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.

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Perelmuters chairing $1 million scholarship campaign.

Carolyn and Phillip PerelmuterCarolyn and Phillip Perelmuter have been named as chairs to Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters’ “Campaign for Tomorrow’s Promise,” an initiative doubling our available college scholarship funds for Little Brothers and Sisters by raising $1 million for JBBBS’ Scholarship Fund. The Perelmuters – active in the life of the agency since the early 1990s – are dedicated to its program development. Phil is a former Big Brother and served on the agency’s Board of Directors; Carolyn is currently serving on the Higher Education Scholarship Committee.

The goal for the campaign is to amass the $1 million by March 28, 2015, the date of the agency’s Annual Gala and 95th anniversary celebration. With this accomplished, scholarship awards can be increased, and funding gaps decreased, so alumni Little Brothers/Little Sisters and Friends graduate with less debt.

To date, the Campaign for Tomorrow’s Promise has raised $445,000.

The agency’s work isn’t complete when a Big Brother/Sister match is identified, a child sent to summer camp or economic assistance rendered. The JBBBS Higher Education Scholarship Fund was created to provide ongoing, merit-based support to alumni Little Brothers and Sisters and Friend 2 Friend participants aspiring to college.

In 1965, Maxwell Burstein and friends established the JBBBS High Education Scholarship Funds. That same year, the agency awarded scholarships to five Little Brothers and Sisters totaling $6,000; in 2006, it awarded 33 scholarships totaling $79,000 and, last year, 44 Little Brothers, Sisters and Friends received scholarship aid totaling $103,200.

Participants come to JBBBS experiencing need in the broadest sense: many from families in economic distress, others touched by medical or mental health concerns, death, divorce, a parent’s incarceration. Others are recently immigrated. Upwards of 12% of Little Brothers and Sisters are receiving AFDC or SSI. Their stories are extraordinary and deeply moving. And, many aspire to college. With strategic  growth on the horizon, increasing numbers of deserving and well-qualified alumni Little Brothers and Sisters will see need for scholarship aid unmet and be forced to make tough choices about foregoing college or incurring significant debt.

Thus the need to raise an additional $1,000,000 for the JBBBS Higher Education Scholarship Fund through the “Campaign for Tomorrow’s Promise.”

The average unmet financial need for a Little Brother/Sister is more than $10,000 – $25,000 per academic year. This gap is typically bridged by loans, leading to an average of $65,000+ in education-related debt accumulated by a graduating senior.

Even though JBBBS academic scholars have lived through some of the most difficult and trying circumstances, these young adults, with support from the Fund, have fixed their course toward a bright future for themselves and greater contribution to family and community.

To discuss scholarship funding opportunities or to make a one-time gift to the JBBBS Higher Education Scholarship Fund, please contact Susan Gotshalk, Vice President of Development at 617.558.6536 or susan@jbbbs.org.

 

 

In our community: Community Organizer, Aliza Schwartz.

AlizaIt was a memorable spring for JBBBS Community Organizer, Aliza Schwartz. In addition to her work with the agency, in March, she was published, first author, in an academic journal for research conducted while still an undergrad at Brandeis University. The same month, she joined HaZamir alums for a performance at Carnegie Hall.

Within the span of a few weeks, you were published in Cognitive Science and you sang at Carnegie Hall. Tell us what goes through your head on an awesome week such as that?

I am thankful for the amazing mentors I have been so lucky to have in my life. Two of those mentors were in these areas. Both of them created incredible environments that allowed me to strive for challenging goals and feel genuinely empowered, valued, supported and creative.

You studied culture’s impact on categorization in memory. In a sentence or two (which any non-scientist can understand), tell us what you learned!

A lot of cross-cultural research compares East Asians to Americans. We examined Turkish culture, which is interesting because it is made up of a blend of Eastern and Western cultural influences. We found, through analyzing “false memories,” or errors in memory, that Americans tend to use categories as a strategy to organize information in memory to a greater extent than do Turks, who tend to emphasize relationships and similarities.

Let’s talk music. What’s your favorite to listen to? To make?

I am obsessed with acoustic YouTube covers. For example, Michael Henry and Justin Robinett’s cover of If I Die Young by The Band Perry.

You’re also a JOIN fellow. How has your experience in JOIN informed your work at JBBBS?

JOIN is teaching me strategies to build powerful teams, develop leaders, and cultivate relationships: all skills that play out every day in my work here, especially at the temples I work with. The JOIN community itself models the content of what we learn and discuss, and I’ve found that being a part of this fellowship and a part of what JOIN is building is incredibly useful for what I do at JBBBS.

And, speaking of that, what’s your favorite part about working here?

The staff and the mission. Walking into the office each day, I feel motivated to work because of the amazing people who surround me and the powerful impact we have.

