My Little Sister is just like me!


“How did they know?” my Little Sister and I asked  in unison on a recent trip to a bakery here in Boston. We were in search of the perfect macaroon.

It went under the radar for a few months and, bit by bit, my Little Sister, Iris, and I realized just how similar we were: from our life’s path down to (literally!) the way we look. Now nine months into our match, we wondered: How did they know?  Our JBBBS social worker made the perfect match, and she knew it before we did. I don’t know why we didn’t notice it right away; it just snuck up on us.

Iris and I took it really slowly at first. After years apart from the high school experience, it took me a while to really understand the challenges that a young adult in the high school environment faces. Between the pressures of getting into college, hanging out with the right crowd, and discovering those things about life that really make you tick…it’s a tough job being a high schooler.  But through visits to coffee shops, walks in the Common, an attempt at art, chick flicks and those countless other times we spent getting to know one another, her experience didn’t feel so far apart from mine. Slowly but surely, we realized we are both closeted nerds (humble brag: the evidence is in her A++ report card!), we love fashion, analyzing relationships, politics, and the world around us. We both have a serious travel bug. And, although she says she doesn’t like sports, I will one day win her over as a Celtics fan!

The gift in these moments has been our friendship, observing our growth and becoming bigger motivators to one other. How did they know? My Little Sister is just like me. I don’t know why the match happened the way it did, but I do know that our lives were meant to change and never be the same.

Hadas Peles is a volunteer in Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Children’s Program. Ready to meet your match? E-mail: to learn more about opportunities here.


Repetition, the soul of wit.

My outings with my Little Sister range from simple activities like frequenting the nearby school playground (one she’d never been to) to a drive to see a well-known musical performed at a faraway community theatre.

Recently, we tried renting a two-person kayak at a local state park. She was excited to give it a try but, at age six, after 20 minutes she asked, “Can we go back now?” A few weeks later I commented to my husband that I was fresh out of good ideas for things to do with my Little Sister, when he offered, “Take her boating again! At that age, repetition is the soul of wit. She will enjoy doing the same thing.” So I suggested it and, to her and her mom, the idea of doing the very same thing seemed the most natural in the world!

We went boating again. This time she was braver. She wanted to paddle out a little further, even get out and explore an island. She still wanted to stop after about 45 minutes, but I was so proud she seemed more comfortable.

We also both enjoy singing and, en route to activities together, I sometimes sing for her in the car. Inevitably, she remembers and, when we’re together again, she’ll say, “Can you sing that song for me?” Hopefully, we’ll keep creating our “Big/Little” song for a long time to come!

-S.G., Central Massachusetts: Children’s Program volunteer.

Why I Ride: Karen Sisselman.

Seven years ago, my friend, Elyse Marsh, asked if I wanted to participate in the Rodman Ride for Kids.  Elyse and I are both actively involved in JBBBS: both board members and both volunteers. (Elyse is a Friend 2 Friend volunteer. I’m a  Big Sister.)  So, I quickly agreed.  The Rodman Ride was more fun and moving that we had anticipated. Hence, began a 7-year tradition of riding “The Ride.”

Karen and Elyse, Rodman Ride 2013.

Karen and Elyse, Rodman Ride 2013.

Each year, the day has begun the same.  Getting up early and making sure we have all our gear, checking the air in our tires and then heading out to Foxboro.  My excitement builds as we pull into the parking lot and join the mass of bikers – each representing a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help improve the lives of at-risk kids.  At this point, I always feel proud to be a part of this community and am honored to wear my JBBBS bike shirt (which is always pretty cool).  My energy level peaks when I join my fellow JBBBS riders, all of whom are either fellow board members, volunteers in our programs or just “good friends” of the agency.

Although I have always done the 25 mile ride, each year the actual ride has been a little different.  Some years the sun has been shining and other years it has been cool and drizzly.  But certain things are always the same: The crowd on the streets cheering us on and the extraordinary support and encouragement from the numerous volunteers along the route.  And of course, there is the incredible sense of accomplishment when I cross the finish line. It may only be 25 miles, but I am helping raise money to support our Little Brothers and Sisters and adults who have disabilities.

The day ends with a BBQ that consists of not only great food but also exudes the spirit of the day.  I so look forward to this year’s Ride!


