General Volunteer Opportunities

The following are some general volunteer opportunities that are needed on an ongoing basis:

Drivers Needed: Help people remain independent! Provide rides to clients for appointments and other destinations on an as-needed and as-available basis.  Requires copies proof of insurance and driver’s license plus a driver’s record check, done at our expense.

Designated Shopper: Help people remain independent by providing assistance and companionship by going shopping or running errands with them. At times, clients may also need someone to pick up groceries or other items for them when they are not able to be accompanied.

Back-up Volunteer Photographer: Take photos at JSS events which will be used for promotional materials and social media.
Bikur Cholim/Friendly Visitor: Opportunities to visit with people in rehabilitation, hospital, or memory care. These visits can be made when convenient for you.
Computer/ Odd Job Help: Elderly and others looking for some help and support with doing small jobs – changing light bulbs, fixing loose hinge, etc. Help also needed to operate and learn basic computer tasks and general electronic devices such as television and remote controls.

Volunteer at holiday, social events, and Oakwood Shabbats: Help the residents of Oakwood Village welcome Shabbat one Friday per month from 3:30p.m.-4:30p.m. Seat guests, pour wine and juice, and distribute challah, interact with the residents of Oakwood Village and their families.

Oakwood Village is looking for volunteers currently to help with Shabbats. Please contact Paul Borowsky if interested. Please stay tuned or call Paul at (608) 442-4083 for updates regarding other holiday opportunities including Menorah delivery for Hanukkah.

Standing United for a New Year – 9/15/17

Our Torah portion this Shabbat begins saying, “You stand this day, all of you, before Adonai your God” (Deuteronomy 29:9). The Torah then goes on to explicate who ‘all of you’ are and it includes the ger the stranger. At this important moment of standing before God the stranger, who lives among the Israelites, is included as part of the community. On this last Shabbat before the Jewish New Year our tradition calls us to stand with the entire community, citizen and newcomer alike. However, we are living in a country in which the national discourse is increasingly anti-immigrant and our lawmakers are attempting to keep immigrants and refugees out and divide, rather than unite people.
Since our last email to you the president has announced that he will end the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and the Supreme Court has reaffirmed that the travel ban on all refugees without close family members in the United States will remain in effect. JSS strongly opposes both of these actions and our work is directly affected.
Because of the Supreme Court’s upholding of the travel ban, JSS has had no new refugee families arrive in the last 90 days and are not sure when any more will come. One Syrian family that we did resettle this winter left in the early summer to reunite with family living in Kentucky. After just one month in Kentucky they decided to move back to Madison, where they felt much more at home. They returned and brought their extended family with them. Therefore, we have two new families with 12 members (and one on the way) here in our community. Our community has become a home where refugees want to bring their family, a community that has the resources and desire to welcome new families seeking safety. It is infuriating and heartbreaking that admissions have been stopped by the government and we are not able to resettle more people during the worst global displacement crisis in history.
We at JSS are doing all we can to assure that refugee program remains intact and that refugee admissions begin again soon. Last week, a group of JSS staff and volunteers (adults and teens,) along with World Relief Fox Valley, our resettlement partner in Oshkosh, met with Senator Ron Johnson’s regional director and legislative coordinator. We explained the details of resettlement work and urged the Senator to advocate to the president to set the ceiling on refugee admissions to at least 75,000. We also shared our concerns about ending the DACA program, offering to meet with the Senator to share stories about clients of our agencies who benefit from DACA. Later this month we will have similar meetings with Senator Tammy Baldwin and Representative Pocan’s offices.
This Saturday evening Jews around the world will gather for selichot services during which we begin the communal recitation of the penitential prayers, asking for forgiveness both individually and communally for our misdeeds of the past year. As we take stock in our actions we must ask ourselves how we are making sure that all our community can stand together and how we are taking action to protecting those who are being targeted by the current administration. We have included easy ways to take action below.
May this new year bring more justice to all who live in our community and all those who are seeking safety around the world.
Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah,
Rabbi Renee Bauer

The Call of The Shofar – 9/1/17

As the days begin to shorten and chilly mornings become more common our attention turns to the fall and to the upcoming Jewish High Holidays. At sundown on August 21 the High Holiday season officially began with the ushering in of the Jewish month of Elul. During this month that precedes Rosh Hashanah it is traditional to blow the shofar each day to wake us up to the important work of Teshuvah, of repentance and renewal, that this season demands. This year we hold refugees, those who have been resettled in Madison this year and those who are now barred from coming in our hearts and use the shofar to amplify their cries. Please enjoy and share this liturgical piece written in honor of refugees and in protest of the Presidential travel ban.

