Hi! I’m Mollie. I’m new-ish to the GatherDC staff and my job here is to make it as easy as possible for you to live your best volunteering life in Jewish DC. We just entered Elul, the Jewish month of soul- searching leading up to the High Holidays. Right now is the perfect time to reflect on how you can volunteer in DC with other 20s + 30s, and make this a meaningful part of your life.
GatherDC’s Giving Circle
Two months ago, I co-facilitated a Giving Circle with my colleague Jackie Zais. We brought a group of young adults together to explore Jewish values of philanthropy and tzedakah, and choose a nonprofit to whom we’d donate our collective money. At the conclusion of the Giving Circle, the 12 members each donated $100 and voted to give our collective $1,205 to the Human Trafficking Legal Center, an organization comprised of a group of lawyers who fight for the rights of victims of human trafficking.
We were fortunate that Sarah Fredrick, one of our Giving Circle participants who works at the center, helped us organize a meaningful event with this organization (pictured above). During this event, we met with a labor trafficking survivor, Fainess Lipenga. Fainess shared her powerful story with us, and she repeated – over and over again – how invisible she felt to everyone around her during her struggle. In the middle of the night and in the cold of winter, Fainess would go outside of the home where she was being trafficked and shovel snow. She did not even have a winter coat. Fainess was out there nightly, just hoping someone would notice. Nobody did.
Weeks later, this story is still sticking with me. Now, as we prepare for the high holidays, a time of reflection and taking stock of our lives and our actions, I would like to offer different ways to support those who may be invisible to us.
Ways to Volunteer
I am therefore excited to help Jewish 20’s and 30’s find the right volunteer opportunities for them and to create a community around the value of tikkun olam – repairing the world. As a part of this, we have a new ‘Volunteer in DC’ page on GatherDC’s website that will be regularly updated with volunteer opportunities across Jewish DC. If you know of any upcoming volunteer events not on Gather’s calendar, please add them.
To make it extra easy for you, here are some upcoming ways to volunteer in DC during this High Holiday season.
Hands-On Service Opportunities
- August 17th – August 31st: GatherDC School Supplies Drive for A Wider Circle. Remember how much fun back-to school shopping was? Well, many children and teachers start the year without the essentials they need for a successful year of learning and teaching. A Wider Circle is currently collecting supplies for local schools. To help, GatherDC is organizing donations from our community.
- Ways to donate: 1) Drop off any of the following items to the GatherDC townhouse (1817 M Street NW) between the hours of 9:00 am – 6:00 pm from August 17th- August 31st. Please email email@example.com or call (202) 656-0743 if you are planning on dropping off. 2) Ship the items directly to A Wider Circle through this Amazon Wishlist.
- What to donate: Backpacks, Composition notebooks, Binders, Glue Sticks, Large Pink erasers, Boxes of #2 Pencils, Pens (black or blue ink), Crayons, Washable Markers, Colored Pencils, Safety scissors, 3×5 index cards, Pocket folders, Dry erase markers (low oder preferred), Zipper pouches or boxes for school supplies, Wide-ruled spiral notebooks, Wide-ruled loose leaf paper, Basic calculators, Compasses, Protractors, Basic calculators, Compasses, Protractors, Boxes of tissues
- September 2nd: Hunger Action at DC Central Kitchen with EDCJCC – Volunteer at DC Central Kitchen. Tasks include chopping vegetables, sorting fresh produce, mixing salads, portioning meals, and preparing and cooking food to be distributed to local homeless shelters.
- September 3rd: So Others Might Eat (SOME) Adas Israel Provide-A-Meal Volunteers – Join us as we work with SOME to serve a hot meal to men and women facing hunger and homelessness. NOTE: Adas Israel has many recurring volunteer opportunities geared towards 20’s and 30’s. Check out their website for more details.
- September 16th: Handmade for the Homeless at the EDCJCC – Join fellow knitters and crocheters to make handmade goodies for a great cause. All levels of knitters and crocheters are welcome. Don’t know about to knit or crochet? We’ll teach you!