JBBBS, CJP community applauded at grand opening of Parents at the Center, Haifa.

For the past four years, Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Boston, through its President/CEO, Harvey Lowell, has spearheaded CJP’s effort to apply an innovative approach to helping families in Haifa’s neediest neighborhoods. What began as an idea generated by a joint taskforce of Boston professionals and social service leadership from the city of Haifa, has, under JBBBS’ leadership, evolved into a beautifully-renovated Center that puts parents at the center of attention, giving them the skills they need to raise healthy children and build stronger families.

Located in a diverse neighborhood, Parents at the Center’s programming attracts an array of families from native-born Israelis, to Muslim and Christian Arabs, to immigrants who enjoy learning and playing together. JBBBS has helped CJP to build an effective coalition which includes local and municipal partners, national supporters, and other Greater Boston-based Jewish organizations. JBBBS’ pioneering work was applauded at the grand opening of the program on March 10.

Marc Jacobs, CEO of Jewish Family Service of Metrowest, in a statement Thursday, praised the contributions of JBBBS President/CEO, Harvey Lowell.  “[Harvey] has been the professional leader from Boston for the four to five years since CJP committed to a big idea project… Turning big ideas into action requires strategic and operational skills and perseverance. The capability to bring very divergent interests and views, let alone different culture and language to the same table is a companion skill set. Harvey has it all.”

The staff and board of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters commends Harvey for his dedication to Parents at the Center. For more, please enjoy the accompanying video, which showcases what JBBBS, and the entire CJP community, have been doing to change the face of neighborhoods in Haifa, and, with our national partners, throughout Israel.

Mythbusters: Top 10 JBBBS untruths debunked!

1)   It’s Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters. It’s not for me. I’m Christian [or Buddhist or Baha’i or Muslim or…].

Inclusion is a hallmark of progressive Jewish institutions. Sure, we have deep roots in the local Jewish community and strong, proud ties to it to the present day, but there is no requirement that one be Jewish to participate, as either a client or volunteer, in the life of the Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters agency. We welcome participation from individuals and families of all religious backgrounds – including people with no religious affiliation.

2)  Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters is a program of the Leventhal-Sidman JCC. 

It isn’t. JBBBS rents office space at the JCC. We like it here. We enjoy close working relationships with our colleagues at the J. That said, JBBBS is its very own entity.

3)  JBBBS exclusively serves individuals and families living in Newton.

False: We serve clients across some 90+ towns in Eastern Massachusetts. Our volunteers, too, come to us from all parts of Greater Boston, the North Shore, South Shore and beyond.

4)  JBBBS is a new entity.

No. JBBBS was one of the founding members of the Big Brothers Big Sisters movement in the United States. Our organization was founded in 1919 and has been in continual existence since.

5)  JBBBS serves children.

That’s only part of the story! We do serve children. (We serve children ages 6-18 who could both benefit from, and actually want, an adult mentor.) But we also serve adults with disabilities through a program called, “Friend 2 Friend.” Participants in F2F, all adults with disabilities who seek connection and socialization with other adults, are matched to community volunteers for just that purpose.

6)  There’s no “need” in the Jewish community.

Yes there is. We’re quite sure of it, because we’ve seen it and experienced it firsthand. Some Jewish people are poor. Some Jewish people are sick. Some Jewish people are mentally ill. Some Jewish people have disabilities. Some Jewish people are socially-isolated. And some don’t talk about it. Frankly, we wish they would.

7)  I’m a young adult on a starting salary. I’d be happy to make a small gift to support the great work you do, but you couldn’t possibly benefit from this $20. 

Oh, yes we could. Those small gifts add up. Plus, we recognize that micro-philanthropy is one very important way young people cast their support behind those causes they care about the most! Show us the money.

8)  I’m somebody’s grandpa. I’m too old to be a Big Brother.

No you’re not! While JBBBS volunteers have to be at least 18 years of age and have completed secondary school, there’s no such thing as “too old” to volunteer.

9)  I don’t think I have the time to make a difference.

We’re pretty sure you do. Here’s why: While it’s the case that some of our programs stipulate that volunteers meet with their Little Brothers, Little Sisters or adult friends 2-3 times per month for a few hours each time, our Children’s School-Based Programs in Newton, Needham and Waltham and our Friend 2 Friend MAGIC program offer time-limited, predictable opportunities to forge mentoring-friendships. And even if now is the wrong time for you to volunteer in any ongoing capacity, it’s very possible we could use your support around some short-term initiative (i.e. planning or staffing an event).

10)  At JBBBS, it’s all about the match!