Two Volunteer Opportunities – August 22nd, 2017

Near Westside single parent of child with intense emotional and behavioral challenges seeks assistance with (1) yard and garden work and (2) small home repairs.

This parent is hard working in the field of social services and is dedicated to prioritizing the needs of her two children, which means that attention to the house/yard is lacking.  The following are project-based requests – not ongoing.

  • Please consider volunteering time or funds to weed  and prune garden beds. It would be great to gather a small group of people to take a Sunday (or weekday) to pitch in and create beauty from the chaos.
  • Home repairs include stair rail, window blinds, curtain mount, door frame trim. Please consider volunteering time or fund a contractor to improve safety in this family’s home, which could likely be done in a morning or afternoon.

    Your assistance would provide great relief to mom, and she would be extremely grateful – as it is difficult to face the overwhelm of upkeep in the face of her family demands.

You can make a positive difference in the lives of this special needs child’s family.  Please email Maya Garbuz today at maya@jssmadison.org  or call 608-658-2240

Refugee Resettlement Update 8/18/17

This Shabbat we read parashat re’eh, in the people are told ‘see, I set before you today a blessing and a curse’. There is a grammatical inconsistency in this sentence is noteworthy. The word see is an imperative in the singular but ‘before you’ is in the plural. The classical rabbis believed that all such inconsistencies were there for a reason, to teach us a lesson. We can learn in this week during which we have seen in clear sight the deep hatred that still exists in our country and is gaining support in places of power, that we indeed must open our eyes and see. Each of us individually must awaken to the racism and hatred that is brewing in our country and collectively we must act against it.
The racism and anti-Semitism on display in Charlottesville takes place in a political climate of increasing anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric. All these forms of hate are part of a dangerous fear and intolerance of the ‘other’. In order to make our country a safe and welcoming place for everyone we must each open our eyes to what is happening and together decide to act for blessing instead of for curse.
I invite you to take a small but essential act in assuring that our country remains one that is open and welcoming. Over the next six weeks President Trump, in consultation with Congress, will determine how many refugees will be allowed in during the next fiscal year. Please join me in calling on congress to insist that we welcome 75,000 refugees in the coming fiscal year.

See the full flyer with directions on how to call here.

Volunteer with Seniors!

In addition to our previous opportunities, we now have additional volunteering needs with seniors!

We are looking for someone strong to help a senior to move boxes from one room to another. It should be about 2-3 hours.

Keep checking in to see our volunteer opportunities!

Balancing Gratitude with Impatience in the time of Charlottesville

Like all of you, I was really struck by the events of this weekend in Charlottesville, VA. Madison is a college town, as is Charlottesville. We also have very passionate people who are ready to standup against anti-Semitism, islamophobia, racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia while needing to acknowledge that we have all of these within our community. I am glad that I live somewhere that it feels safe to speak out against many forms of bigotry. I know that Madison and Dane County are not perfect, but I hope that I never have to find words to explain to my children about that kind of hatred happening in our community. It was hard enough answering questions when it was 1,000 miles away.

One of my favorite blogs is Nonprofits: Absolutely Fabulous. Yesterday morning the author, Vu Le, wrote about how we somehow need to cultivate an attitude of both gratitude and impatience. Impatience is a great motivator, but it is also makes us angry, frustrated, and exhausted. Gratitude increases mental strength and helps us to sleep better (my personal favorite benefit). We really need to find a balance between the two, the balance of appreciating what we have, but also to use the energy that comes from impatience to push for change.

Typically the JSS team is not out in the streets showing its impatience. We could complain all the time about how difficult it can be for seniors to find affordable, appropriate housing or for immigrant clients without documentation to find medical care. We don’t. We use impatience when we need to advocate for a client who needs something she isn’t already getting. And mostly, our team is out there cultivating gratitude. Sometimes it is gratitude from a case worker at another agency who appreciates the tip we gave about an apartment that our client couldn’t use, but her client can. Sometimes it is the gratitude from a client who emails me “to emphasize that … JSS has an awesome social worker!” It is the knowing that we are doing right by our clients that prevent us from getting stuck in the impatient mode. And it is this gratitude that allows us to continue to help people ensure that they are getting their basic needs met and that they do not feel that they are living in isolation.

We can only do our work of practicing impatience and gratitude with support from the community. We need staff, donors, volunteers, clients, participants, governmental and non-governmental community based organizations all connecting in some capacity with Jewish Social Services. This is how we get our work done.

In the next couple of weeks you will likely receive a letter from Jewish Social Services about our Friends Campaign. It is the one fundraising campaign we do per year for our overall community and helps to pay for our operational costs for all of our programs, including resettlement. Without the Friends Campaign, we could not have Lechayim, case management, chaplaincy or refugee resettlement. We could not provide barrier relief, odd-jobbers, or friendly visitors.