- September 19th: GatherDC’s Yom Kippur Service Project – As part of GatherDC’s Alternative Yom Kippur Experience, you’re invited to join us for a service project to help combat hunger. We’ll be preparing a meal at DC Central Kitchen. DC Central Kitchen transforms donated food into 5,000 meals. These meals are distributed to 80 nearby homeless shelters, transitional homes, and nonprofit organizations. We will be preparing the afternoon meal at DC Central Kitchen at 12:45 pm. Spots are limited, please RSVP ASAP.
Here are some other people who have also volunteered here.
- October 7th: Doing Good with Federation’s Jewish Food Experience at N Street Village – Federation’s Jewish Food Experience is teaming up with one N Street Village – a shelter and community kitchen – to make a difference for low-income women in DC. Prepare and serve breakfast and lunch to homeless women seeking shelter and recovery at N Street Village.
- October 16th: Doing Good with Federation’s Mitzvah Mavens – Mitzvah Mavens is a part of The Jewish Federation’s Doing Good social action initiative. Mitzvah Mavens invites women of all ages with a passion for tikkun olam (repairing the world) to take part in year-round service projects with partner agencies and local organizations committed to making a positive difference for our community by helping those in need.
- October 16th: Fall Blood Drive with the EDCJCC at Adas Israel – Every 17 seconds, someone in the DC metro area needs a blood donation. One out of every 10 people will need a blood donation before the age of 70. Help us replenish the quickly-diminishing blood reserve in the DC metro area.
- Volunteer directly with individuals seeking asylum with HIAS – The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) provides legal assistance to asylum seekers. The majority of these asylum seekers are Central American women and children fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries. HIAS also works to address the non-legal and psycho-social needs of their clients. Participants can directly support HIAS’ clients who have had to flee their homes. Positions include mentorship and on-call assistance roles. Click here to learn more.
- Sign up for HIAS-FFI’s Letter Writing Program – HIAS hosts a monthly letter writing program. At this program, you can offer compassion and solidarity to asylum seekers in detention. HIAS partners with Freedom for Immigrants (formerly CIVIC), an organization committed to ending isolation and abuse in US Immigration Detention Facilities. Volunteers write handwritten letters and participate in a short learning session to reflect on refugee and asylum issues through a Jewish lens. To RSVP, create an account here and click the “opportunities” tab.
- Join HIAS Action DC – HIAS Action DC is a network of folks in their 20s and 30s in the DC area who are committed to standing up and speaking out for refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants. If you’re interested in getting involved in the network, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (301) 844-7921.
- Host a Shabbat dinner – One concrete way to bring our friends and family into conversation about the global refugee crisis is to host a dinner on Shabbat where we can learn about, support, and speak out for refugees. Sign up here or check out this Shabbat dinner guide.
- Rally to Reunite Families – Every Friday from 4:00-6:00 pm you can join Keep Families Together for a protest outside the Department of Homeland Security until the government reunites all families that have been separated. For more info, email email@example.com.
To sum up, I hope this list provides a good starting point for you to begin to help those who feel invisible in our community find much needed support.
May this High Holiday season be meaningful, reflective, and filled with connection and lots of volunteering!
P.S. If you would like to grab coffee and talk about how to live your best volunteer life in Jewish DC, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author: Mollie is an experiential Jewish educator and facilitator who is committed to creating empowering and dynamic learning spaces, and motivating you to dream BIG about what is possible for you on your Jewish journey. Throughout her career, she has created vibrant Jewish experiences for all types of Jewish communities, and led Muslim-Jewish Dialogues across the globe – including Winnipeg, Berlin, Salzburg, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and Sarajevo! Mollie is looking forward to building community with you through volunteer work, Jewish identity exploration, and dynamic discussions. When she’s not working, Mollie loves to travel and actually spent the past three years living in Israel! Fun fact: Mollie is a part of Hazon’s JOFEE Fellowship, which seeks to invigorate the Jewish educational landscape by seeding Jewish communities with outstanding professional educators. Get in touch with Mollie Sharfman if you’d like to volunteer, but aren’t sure where to start.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.