Where I fit: Finding my place at JBBBS.

Like most people, I am someone who wears many hats, someone who makes many costume changes throughout the day. I am a daughter, a friend, a girlfriend, a caseworker, a professional, an artist, a sibling. The list goes on. You can find me sitting on my roommate’s bed with her eating ice cream and talking all night, or front row at a show in some Allston basement cheering on my boyfriend’s band, or meeting my brothers at a movie theater to gorge on popcorn and soda. But a place that, until this past April, I never guessed you’d find me is a synagogue on a Friday night, a week before Passover.

In fourth grade, my best friend at the time was Jewish.  After sleepovers, I was once or twice invited to attend Saturday morning services with the family.  I didn’t mind. To the contrary, it was an opportunity to spend more time with my best friend. I embraced it. I reflected on the experience as I sat in Temple Beth Shalom on that Friday night. I was invited to attend services there in conjunction with my work in the Friend 2 Friend Program. And it seemed only fitting, an opportunity to spend a little more time with the clients whose company I enjoy, the work about which I’m passionate.

I’m not Jewish. I’m not religious. My relationship with Judaism starts and ends with my father and our shared love for Klezmer music. But, these days, I work for an organization with deep, proud ties to the Jewish community. And, admittedly, when I started, I expected some culture shock. It turns out, though, I fit right in. I fit in because the staff here share the same devotion to our clients, the same passion for the work.

So about being not-Jewish in a Jewish agency: I’ve learned a little more about the laws of Kashrut, the stories behind the holidays and community resources to help clients and families connect/reconnect with their Jewish identities. But more than that I’ve learned that by examining our differences, we only make them more obvious. Yes, it was different for me to attend Services, however, by focusing on the similarities I share with co-workers and participants I only see a group committed to mentoring, learning, discovering and growing.

– Mary Weinburg, Caseworker

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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!