If you have already given to the Friends Campaign, thank you. If you have never given to the Friends Campaign before, but have given to refugee resettlement, please consider supporting this Campaign. JSS needs the help of everyone to ensure that all of our programs will succeed.

A Tish B’Av Update from The Refugee Resettlement Team

This past Tuesday the Jewish community observed Tisha B’av, a major day of communal mourning on the Jewish calendar, which commemorates the destruction of the First and Second ancient Temples in Jerusalem. A central ritual of the Tisha B’av is the recitation of the Book of Lamentations which includes not only dirges but also descriptions of the siege of Jerusalem. The text captures the horror of the siege: the starving of children, the raping of women and defiling of priests.

Refugees that JSS is settling and the millions who are seeking refugee around the world could tragically write a contemporary Book of Lamentations to describe the horrors they have witnessed. Our staff does not know the details of the atrocities that our newly arriving families have witnessed but we know there are victims of violence and persecution that have led them to flee across the world for safety. We hear their wailing when we listen to the chanting of the Book of Lamentations.

However, the wailing has not reached our government in Washington. On Wednesday, the day after Tisha B’av, Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue introduced the “Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy” (RAISE) Act, and President Trump has embraced the Bill. This bill would cut legal immigration to the United States in half within a decade and by 41% in the first year. These reductions would primarily be achieved by curtailing the ability of American citizens and permanent residents to bring family into the country. If passed the legislation would also permanently cap refugee admissions at 50,000.

The Haftarah this Shabbat says, “Raise your voice with power… Raise it, have no fear…” (Isaiah 40:9). Whether or not we will attend synagogue and hear these words read let us each take them to heart and use our voices to strongly oppose the RAISE Act.

As we continue to strive for justice we wish you a Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Renee Bauer and Dawn Berney
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TAKE ACTION
If you would like to volunteer with the refugee resettlement program, you must attend a orientation. As of September 1, all resettlement volunteers will need to have attended an orientation. These will be held at our office at 6434 Enterprise Lane and snacks will be provided. The next one is:  August 21st, 5:30pm – 7:30pm

All of these will take place in the JSS conference room and snacks will be provided.
RSVP to Becca

TELL CONGRESS: Stand Up for Refugee Protection & Resettlement and

Reduce Funding for Immigration Detention, Deportation & Border Militarization
CALL YOUR SENATORS & REPRESENTATIVES TODAY: 1-866-961-4293
Please call 3 times to connect with your Representative and both of your Senators

Sample Script: “I’m your constituent from [CITY/TOWN], and I support refugee resettlement and strongly oppose President Trump’s refugee and Muslim ban executive order. I urge you to do everything in your power to see that the administration resettle at least 75,000 refugees in 2018 and keeps the DACA* program intact. I call on you to protect refugee assistance and resettlement against proposed budget cuts; increase funding for trafficking survivors; and reduce funding for detention, deportation, and border militarization, which only tear families and communities apart. My community welcomes refugees and immigrants, and I urge you to reflect the best of our American values of compassion and welcome.”* DACA stands for “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.” DACA allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit.

For more information:

Refugee Resettlement Update 7/21/17

For all of us who care about refugees and the United States refugee program, the Torah portion we read this Shabbat, Mattot-Maasei, is particularly compelling. We read about the requirement God gives the Israelites to set up cities of refuge when they enter the land of Israel. They are told that they must set up six cities where anyone who has accidentally killed someone could find safety from the “blood avenger” who seeks to kill him. These cities are not just for Israelites: “These six cities shall be a refuge for the children of Israel and for the proselyte and resident among them, so that anyone who unintentionally kills a person can flee there” (Num. 35:15).

At the end of a week when the courts have gone back and forth about which refugees, immigrants, and visitors from six majority Muslim countries can enter into our country, it is striking that Jewish tradition is so clear that we need a place for people under attack to find safety – no matter their faith or nationality.

Not only does Torah teach that nation-building must include spaces of refuge, but the classical rabbis argue that the path to the cities of refuge must be unobstructed to avoid delaying anyone who is fleeing to the city. As Rambam says in Mishneh Torah, “The court is obligated to straighten the roads to the cities of refuge, to repair them, and to broaden them. They must remove all impediments and obstacles … so as not to delay one who is fleeing [to a city of refuge].”

