Chessed work in Jewish communities is hardly a new phenomenon. Free loan gemachs, meals on wheels and old-age-home visits are staples in Jewish communities worldwide, a testament to the innate Jewish qualities of charity and kindness. What is unique about the Melbourne Jewish community, however, is the scope and coordination of their volunteer programs.
Over 100 High School girls belong to Yad L’Ezra iVolunteer, Chabad Youth and Beth Rivkah High School’s umbrella volunteer organization, donating their free time to help within the community. Their volunteer efforts range across five unique programs, from Big and Lil’ Sister – a mentoring system pairing high school volunteers with primary school students – to coordinating fundraising drives, raising much needed funds for local organizations.
One remarkable program coordinated by Yad L’Ezra iVolunteer is their Help at Home initiative. Pairs of volunteers are sent to homes within the local Jewish community, where they provide assistance to mums who need an extra hand at home.
“These girls are truly amazing,” said Mrs. Noa Franco, a Melbourne mother who benefits from Help at Home volunteers. “I have no family in Melbourne and my husband works late. These two angels show up at my doorstep each week and help me get my home together.”
Whether it be cutting vegetables for that night’s supper, taking the kids to play at the park, or helping out around the house, these dedicated volunteers are there to help – and always with a smile.
“Their selflessness is extraordinary,” Mrs. Franco says. “When I was a teenager in high school I would never have dreamt of giving up my free time to help a friend, let alone to help a complete stranger. I don’t know if they realize how amazing their work is.”
In addition to the help they provide the families they visit, the Yad L’Ezra iVolunteer program proves to be an invaluable experience for the volunteers as well.
“I learnt the immense power that one small action can have,” said Aviva Basserabie, a Beth Rivkah High School student, at a recent event honoring the YLIV volunteers. “It may seem insignificant to you – a nice comment, helping someone out quietly, giving someone the attention they need – but you can’t even begin to measure how your actions can affect someone else.”
Yad L’Ezra iVolunteer recently hosted an appreciation dinner, honoring the dedication of their volunteers and the exceptional work they do for the Melbourne community. Over 180 community members gathered to show their appreciation, with sentiments being shared by grateful parents, student volunteers, and committee organizers.
“I have lived in a number of cities around the world,” Mrs. Franco told the crowd, “I have never come across a community as caring and giving as the Melbourne Jewish community”.
Yad L’Ezra iVolunteer is a joint project of Chabad Youth Melbourne and Beth Rivkah High School, and is directed by Mrs. Miri Lipskier. Chana Hirschowitz and Chana Slavin are the student coordinators and Mrs. Devorah Rochel Herszberg, Mrs. Debby Wolf, Mrs. Rivka Liberow, Mrs. Sheiny New, and Mrs. Miriam Paltiel assist as the parent committee.