Volunteers are crucial to our community


The Talmud teaches us to “… sustain the non-Jewish poor with the Jewish poor, visit the non-Jewish sick with the Jewish sick, and bury the non-Jewish dead with the Jewish dead …” (Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 61A): The value of supporting Jewish and non-Jewish organizations alike is taken very seriously by our community members and organizations.

While the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island truly could not function without our community members’ charitable giving and immeasurable volunteer hours, many of the Alliance’s most dedicated volunteers also know the importance of helping non-Jewish organizations across our small but mighty state.

Barbara Feldstein, a former co-chair of the Women’s Alliance Endowment Fund, has been a longtime community volunteer. Feldstein shared that she was always deeply involved in the Jewish community, but after she retired she was looking for an opportunity beyond these experiences.

For the past 12 years, she has volunteered in the post-partum day program at Women & Infants Hospital, in Providence, caring for newborns and infants while their mothers receive therapeutic support for post-partum depression and anxiety.  She also volunteers in the Moms for Moms program, as a mentor to new mothers. In this role, Feldstein has helped eight women as they navigate new motherhood and overall wellness.

One experience that has stayed with her is about a woman she mentored who she “…bonded with immediately.”

Feldstein said, “This mom was in great distress. After a year of working together, we parted ways … five years later I received a holiday card that said ‘Thank you for helping me through the worst time of my life.’ ” This is just one of many stories from Feldstein’s experiences.

Dan Gamm, Marisa Garber and their three children live on Providence’s East Side, and Gamm shares that his life is “mostly in the Jewish community.” The couple is actively involved in Jewish institutions locally, though Gamm knows the importance of “bringing our children to different communities and helping others.”

For the past eight years, Gamm has organized his employees and clients at Gamm Financial Group to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House, in Providence, during the holiday season.

The volunteers cook and clean at the Ronald McDonald House, making things a little easier for the crew that usually cares for the house. Because of this annual tradition, Gamm said that one of his 75-year-old clients shows up every year at the Ronald McDonald House with his own rake and outdoor supplies and heads straight to the yard to do his task. 

Gamm, who serves as chair of the Professional Advisory Committee at the Alliance and is co-president at the Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island, also brings a group of volunteers to the Boys and Girls Club of Pawtucket every year to assemble over 250 Thanksgiving baskets for at-risk families.

Another volunteer crucial to our community is Barbara Sokoloff.

“It’s about prioritizing tikkun olam, repairing the world,” Sokoloff said about her commitment to volunteering both at Jewish organizations and beyond.

Sokoloff is a board member at the Classical High School Alumni Association and the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence. Some 71 percent of students at Classical live at or below the poverty line, but the school still ranks high in Rhode Island. The alumni association supports a number of projects every year, such as transportation for field trips, athletic team supplies, and musical instruments and equipment. 

This past year Sokoloff was honored as a Distinguished Alum of the Year by the Alumni Association.

Sokoloff’s commitment to Rhode Island youth also manifests in her role as board member of the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence, which strives to reduce violent crime in our community.

When asked how she finds the time for her varied involvement, Sokoloff said, “I think that generally the busiest people still find the time to volunteer … it’s just the way I look at the world.”

The Jewish Alliance is able to enrich life for Jews in Rhode Island and around the world because of these committed individuals and countless others who contribute to our annual campaign, volunteer at the alliance and our partner agencies, and inspire their peers to get further involved – and we cannot do it without you.

To give your time to the Jewish community, or to donate to the Alliance Annual Campaign, contact Stephanie Hague at shague@jewishallianceri.org or 401-421-4111, ext. 127.

STEPHANIE HAGUE is the philanthropy officer at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.

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