JVC Archive

Finding a Chance to Live with Purpose

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

By Melissa Rosenblatt

As you are reading this, you are probably also thinking about the millions of things that you need to do. You are tired and stressed out and may feel like you just don’t have time to do a project. Yet, here are some reasons why it is so important and meaningful. It really doesn’t take a long time to complete, but has a ton of impact on the community and your family.

In December, my family lost our Uncle David suddenly. My daughters, ages 5, 6 and 7, had to deal with this type of loss for the very first time.

Uncle David was like an extra grandfather to them. My husband and I decided to focus on our fond memories of him with our daughters.

David Rosenblatt was more than just a beloved uncle. He was a retired surgeon who volunteered throughout his community. He not only fixed countless objects around his synagogue, he also built things for the congregation. He created carnival games that he lent out to countless schools to use for absolutely no cost. He built sets for local theatre programs. He was the type of person that was always there to help, no matter what.

In order to honor this special person, we knew we had to do something that he would have done if he were still here. I contacted the Jewish Volunteer Connection (JVC) for some ideas and of course they had plenty!

What could be better than to have the opportunity every month to honor our uncle? JVC’s Live with a Purpose program is more than just a one-time thing. It is a way to teach our children that it is always the right time to help. It is a way to teach our children that we are very fortunate and we have an obligation to help others who are going through a rough time.

That is why the Live with a Purpose program is so meaningful. It is ongoing, because life is ongoing. Our family wants to honor those who we have lost while making sure that we fulfill our obligation to help others.

For the January project, we made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the Weinberg Housing and Resource Center, a low barrier emergency shelter that provides homeless services to over 275 adult men and women each night in the City of Baltimore.

It was something that was easy for us to do on a Sunday afternoon together. My daughters were very happy to not only make the sandwiches but they also got to decorate the paper bags. As a mother, it was inspiring to watch them work so intently on this project.

I am always telling my daughters to appreciate all that they have, because other people do not have toys, games, a house or even enough food to eat. This was a very concrete example of what I am always telling them. It was such an amazing opportunity and we look forward to many more monthly projects.

Meet Dr. Joanne Block Rief

Posted: September 9, 2016

Joanne Block

Practices: General and Cosmetic Dentistry. Originally from: Annapolis. Moved to Baltimore:to attend Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, University of Maryland. Mother of: Erika, 25, and Austin, 22. Lives in: Owings Mills with her husband, Marshall. Participated in: Chapter Two, a 10-month, high-level engagement program for women.

What surprised you about Jewish Baltimore? When our Chapter Two group visited CHANA I was so surprised at the magnitude of domestic violence in the Jewish community. I had no idea beforehand how much we needed a place to help abused women move on and heal.

So now you are involved in a volunteer project, through The Associated’s Jewish Volunteer Connection (JVC) that incorporates your professional skills. Yes. I was inspired to do something else from Chapter Two and really wanted to incorporate my professional skills in a project that helped the community. Erica Bloom (from JVC) matched me with Sarah’s Hope, which has locations at Hannah Moore in Reisterstown and downtown. My staff and I split the two locations and we talked about dental hygiene, tooth decay and healthy snacks. It’s really important for children to have good oral health for long-term health benefits.

You mentioned enjoying the Jewish Museum. I understand your family has history preserved there. I loved the Jewish Museum and learning about how to research family history. In fact, when my daughter interned at the Jewish Museum, she saw scissors in their collection from my grandfather who was a custom tailor in Baltimore. She also saw a cash register from my relative’s jewelry store in Bel Air. It’s amazing – the history of Baltimore that is preserved there.

Was Chapter Two your first Associated experience? Actually, my kids have been involved in a number of Associated programs for a while. Both did Maccabi. My daughter went to Odessa when she was a teen – it’s amazing how much I understand Odessa has changed. When she went it was really grassroots work in the Jewish community there. From what I hear now, Odessa has a thriving Jewish community.

Anything else? Yes, she went on Birthright and is involved in Moishe House. My son did Teen Giving Initiative and Onward Israel, where he held an internship at Tel Aviv University.

Have you been to Israel? Twice. I remember the first time I saw Independence Hall in Tel Aviv. Watching them sign (for the hearing impaired) Hatikvah and learning how Israel became a state. I couldn’t hold back the tears.

What else did you enjoy in Israel? We went to the underground bullet factory which was interesting. And I loved everyone we met. The Israelis are such great people. And who can forget the food. The hummus and pita. And the fresh fish!

On another note, we’re almost at the High Holidays. I love the High Holidays, walking to synagogue from where we park the car. You see people in synagogue you haven’t seen in a while. We see families who have sat next to us for years. I love watching the kids grow up – one moment they are two and now they’re in college. And I love to cook for the holidays!

What do you cook? I make great matzoh balls. And I make baked gefilte fish in loaves. It’s a family tradition from my husband’s family. It’s served cold over lettuce with cucumber and a cherry tomato, stuck with a toothpick, on top. My daughter loves helping me make it.

GFS Celebrates Festival of Sukkot with Campus Sukkah Build

Posted: September 25, 2015

As part of the celebration of the Jewish Festival of Sukkot, students and faculty at Garrison Forest School built a sukkah, a temporary hut constructed for use during the week-long festival, outside of Alumnae Hall on Thursday.

The Jewish Student Alliance (JSA) of GFS sponsored the sukkah build to help bring awareness of the holiday celebrated by Jewish people worldwide to both the GFS community and other area schools. The JSA also gave presentations about the Festival of Sukkot to Lower, Middle and Upper School students.

The Jewish Volunteer Connection, the volunteer branch of the Associated Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, provided the materials for the sukkah and led the students and faculty in building it. The on-campus sukkah replicates traditional sukkahs which are often topped with branches and decorated with autumnal, harvest or Judaic themes. All students and faculty were invited to help build the sukkah, and are welcome to eat meals inside of it while it is standing for the next two weeks.

GFS will also host dessert in the sukkah for students from GFS and area independent schools on Monday, September 28 from 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. All Baltimore independent school students are invited. Please register here.

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.

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