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.

One year later the Jewish Community remembers Mindy Wiseman

By Rabbi Renee Bauer
Sukkot is a time of joy on the Jewish calendar but at Jewish Social Services the holiday is tinged with grief. Last year during Sukkot beloved JSS caseworker, Mindy Wiseman, passed away. Mindy who had a long career serving senior adults never reached her senior years. An aggressive form of cancer ended her life days before her 61st birthday.
JSS’s work of helping seniors live independently and make conscious choices about their end-of-life care honors her memory. Mindy was also an early visionary and strong advocate for JSS having a Jewish community chaplain. Mindy helped with JSS’s successful proposal to the Goodman Foundation for a three-year grant to establish the chaplaincy program. In Mindy’s honor, we hope to continue the chaplaincy program indefinitely.
In addition to her dedication to serving others Mindy was a master gardener. In memory of Mindy, Jim Mackman, executive assistant, has planted a garden in the front of the Max Weinstein Jewish Community Building. All spring and summer the flowers bloomed and the blue butterfly statue reminded us daily of Mindy’s spirit. As the garden begins to wither into the cold days of winter we grieve her loss once again. May Mindy’s memory always be for a blessing and may her family and loved ones be comforted among the mourners in Zion and throughout the world.

Jewish Social Services, Our Core Values

By Dawn Berney, Executive Director

The months of August and September have brought significant turmoil to the United States. Charlottesville. Hurricane Harvey. The end of DACA for many teenagers and young adults in our community. Hurricane Irma. Hurricane Jose.

I feel so fortunate to have Jewish Social Services (JSS) here in Dane County. Our team regularly revisits our core values to ensure that our programs, activities and actions are aligned with these values. It gives me hope for myself as well as for my children. It is important to me to show that we can make the world a better place.

Levy Summer Series – this summer we averaged over 90 registrants per luncheon, bringing together people of all ages who might not have met ever before.

Refugee resettlement – Since December, Jewish Social Services has resettled 30 individuals in Madison who could not safely return to their home countries. In addition, we worked to find housing, employment, and schools for another 12 people. These are individuals who had been resettled as refugees to other parts of the United States but had heard about how Madison truly “welcomes the stranger” and has employment options.

Case management – Our team works with senior adults who need appropriate housing. They help families to apply for food assistance or health insurance. They listen to people who are overwhelmed, and need to figure out their next step.

Chaplaincy – JSS and our community is fortunate to have a chaplain who can visit those who need spiritual or emotional support. She provides programs to our seniors where they live, when they cannot necessarily get out into the community at large.


If you would like to learn more about Jewish Social Services and our core values, or you would like to receive support or provide support, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can be reached at (608)442-4081 or on our website at

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  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.