The spirituality of volunteerism.

By Hannah Fried-Tanzer, CJP/JVS Emerging Jewish Leader and JBBBS Intern

I grew up in a Jewish family and attended Hebrew School classes where we discussed the importance of helping others. I came to understand giving back, volunteerism, as a “Jewish value.” But in my work with Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters, I’ve learned it’s more than that. Here, we encounter volunteers of various religious persuasions (and some none at all) who indicate that giving back is a deeply-held value. Sometimes, even a spiritual one.

Judaism: Responsibility for others

The Talmud, a central text of rabbinic Judaism, teaches us that “all men are responsible for one another” (Sanhedrin, 27b).

Christianity: Helping those in need

Matthew 25:35 reads, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

Islam: Your “brother,” yourself

Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself,” (Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi, 13).

Hinduism: Loving others brings joy

The Yajur Veda, one of the four official texts of Hinduism, says “The one who loves all intensely begins perceiving in all living beings a part of himself. He becomes a lover of all, a part and parcel of the Universal Joy. He flows with the stream of happiness, and is enriched by each soul.”

Buddhism: Watching after yourself and those around you

The Samyutta Nikaya, a Buddhist scripture, teaches that “When watching after yourself, you watch after others. When watching after others, you watch after yourself.”

Sikhism: The three Golden Rules

The three tenets of Sikh faith are naam japna (remembering God through mediation), kirat karo (earning an honest living), and vand chakko (selflessly serving others, and sharing income and resources.

Confucianism-The karma of doing good

A famous quote from Confucius: “He who wished to secure the good of others, has already secured his own.”

Taoism-The three greatest treasures

Lao Tzu wrote in the Chinese classic text, Tao Te Ching, “Simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being. Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are. Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.”

Shinto: The purity of doing good

A famous Shinto saying: “To do good is to be pure. To commit evil is to be impure.”

And for those with no affiliation, a lesson we learned as children…

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.”  -Dr. Seuss


Why I Ride: Captain Cheatham!

I have had a love affair with the Ride ever since I first rode 100 miles with Harvey Lowell, JBBBS President/CEO, and the rest of the JBBBS crew back in 2008.  I have personally been an avid cyclist since 2002 and find that the combination of the mission and my passion for cycling is an unbeatable combination.

The Ride has many dimensions for me.  First and foremost is the opportunity it gives me to reach out and solicit.  I get to leverage my being a committed rider with being a Big Brother. It provides an opportunity for me to connect with my friends and engage them in the agency’s mission and the work that we do.  Asking for money is easy in this context and by so doing I am able to expand the supporter base for the agency.

Secondly, I find the energy around the Ride infectious. It creates a whole new social group which I value apart from the Ride.  Friendships have been made that persist and spill over into other areas in support of the agency.   As team captain over the past few years, it has been fun to put together training rides and to show people who have not ridden in many years that the 25-mile loop is not out of their reach. Together, we can complete the Ride.  The practice rides created confidence and a sense of comradery for all.

Finally, the day of the Ride is a real high.  The sendoff crowd is energizing, the water stops are colorful (and theme-based) and help introduce the riders to the other agencies that are involved and share the mission of serving children at risk.  My wife, Suzie, has gotten involved at our water stop and I enjoy seeing her there and then meeting up with everyone at the finish line.   I have also very much enjoyed accompanying other riders and encouraging them along the way.  All in all, an event not to be missed and keeping up the tradition year in and year out is an honor to be part of.

So come out and join our training sessions and ride even if the last time you rode was 20 years ago! You will find how very worthwhile it is. See you September 20.


Big Sister, Beth Heller, on summer with Grace.

Beth Heller is a volunteer in Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Children’s Program. She is matched to Grace. About her experience, she notes:

Since being matched four months ago, we’ve had a blast playing at the park, eating ice cream, pizza-making at Bertucci’s, going to movies,  shopping and eating out at Legacy Place. We share a love of fashion, jewelry, singing to the car radio, dancing, watching movies, and playing at the park. It’s been very fulfilling to do so many great activities  with such a fun, energetic and caring girl, and I’m so excited for the rest of our summer plans, especially Grace’s double-digit birthday later this month!

