Spend some time talking to Jamie Pious and you can understand how he has landed as chair of the board of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.
The Barrington resident is full of enthusiasm and hope for the Jewish community. And he’s accustomed to volunteering when he sees a need.
He’s pretty confident, too. Rabbi Andrew Klein, of Temple Habonim, introduced him at the Alliance’s annual meeting and, among other things, mentioned that Pious enjoys doing crossword puzzles – with a pen!
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve this community,” Pious said in a recent interview. “I’m doing this for the opportunity to pay it forward.”
Pious has already held many volunteer and leadership positions in the Jewish community. A longtime member of Temple Habonim, in Barrington, he started volunteering there on the education committee; moved on to the board, where he served during the congregation’s building expansion; and helped with the inaugural Gift of Israel program. He has also served on the board of the Bureau of Jewish Education and in volunteer positions for the then Jewish Federation of Rhode Island.
He and his wife Lezli live in Barrington. He grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts, and she is from Fall River. They were married at Temple Emanu-El in Providence, and have two adult sons, Dan and Jordan. Dan is maried to daughter-in-law Jamie, Pious said with a chuckle, since many people call him Jamie. He said the whole family is supportive of this commitment.
After more than 15 years of volunteering and leading, Pious knows a little bit about the community and the Alliance.
“Taking care of people from birth through the senior years is important,” Pious said.
“We have to modify with the times,” he said. “We can’t do the same old, same old.”
The community needs new programming, new approaches to fundraising and new ideas to engage the next generation, he said.
And he wants to finish some of the things that his predecessor, Mitzi Berkelhammer, started, including an ongoing examination of the allocations process.
“We have a terrific staff and a loyal core of volunteers that we need to grow,” he said.
“I know there are more people out there who want to help,” he said, and he wants to find ways to get them involved.
Echoing what other leaders have been saying lately, Pious said it’s important to recognize that there’s more to Rhode Island’s Jewish community than what happens on the East Side of Providence at the Alliance’s Dwares Jewish Community Center.
“Every community has challenges,” he said. Among the many challenges our community faces is that “our own children aren’t coming back [to Rhode Island].”
“I want nothing more than a vibrant Jewish community that is welcoming and engaging,” Pious said.
He’s looking for ideas from the community, too.
“This isn’t my Alliance. This is our Alliance. It isn’t just for my ideas,” he said. “If we are successful, then we are successful together.”
FRAN OSTENDORF is the editor of Jewish Rhode Island.