To be fair, it’s a lot about the match. We take great pride in bringing together Big and Little Brothers and Sisters and adult Friends who go on to have impactful, long-lasting relationships. But that’s not all: We also offer short-term counseling, camp and college scholarship aid and economic assistance to families experiencing financial hardship. We sponsor social events and operate a leadership program for young adults. The list goes on. JBBBS is a robust, happening agency!

Harvey’s spin on holiday giving: An interview with JBBBS President/CEO, Harvey Lowell.

For the second year in a row, Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters (JBBBS) is partnering with Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) to launch Project Dreidel, a program that provides Chanukah gifts to Jewish and interfaith children in need. Harvey Lowell, JBBBS President/CEO, discusses how Project Dreidel is making a difference in the lives of local families.

Is there a belief that most Jewish families don’t need assistance?
Our single biggest challenge is that we, as a community, are not aware of how many of us are in strained circumstances, where incomes are low, needs are great, and connections to Jewish institutions are tenuous at best. It is assumed in the Jewish community that everybody except poor, older people have sufficient incomes, nice places to live, food and connections to Jewish institutions. In truth, almost two-thirds of the families JBBBS helps are not connected to synagogues, in part because they can’t afford it and in part because they’re too ashamed of their situations. Even the rabbis I’ve talked to don’t realize the kids JBBBS is helping are Jewish. JBBBS works with hundreds of young families whose situations are exacerbated by not just poverty but health concerns and disability concerns, and their kids can’t thrive in the way that they should.

How do you go about changing that view?10437_ProjDreidelAN14_250x250
And the answer is: it’s a tough slog. And by that I mean you have to keep going to synagogues, to any place where Jewish families or children might go to say, “This will benefit you. This will help people you know.” The Jewish day schools know people who can benefit from our services; the socially-isolated kid, the kids on scholarship, whoever it might be. We’re also improving social media capabilities in order to educate our community that this problem exists.

How did JBBBS first get involved with Project Dreidel?
I heard about Project Dreidel about a year and a half ago, at the same time that one of our board members, Steve Rosen, decided that what he wanted to develop a wish list to make sure that the kids we work with got something they actually wanted for Chanukah. It’s almost cliché to be the kid who’s looking in the store window at the bicycle that they know they’ll never get, but those are the kids we’re working with here. Project Dreidel fit in perfectly with that goal and has made a huge difference in our ability to achieve it.

Why is it important to support Project Dreidel?
Many of the kids we work with live in a circumstance where every frill, every extraneous item in a family’s life that’s outside of rent, food and schooling is out of bounds. They are immersed in a culture where every year, they see everyone else getting presents of some kind and there’s no hope for them to get one. So when you give a kid a gift that he wants, that he has no expectation of ever getting, it’s really a joyous moment. And the joy that these kids experience is something that the community can take real pride in. It’s a very small and very human act that’s important in terms of a child’s feeling that their family is able to provide for them and that they actually belong to a community that will provide for them. It is extremely powerful. It’s not easy to achieve, but by supporting Project Dreidel, it’s possible.

“When parents come to pick up these gifts that they’re then going to give to their kids, it’s very emotional for them. I can tell you, as someone who goes out and buys the presents, it’s very emotional for me to be able to help these parents out. I put a lot of effort into getting exactly what the kids want, because in many cases it will be the one shot for them to get anything at all.” -Steve Rosen, JBBBS Board Member

Project Dreidel raised almost $4,000 from more than 110 donors in its first year. What are your hopes for the program this year?
We’re hoping to increase both the amount of donations and the number of donors. Ultimately, we want to have this become a program that people look forward to; something that they want to support each year and one that continues to grow. If we raise $4,500 but that money comes from 7,000 donors, I would say that is a better outcome. It’s about getting more people to be aware that this phenomenon exists.

Are there any special programs JBBBS is doing this year to celebrate the overlap of Thanksgiving and Chanukah?
We are having a young adult event, timed to #GivingTuesday, at the Holiday Inn in Brookline. JBBBS is always looking for more volunteers to help in the vital work we do to strengthen our community from the bottom up.

We also have a special message to those looking to get involved.

To send a toy to a child in need, visit the Project Dreidel online store. 

Celebrating diversity, building partnership and strengthening our community.

This summer, Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters will be working to celebrate Gay Pride week in Boston with Keshet, a national organization that works for full LGBTQ equality in Jewish life. At JBBBS, we believe that our collaboration with Keshet is extremely important for the meaningful work we do. With Big and Little Brothers and Sisters and Friends who identify as LGBTQ, we want to celebrate the LGBTQ community in our midst and to show our full support for inclusion.
logo for picnic

On Sunday, June 9th, from 11:30am-2:30pm at Jamaica Pond, we will be co-sponsoring a  fun, family-friendly Pride Picnic & Field Day with Keshet. Come, bring your friends, and wear your rainbow colors to show support. There will be bracelet-making, painting, Ultimate Frisbee, kickball, crazy hats and costumes, lots of music, food and more!

