Volunteers are truly the heart of JFS. And one of those volunteers, Jeff Adberg, has stepped up tremendously during the pandemic, helping fulfill the goals of several different JFS programs including Refugee & Immigrant Services (RIS), and our Shabbat meal delivery program, which provides Shabbat meals and connection to elderly and homebound individuals. We spoke with Jeff about his family background, what motivates him to volunteer, and why taking action is important to model for the next generation.
How long have you been volunteering with JFS?
I have been volunteering with JFS since sometime last summer, or maybe it was even late spring. I started participating in the Shabbat meal delivery program, which was extended, so I’m continuing my deliveries and they tend to be every other Friday on average.
In addition to the Shabbat meal delivery program, you’ve also volunteered for our Refugee & Immigrant Services (RIS) program. What initially moved you to get involved with RIS?
In light of what was happening in Afghanistan (this past August when US troops withdrew), I felt I just needed to do something tangible. The way everything unfolded was so intensely tragic to me. And if there’s a way that I can do something and give of myself, my time, my resources, and do something tangible; I felt there was a reward there.
Why do you think it’s so important to help incoming refugees?
Because my grandparents were incoming refugees two generations ago. I think on many levels, on a simply humanistic level, we should be able to help take care of others. Looking to the future, I think that refugees have contributed much more to their communities than what they absorb in resources when they first arrive. Supporting and helping incoming refugees is forward-thinking; it’s an investment in a current generation that will more than pay off in generations to come. And it’s the right thing to do.
You and your partner’s teen son shopped for bedding, hygiene supplies, and other items for six of our incoming families from Afghanistan. What was that experience like for you two?
I think it was a very important experience for him to have. His eyes were opened to a situation that really was quite unfamiliar to him, and I’m glad he could be a part of it.
What do you have to say to others thinking about volunteering with JFS or more generally?
I was looking for ways to donate both my time and my financial resources, and I believe in the mission of Jewish Family Service to help all parts of our community (both Jewish and non-Jewish alike). I think my Jewish identity strongly influences my values in giving back to my community. It just feels very important to me. It takes a little more effort to donate your time and energy, but it’s what I’m doing. I volunteer regularly, and I get to see firsthand the gratitude people feel when they receive an act of generosity, such as the Shabbat meals. Something that I might take for granted but for someone else, it means the world.
Many of those Shabbat meal recipients are Russian-speaking older adults. It’s been hard because I haven’t had an opportunity of further connecting with them because of COVID. But at some point, I would really welcome just hearing more of their stories. How is it that they found their way to Renton, or Seattle, etc.? What are their life stories like? I have some curiosity, because each of my grandparents were born in Eastern Europe, and I know that some of their families came, some didn’t, some perished, but these people all have a link to the old world that is only a couple of generations removed from me. So, it’s a satisfying link for me to explore.
In your own words, why is giving back important?
I think if we really acknowledge how much we have—and how little we need to give in order to make a big difference—it’s a no-brainer. It’s a testament to our own personal resolve of trying to make the world a little bit better. If everyone contributes something towards that goal, imagine the positive change that could happen. I have a 26-year-old and an almost 24-year-old, and I want them to see that I’m not just giving lip service to this; I’m actually taking tangible steps to demonstrate that I can do something to help. It’s important for me that my kids see what I’m doing and the actions I’m taking to leave the world better than how I found it.
We want to thank Jeff for giving us his time and so graciously sharing his volunteer experience with JFS thus far. Jeff embodies the generosity and spirit of the Hillel quote on the exterior of our building: “If I am only for myself, then what am I…?” If you are interested in volunteering at JFS, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our Get Involved page for more information.