From the first time I met her, I was so impressed by her good manners and family-first mentality. She is a loving daughter and sister who cares deeply about others. I really noticed this when we went to Sugar Heaven for candy and she made sure to buy her dad and sister the treats they liked the most to surprise them when she got home!


Grace and Beth.

As Grace’s Big Sister, I try to be consistent and show her that she can count on me: Another dependable and trustworthy person in her life. I am confident that she will come to me if she has any issues or needs to troubleshoot challenges she’s facing.  I strive to be a great friend, support system, and role model for her.

We are both very proud and thankful for the opportunity Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters has given us to get to know one another. We look forward to continuing our journey together as a match in the program!


Why I Ride: Jeff Ganz.

I love to ride and, whenever I can sneak away for an hour or two, I head for the single lane roads of Metro West Boston to take advantage of the time to be outside, to enjoy the fresh air, and to feel the accompanying exertion.  With that love, though, there is always the twinge of guilt that follows: Cycling can be a bit of a selfish pursuit and it always competes for time with family, work, and other obligations.

But that feeling disappears each September at the Rodman Ride for Kids.  That’s the one day each year that I know I am riding for someone other than myself.  And the people I am riding for aren’t just an abstraction.  They include Josh, the Little Brother I spent three years getting to know, and the more than 80 Little Brothers and Sisters the organization sends to camp each summer.  They also include the volunteers, Big Brothers and Sisters, who spend their free time making a real difference.

And, of course, there is no better fundraising model than the Rodman Ride’s – with the event organizers, sponsors and vendors picking up all of the costs and then matching a portion of our fundraising. It’s virtually unheard of at a time when fundraising is a challenge and there are so many organizations deserving of our support.

My distance of choice is 50 miles and it’s typically my longest ride of the season.  Regardless of how hard I have been training over the summer, though, I know the that the energy of the volunteers at each of the three water stops will carry me through.  (This was true even during the year that I was part of a group of about 20 Rodman Riders that went the wrong way and added about five miles to our trip before we were rescued by a local police officer who set us back on the right path!)

And when I am done with the Ride, exhausted and enjoying a cold refreshment and some great barbecue, I gaze out at my fellow riders and think about what we have all just accomplished. I begin  looking forward to doing it again next year.  I hope you will join us.


A Friend 2 Friend Burger Adventure!

By guest blogger, Friend 2 Friend volunteer, Elaina Rivais.

When we were matched last November, I was nervous about finding fun things to do with my new friend, Lily. I wanted to get more creative than “dinner and a movie,” so we enjoyed a number of unique outings: a women’s basketball game, bowling, shopping. She even got to see my community band perform a dinner concert and meet some of my family, which meant a lot to me. Still, it turns out that having dinner together and seeing movies are some of the most fun times we enjoy as friends. We sing along to the radio while driving to the theatre and she picks movies I wouldn’t have chosen and might never have seen if I didn’t go with her. She’s also a great restaurant-picker. 

One night, she asked me if I’d heard of the restaurant Boston Burger Co. I had! In fact, I’d been there several times before. She had seen the restaurant on the show “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” and wanted to try their Mac Attack burger. The location I’d been to is right across the street from a Red Line stop in Somerville. I asked if she had ever ridden the T before, and she hadn’t. That’s when we started planning our adventure.

Lily and Elaina.

Lily and Elaina.

It was a couple of months later that the weather was nice enough to go and our schedules aligned. We rode the T all the way from Quincy, braving T stop construction, transferring from train, to bus, and back to train, grateful for accessible entrances and exits which made it simpler to transfer between platforms. Finally, we made it to Boston Burger, where we sat outside enjoying our gigantic hamburgers. Lily got the famous Mac Attack which, she said in between delicious bites, was “even better than (she) thought it would be!” We concluded our afternoon together with ice cream at J.P. Licks and departed for home: train-bus-train-riding pros! 

A long journey. An enjoyable day.

Now that we’ve ridden the T together, there’s no telling where we’ll go next! One thing’s for sure, we’ll be back to Somerville for some burgers and ice cream the next chance we get!


Why I Ride: Beth Cohen.

This is the fifth year I’ll be riding in the Rodman Ride for Kids, and I’m (still) excited about the challenge that’s once again upon me. 

Beth Cohen at the water stop, Rodman Ride 2013.