I want to tell you the story of a personal friend of mine who was matched with a Big, through our agency, about ten years ago. Starting at the end of elementary school, Mike was the person to pick on at recess. He felt constantly left out, different from all the other boys, and scared to talk to anyone about it. It was a cycle. The more people picked on him, the more socially isolated he became. Toward the end of middle school, he was matched with a Big Brother, Josh. Josh and Mike had and still have an incredibly close relationship. Josh, Mike tells me, is the best listener he has ever met, and after having not spoken with anyone for entire weeks at school, Mike would spend hours with Josh – just talking.

A couple of years after Mike was matched, he started to recognize why he felt so different from all the other boys. When boys at school talked about girls, Mike couldn’t relate. He just didn’t find them interesting. When people asked him “who he liked,” he didn’t have an answer. One day, a video was shown at school about the LGBTQ community. I’ll leave the rest to Mike’s words: “At that point, it just clicked. I realized I was gay – I don’t know why. And then I started liking my best friend. It was horrible. The worst thing I could imagine. It was so scary. I felt alone, like no one would understand me except the people in that video, and I didn’t know who those people were. I couldn’t tell my mom. I couldn’t tell my dad, or my uncle. I definitely couldn’t tell my best friend. And then I realized something: Maybe I could tell Josh!! The thought of this made me so excited – that someone would actually listen to me and maybe not judge me for what I was going to say. The next couple times I hung out with Josh, I planned to tell him, but it was way too hard. If I lost Josh, I knew I would then feel completely alone. One day, Josh asked me about Ken (my best friend), and it all came out. The waterworks. I started crying and told him everything. And, like every other time, he was the best listener in the world. He just let me talk and was so supportive. From then on, he was incredible. He was interested in the process I was going through, he consistently sent me resources to read. He made me feel normal and good. Without Josh, I don’t know how I would have gotten through all of this – honestly.”

Other Little Brothers and Sisters in the JBBBS family have similar stories to Mike’s. Big Brothers and Sisters, Friends, and so many others deeply involved in what we do to accomplish our mission do too. I am personally so excited by our collaboration with Keshet and by our commitment to the LGBTQ community.

Please come to the picnic on June 9 to show your support, and if you are interested in getting involved, please contact me, Aliza: aliza@jbbbs.org or 617-558-6549. Visit Keshet’s “upcoming events” to find out more information about this one! 

Another shameless plug: On June 8, Keshet will be marching in the Gay Pride Parade in Boston holding a banner that will read, “Boston Jews for LGBTQ Rights.” Our JBBBS logo will be on that banner. I will be marching as a Boston Jew for LGBTQ Rights. If you’d like to join me (and I’d like that), let me know.

AlizaAliza Schwartz
Recruitment Department

Why blog?

rodman

We’re excited for the official launch of our agency blog!  At JBBBS, we are constantly at work and want to keep you up to date with the latest happenings within our organization.  In addition, we see this blog as a great way to share the resources that make JBBBS the fabulous agency that is – and to do so with a wider audience.

While our official launch is today, we’ve been working hard behind the scenes for the last several months, to make sure this blog is full of useful information, interesting news and our most powerful and inspiring stories.

Want a sneak peek of what is to come?

  • Volunteer interviews 
  • Match moments
  • Links to articles and resources
  • Event photos
  • Messages from JBBBS staff, Board of Directors, and President, Harvey Lowell
  • Expert advice and support from our clinical team

Be sure to add this blog to your newsreader or sign up to receive new posts via email so that you don’t miss a moment! Plus,  if you have ideas or suggestions, we’d love to hear from you as well!

We look forward to connecting with you, our community, in this space.

And we thank you for reading.

– The staff of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters

Philanthropy in action.

On Saturday, March 24, 2012 the JCC in Newton hosted a special fundraising event in support of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters. The event, a 3-on-3 style basketball tournament, was organized by four young men—Jason, Jake, Sam, Andrew—as a joint Bar Mitzvah project. Together, they raised over $2,000, and chose to donate the funds to JBBBS.

 

barron pic with harvey and check (1)

Andrew, a Little Brother with JBBBS, is currently in his second match with the agency, after having been matched with a Big Brother for 3 years previously. Says Andrew, he is “a basketball kid,” who was looking for a way to give back and help other kids have the same positive experience he had.

Susan, Andrew’s mother, was thrilled with the hard work her son and his friends put into the event and  proud of their contribution to JBBBS. “I’ve been involved for years. I think it’s a great agency. I’ve seen what it can do for kids and I’m thankful that it exists and for the help we’ve received.”

Congratulations to Andrew, Sam, Jason, and Jake on this extraordinary achievement.