to help women fill their proverbial jugs, to achieve a level of self-care that will enable them to continue to pour out love, care, and blessings for themselves and their children.

For each of us, the use of the word “pour” when describing the process of blessing others is important. Remember that you cannot pour out what you do not have, and that the continual process of refreshing, refilling, and pouring out the goodness in our souls is the very process of living in community. I hope that everyone has a chance to refresh, refill, and pour out blessings to others this summer. To read more click here.

Houston Strong with JVC

When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, I felt blessed to be unaffected. Little did I know that I would be very affected, yet in the most positive and fulfilling ways.

Harvey hit just a few months into my term as chair of Jewish Volunteer Connection (JVC). Since I had not been involved in JVC’s prior efforts to assist after natural disasters, I was impressed with how quickly The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and JVC determined that our hands were needed in Houston. Almost immediately, JVC was planning logistics for a four-day service trip with Houston’s Federation and Nechama: The Jewish Response to Disaster.

Our diverse group of 15 included 13 volunteers led by JVC’s incomparable Erica Bloom and Abigail Malischostak. Ranging in ages from 20s to early-50s, we had varying degrees of service experience, levels of religious observance and motivations for participating. We, however, shared a common passion to help—let’s put on our gloves and goggles and get it done! Click here to read entire article.

Karen Singer’s “ah-ha” Moment Came Unexpectedly

Karen Singer never anticipated that her “aha” moment– the instant that she realized what she wanted to tackle during her next phase in life – would come to her in a flash the day she found herself dressed head to toe in pink, rolling around the floor with a group of young girls.

It all began with a princess party that Karen had organized with Susan Maneken, as part of a volunteer project for The Associated’s Chapter Two program. The “princesses” were young girls invited by the Jewish Caring Network, whose family members might be battling significant illnesses, and The Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics at Sinai Hospital, who might be suffering from intense pain. As Karen engaged with them, hugged them and laughed with them, she realized what was missing from her life.

“Over the years, I had served on boards and solicited funds,” says Karen. “Yet I realized then that what I wanted was to add hands-on volunteering to my civic life. Thankfully, for me, The Associated took notice.”

Karen was asked to join the board of Jewish Volunteer Connection and co-chair JVC’s Adult Volunteer Engagement Committee with Susan. Concurrently, as she turned 50 and was about to become an empty nester, she turned her passion into action, launching “Something Good,” a weekend hands-on volunteer initiative that became a JVC VolunTeam. The group of individuals would do “something good” on a monthly basis, with Karen planning about 15 activities each year.

Since its inception, “Something Good” has grown to a team of 470 volunteers. They’ve gathered for “Brunch with a Purpose” at Karen’s home to make polar fleece blankets for the patients of Kennedy Krieger Institute and dialysis patients, served meals to the homeless and assisted the elderly, making their homes ready for spring, to name a few. And this year, Karen undertook her latest success, “Shopping for Something Good,” conceived during her Passover visit to Pittsburgh. When walking with her sister, the two ended up in a consignment shop.

“I remember standing there and thinking about the clothes in my closet and how I could sell them to benefit charity,” she recalls. “So, I thought, why not collect new and gently-used men’s and women’s clothing, accessories, shoes and housewares, invite people over to shop and raise money for a good cause.” Click to read entire article.