Our courts and our government are currently doing just the opposite for refugees – not those who have committed unintended killings – but those innocent people fleeing persecution and violence. The legal decisions over the last ten days put the U.S. refugee program into chaos. Last Thursday a federal judge in Hawaii expanded the definition of what was considered a close family member and a bona fide relationship with a U.S. entity, which are now the only exceptions in place to the travel ban which was upheld in part by the Supreme Court on June 26.
In the Hawaii ruling the court included refugee resettlement agencies, like JSS, as bona fide entities. We at JSS, along with our refugee resettlement agencies around the country, celebrated this ruling with cautious optimism knowing that it would have allowed all refugees who had already been matched with an agency into the country. On Wednesday, the US Supreme Court upheld the expanded definition of family ties from the Hawaii case but rejected that our agencies are a bona fide entity.
This new ruling means refugee admissions will be limited to those who have a “close” family tie in the United States. Therefore, JSS is expecting that we will not be getting any new families until October when the ban expires.
At this crucial time it is more important than ever that we call our senators and representatives and echo the call in this week’s Torah portion to create a safe and unobstructed path to safe refuge in our country for those fleeing persecution.

Take Action

TELL CONGRESS: Stand Up for Refugee Protection & Resettlement and
Reduce Funding for Immigration Detention, Deportation & Border Militarization
CALL YOUR SENATORS & REPRESENTATIVES TODAY: 1-866-961-4293
Please call 3 times to connect with your Representative and both of your Senators
Sample Script: “I’m your constituent from [CITY/TOWN], and I support refugee resettlement and strongly oppose President Trump’s refugee and Muslim ban executive order. I urge you to do everything in your power to see that the administration resettle at least 75,000 refugees in 2018 and keeps the DACA* program intact. I call on you to protect refugee assistance and resettlement against proposed budget cuts; increase funding for trafficking survivors; and reduce funding for detention, deportation, and border militarization, which only tear families and communities apart. My community welcomes refugees and immigrants, and I urge you to reflect the best of our American values of compassion and welcome.”* DACA stands for “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.” DACA allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit.

For more information:
Shabbat shalom,
Rabbi Renee Bauer and Dawn Berney

JSS Fundraiser was a huge success!!!

Thank you to everyone who supported Just Desserts. We raised over $12,000 In addition to beautiful donated space by AMC theater (Sundance), desserts from community establishments specializing in sweet treats, we enjoyed gorgeous floral displays from The Florettes and there was live music performed by David Adler of local bands The Gomers and Steely Dane, volunteer speakers, and a local employer and a short video. Plus, Leora Saposnik, Laurie Nagus and all of our wonderful volunteers were total rock stars!

If you were unable to join us please consider making a donation to our program today. It is for a good cause.

If you would like contact information for any of the vendors who supported our programs, please call or email us. We would be happy to share the information.

Only Do Justice: An Update from the Refugee Resettlement Team 7/7/17

In this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Balak, the king of Moab sends the prophet Balaam out to curse the Israelites. Instead of cursing the people Balaam blesses them three times. So too, three times now the Trump administration has tried to vilify refugees and end our country’s long history of welcome to refugees with two executive orders and one appeal to the Supreme Court to uphold those orders. Despite the rhetoric coming out of Washington we like Balaam will not follow the call to close our borders and close our hearts no matter how many times we are asked to. We will continue to speak of the blessings that refugees bring to our country and to our local community here in Madison.
Last week the Supreme Court issued a ruling allowing President Trump’s travel ban to partially take effect. The 90 day travel ban for visitors from six majority Muslim nations and a 120 suspension of the refugee program is in effect for anyone without a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with an individual or entity in the United States. Since the ruling there has been debate about what types of relationships will be included under this ruling. HIAS, the national refugee resettlement agency of which JSS is an affiliate, explained the way the administration is interpreting bona fide relationship in a statement.”HIAS has learned that ties to resettlement agencies are not expected to be considered as a “bona fide relationship” for a refugee. This will be in place after July 6, when the U.S. is expected to have resettled 50,000 refugees for the fiscal year. Refugees arriving after that date will be subject to the new rules.” (See the full statement here) As of today, refugees who have managed to pass through the many steps of gaining access to the USA will be shut out if they do not already have family here in the United States.
We at JSS are deeply disheartened by this new situation. Having seen the courage and the need of the refugee families who have already arrived in the United States we ache at the thought of families who are waiting to come and will now be turned away. We will continue, in partnership with HIAS and with you, our dedicated community, to do everything we can to fight back against this ruling. We will take part in actions that answer God’s call to us in this week’s Haftarah portion, “God has told you what is good and what God requires of you: Only to do justice, and to love goodness, and to walk modestly with your God”. (Micha 6:8)
Shabbat shalom,
Rabbi Renee Bauer and Dawn Berney