Beth Cohen at the water stop, Rodman Ride 2013.

I’ve been matched with my Little Sister for over 13 years. We officially “aged out” of the program a year or two ago, but we’re closer and better friends than ever. She’s a wonderful, intelligent person, pretty, mature and full of energy, friendly and, in general, someone I’m just so glad is in my life! These days, she’s in college studying to be an engineer, and I’m very proud of her.

Beth Cohen with her "Little" Sister.

Beth Cohen with her “Little” Sister.


I ride because it’s a great challenge for me, physically (I tackle the 100 miles!) and mentally. I ride because I’ve experienced firsthand the time and diligence the JBBBS organization takes to make strong, sustainable matches. I ride because I know what an incredible impact Big and Little Brothers and Sisters have on one another. Mostly, though, I ride so other children can experience the joy of Big/Little friendship for themselves.  


Beth Cohen is a member of JBBBS’ YoPro (Young Professionals) Leadership Board. Meet Beth and other JBBBS YoPros at this year’s Ride!


In Our Community: The Parent Perspective.

At JBBBS, we understand that meeting the needs of the participants we serve often extends to supporting the whole family, understanding the nuances of relationships with parents, grandparents, siblings and friends who have been impacted, in their own right, by their loved one’s participation in our programs. In this special, two-part, “In Our Community,” we caught up with Adele (whose daughters, Miri and Elana, were enrolled in the Children’s Community Program) and Ann and Isael, (whose daughter, Gabi, age 24, is a participant in Friend 2 Friend’s Community and MAGIC Programs). Here’s what they had to say about the JBBBS difference!

The Children’s Program

I looked to JBBBS for what seemed like obvious reasons: a newly-single, working mother with a 10-year-old and a toddler that required extensive support services at that time. My oldest daughter’s life was turned on its head, and she needed support I was unable to provide. I was unaware of just how much this would positively affect our lives.

I was immediately impressed by the level of care and professionalism staff took in getting to know my older daughter and the challenges that shaped her life at that time. The agency made a perfect match for her; they remain close to this day. My second daughter, a very different child, was matched about seven years ago. The same process on the part of the JBBBS clinical team was equally on target. My second daughter was matched with someone wonderful, and their match remains in place today. My daughters’ matches are special people, uniquely their own, who provided friendship, support, and wonderful role modeling. Their routine outings gave me a much-needed break, too.

The agency provided opportunities my children would not have had otherwise: Chocolate seders, Chanukah celebrations, baseball games, Blue Man Group. I am very confident in the JBBBS staff. I was glad for “check ins” with the matches, and I loved my independence from this process. I did find both of our social workers very supportive when I needed guidance about circumstances that affected our lives.

I learned JBBBS had scholarship programs to assist with the expenses of camp and, in later years, college. This had a profound effect on the development of who my children grew to be as young ladies. They enjoyed time free of worry and stress and a whole new support system of friends through camp. Currently, one daughter is enjoying camp and one daughter – my oldest, now a senior in college pursuing pediatric nursing – is staffing a leadership tour in Israel for counselors-in-training for the same camp. It has provided them with the beginning of a legacy of their own as they both discuss sending their own children to camp together! Not possible without JBBBS.

The impact of JBBBS and our Bigs clearly has had a major impact on our lives. I am personally indebted for the silent partnership, if you will, of helping me raise my daughters, to help them grow and reach their fullest potential.

Friend 2 Friend

We feel very lucky that Gabi connected with two different volunteer friends: one in each Friend 2 Friend’s Community and MAGIC Program. They’re doing wonderful things for Gabi!

We’ve watched Gabi take initiative to make monthly plans with her Community Friend, Arielle. Gabi and Arielle have gone bowling, shopping, swimming, Swan boating. Gabi so anticipates and enjoys these get-togethers.

In MAGIC, Gabi is matched to Zahava. Similarly, she has so much anticipation around MAGIG group.

Having two new friends in her life make Gabi happy; she knows that they care about her as she cares about them. Gabi has told us she feels a little more like other adults her age when she has the opportunity to make and keep plans with friends.

We know, though, that these relationships have done more than simply enriched Gabi’s social life. In addition to having fun and feeling more positively about herself, Gabi has learned important social and life skills from Arielle and Zahava. As her parents, we’re so grateful.