The High Holy Days are always a special time of year, not in a warm and fuzzy way, but in a meaningful, introspective manner, a time when our awareness of how we treat others - in addition to how we treat ourselves - is heightened. This is the time of year when we take stock of the year that passed; when we pick our conscience apart and work harder to find new methods of self-improvement for the year to come. As 5760 pulls out of the station and the bright lights of the oncoming 5761 approach the platform, here are some opportunities to explore your sense of humanity and compassion by getting involved and helping others who might be less fortunate than you.
SOVA Kosher Food Pantry
"Certainly the holidays are a time to get more motivated, to get involved," says Tamar Gelb, director of SOVA Kosher Food Pantry, which relies on volunteers all year long to distribute food packages to the needy.
At SOVA, volunteers will work out of one of three locations - Beverly/Fairfax, West Los Angeles, and Tarzana - on four-hour shifts. They can choose from two types of jobs: working in intake, which involves interviewing and finding clients, filling out food order slips, and other paper-work; or in the stock room, sorting out food, stocking shelves and breaking down bulk items received. Both are important roles, Gelb says.
What makes SOVA a unique place to volunteer, she adds, is that "it's a very hands-on, very personal type of volunteering. They see the client come in and go out with some food, so it's very first-person."Gelb also would like to see more people turn to their local synagogues and Jewish organizations in the year to come. "They all need volunteers," she says.
7563 1/2 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles 90036; (323) 932-1658
Open Mon. & Wed. 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-12 noon
6072 1/2 Reseda Blvd., Tarzana 91356 (818) 342-1320
Open Wed. 10-2 p.m., Fri. 10-noon, Sun. 10:30 a.m.-noon
11310 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles 90025 (310) 473-6350
Open Mon. & Wed. 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Fri. 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
SOVA accommodates kosher, vegetarian and diabetic requirements.
Believe it or not, you don't have to be established and well-off to give back to your community. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles holds leadership development programs through its ACCESS young adult program, which involves both couples and singles ages 25-40 in meaningful volunteering experiences. Recent community-minded undertakings organized by ACCESS include repainting Ohr Eliyahu Day School and delivering food to people living with HIV/AIDS through Project Chicken Soup. ACCESS holds plenty of social functions, too. For more information, call (310) 689-3650, write to ACCESS@jewishla.org, or visit www.jewishla.org and hit the ACCESS link.
Jewish Family Service
Linda Weigel, program manager of Jewish Family Service's senior nutrition program, says that volunteers are needed for the organization's various charitable outlets, including Hirsh Family Kosher Kitchen on Fairfax Avenue. Help is needed in the area of serving and/or home delivering meals.For more information on available shifts, call (323) 937-5843.
Free High Holiday services are available for students at area Hillel locations, including Cal State Northridge, Claremont Colleges, Pierce and Valley Colleges, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara and USC. USC Hillel program director Matt Davidson says that his chapter's social action group - SC Tzedek - welcomes donations of food or clothing, which will be earmarked for various charitable institutions. For more information, contact Matt Davidson at (213) 747-9135.
Jewish Big Brothers
Jewish Big Brothers (JBB) enlists male volunteers to act as surrogate siblings for children 6-18 years old coming from fatherless homes. JBB also offers a disabilities program matching disabled chidren with similarly disabled Big Brothers, and it sponsors Camp Max Straus, a residential camp for children ages 7-12 who are struggling with emotional or social interaction problems. The camp is open to children of all races and denominations.
For more information on getting involved with JBB programs, write firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.jbbla.org. It'll have a new phone number once The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles is settled back at 6505 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging
Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging in Reseda needs volunteers to help residents with recreational activities, assist with arts and crafts, read books and letters and provide companionship.For more information, call Linda Spitz at (818) 757-4442.
Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE)Programs for Russian-speaking Jews
The BJE's Russian language division is planning a full holiday schedule that will include a lecture by former refusenik Shimon Grilius, a Shabbat celebration at Chabad's Russian Center, and a havdalah and dessert function at the Westside Jewish Community Center.
Alla Feldman, the Russian-language division's director, needs volunteers for the Russian Center portion, as well as for the havdalah event. She adds that her department is always look-ing for people to tutor Russian children in English and Hebrew. People can also lend their time and energy to upcoming Shabbat services and weekend retreats.
To volunteer in any capacity, contact Alla Feldman, (323) 761-8618. Newly arrived Russian immigrants seeking free High Holiday tickets can also call at this number.