Liberal Judaism volunteering journeys

1 June 2017
Updated 6 June 2017

This week is Volunteers’ Week, the annual celebration of the fantastic contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK.

Liberal Judaism, and its youth movement LJY-Netzer, are proud of all our volunteers and the fantastic work they do within, and outside of, our community.

This week we will be highlighting some of the young people who volunteer for both Liberal Judaism and the wider world. Keep checking this page as we will be adding more stories throughout Volunteers’ Week (June 1-7):
 
 
LJY-Netzer leader Miriam Steiner founded and ran a campaign to improve accessibility at the University of Sussex for people with disabilities, resulting in many changes including a £500,000 budget for access improvements, a programme of building works and the hiring of an equality and diversity director. Recently, she organised a voter registration drive with RISE, a local domestic violence charity in Brighton.

Miriam says: “The Sussex campaign taught me new skills, such as how to lead and make changes with little support. Working with RISE was a great experience, learning from some inspiring and committed people.”
 
 
Amelia Viney has been involved in Liberal Jewish volunteering all her life – first as a youth movement leader and now as a member of the Liberal Judaism’s Board of National Officers, with responsibility for social justice. Many of Amelia’s fellow trustees on the Board were also her friends when she was going on youth camps and tours.

Amelia says: “More than anything, being part of Liberal Judaism’s youth movement taught me to seek out ways to help others – to give back all the love and support I was given by my leaders.

“I recognise how incredibly privileged I was to grow up with a community of young leaders who are still some of my best friends, role models and colleagues.

“Volunteering in the movement gave me far more than I could ever give back – it taught me to offer time freely where I could: to value relationships over transactions.”

She added: “Still volunteering alongside many of those who led me, or I led, on camps and tours is a great example of Jewish continuity. Just like the story of Honi and the Carob Tree (which I first heard in Plagim), I hope my continued involvement in the movement can plant some seeds that will flourish for my children and grandchildren.”
 
 
Like Amelia, Robin Moss is a former LJY-Netzer leader who is now a member of Liberal Judaism’s Board of National Officers, itself a voluntary position. As the LJ officer for Youth and Education, Robin gets an insider-outsider viewpoint of the amazing work that the current generation of LJY-Netzer voluntary leadership (the madrichim and rashim of the movement) do throughout the year.

He says: “Volunteering has been a part of my life since I was a child – my parents were always involved in a number of charities and organisations, and I have fond memories of helping set up fundraising events for many of them.

“Once I started going to LJY-Netzer, and in particular once I was old enough to be a leader, many a weekend, half-term, school holiday or chunk of the summer would be taken up by the movement.

“It’s a cliche, but I certainly got more out of this volunteering than I put in – it was rewarding, character-building, skills-developing and great fun.”

He added: “The Jewish community is particularly blessed here in the UK with a strong voluntary leadership ethos, and I’m proud of everyone within Liberal Judaism who volunteers.

“Most particularly, I want to pay tribute to LJY-Netzer’s incredible madrichim and rashim. They are proof that young people, if given the opportunity, support, training and empowerment tools, can and will give of their time freely and with enthusiasm. They are a credit to our tradition, our community and our values.”
 
 
LJY-Netzer’s Dan Smith volunteers at The Liberal Jewish Synagogue’s Drop-in for Asylum Seeker Families, which offers essentials from toiletries and clothes to services such as legal aid.

Dan said: “Seeing the huge impact the Drop-In has on people’s lives and also the satisfaction I derived from helping them, has inspired me to return to help look after the children there again and again.”
 
 
Ed Herman is the Liberal Judaism officer with responsibility for communications. Ed has spent a lifetime in the movement.

He says as a youngster, at first, he took LJY-Netzer’s volunteer madrichim (leaders) slightly for granted. Ed said: “You would turn up to a weekend, spring camp or Kadimah and they’d be there, ready to go, with a seemingly limitless supply of energy, excitement and guitars.

“It was their enthusiasm for, and the obvious joy they took in, teaching young people what it meant to be a Liberal Jew which inspired me to become a madrich myself, but it wasn’t until I did so that I truly appreciated what it meant to be a volunteer. Days of preparation beforehand. Hours spent at the PC or photocopier preparing educational programmes, silly games, creative services – did you know you can sing Adon Olam to the Star Wars theme? – and irreverent newsletters. Oh… and all those night meetings and early morning wakeups.

“But I also realised that madrichim DO have as much fun as chanichim (members). Whisper it, maybe even more so. The experiences and friendships I enjoyed as a madrich significantly influenced my Jewish identity and are ultimately what led me to continue volunteering within the Liberal Jewish community as a member of BoNO.

“LJY’s volunteer madrichim continue to inspire their chanichim, giving more and more young people – the volunteers of the future – a Liberal Jewish experience they may never otherwise have had. A genuinely virtuous circle.”
 
 
Do you have a volunteering story to tell? If so, please email us at ljtoday@liberaljudaism.org.
 
 

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