FOR seven days this October, Jewish Melburnians of all backgrounds will have the opportunity to lend a caring hand to elderly members of the Jewish community, if a grant application by Progressive Judaism Victoria (PJV) to an Israeli volunteering organisation is successful.
PJV has applied for a grant to conduct an immersive seven-day volunteer program under the umbrella of Shalom Corps, an Israeli not-for-profit organisation set up under Mosaic United, a collaborative program of the Israeli government and its Ministry of the Diaspora. It engages and connects Jewish volunteers, strengthening their Jewish identity while performing Jewish outreach.
Maureen Barten, PJV’s president, told The AJN the project it has chosen for its 50-50 matching grant application would bring volunteers aged 16-40 in contact with community organisations such as Emmy Monash and Jewish Care, and with Jewish residents at centres including Arcare and Bupa, for various activities.
These will include conversation, reading together, singing and entertaining, dancing, craft, a challah bake, giving essential rides to non-driving elders and a visit to the Jewish Museum of Australia.
Over the seven-day period, in the first week of October, it is envisaged that volunteers will commit to three-and-a-half hours a day of activities focusing on tikkun olam and of chesed (loving-kindness). They will also commit to eight hours of education during that week, which can include taking part in Shabbat activities.
PJV will call for volunteers from the Progressive movement’s Netzer Zionist youth movement in Victoria and from Tamar, the Progressive movement’s young adults group, together comprising the 16-40 age range.
But Barten emphasised the program will be open to the broader Jewish community, including Masorti and Modern Orthodox. “You don’t have to be affiliated with any group – bring your friends along,” she said.
Barten said extending a helping hand will be a mutually enriching experience. “Consider the way you will feel after making someone else feel better, meeting and volunteering with other people who enjoy making a difference, just like you, learning a new skill, working in a new environment and discovering something you didn’t know about yourself, finding or strengthening your connection to the community, to Judaism, to each other.”
She said the volunteer week will conclude with a Kabbalat Shabbat and a celebration meal, where volunteers can hear a guest speaker, make presentations and share their stories.
“It will be a week of giving, of engaging Diaspora Jews through an Israeli program, very much in the spirit of the recent Kol Ha’am conference in Melbourne,” said Barten.
For further information, please contact Maureen Barten, 0416 650 366.