Large Enough to Serve You
Small Enough to Know You

Beri Schwitzer

Volunteering Creates Bonds

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said that “What we need more than anything else is not textbooks but text people. It is the personality of the teacher which is the text that the pupils read; the text they will never forget.”

This quote reminds me so much of the warmth and kindness that radiates through our hallways during Learning Center. Our staff and students have a special connection and our teachers, all of whom are members of Congregation Beth Torah, have such dedication and commitment to making our program successful. We are so fortunate to have such committed members of our community who work to enrich the next generation of Jews.

I’m also proud of the Teen Chugim and the projects that they are taking on to continue their community engagement. We’ve had several students using the time before class on Sundays to volunteer helping with  assembling bulletin boards, filing and other administrative tasks while several others are using their classroom skills to support their younger peers and our teachers. Other teens have found their strength in returning to lead services on Friday night or Saturday morning. Noah Winter and Miriam Schwitzer wanted to find a way to use the Torah Time puppets and have added a new weekly Hebrew skit to Havdalah for the younger grades. They prepare a few minutes to use the puppets to teach a Hebrew word or phrase.

These teens are what Rabbi Heschel was referring to—they are our text people. They are modeling for our younger members the importance of giving back and the sacred commitment to supporting and strengthening our community.

We all can take a lesson from our teens and know that science actually shows that the more we volunteer and give back, the better we will feel. So why does volunteering make you happier? Research shows that volunteering will help you live longer, and that should be cause enough to make you happy. But there are other reasons as to why volunteering makes you happier… here are three leading theories as to why:

Giving Time Makes You Feel That You Have More Time

Not having enough time” is considered one of the biggest stressors and detractors of happiness. However, the feeling of having more time lowers stress. While not necessarily intuitive, giving your time to others will likely benefit you as much as any other party. A study from Harvard, Wharton, and Yale, ‘Giving Times Gives You Time‘,
summarizes the benefits nicely: Happier people give more and giving makes people happier, such that happiness and giving may operate in a positive feedback loop (with happier people giving more, getting happier, and giving even more). Counter-intuitive as it may be, volunteering increases your perception of how much time you have, and
lowers your stress in the process.

Volunteering Creates Social Bonds That Make You Feel Loved

In 1943, Maslow released his groundbreaking research that we now know as the “Hierarchy of Needs.” In it, he hypothesized that after safety, the thing that people need most is “Emotional Belonging.” According to Maslow, humans need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance among their social groups, regardless if these groups are
large or small. Spending time volunteering creates bonds with fellow volunteers, organizations hosting volunteers, and the beneficiaries. The social bonds created during volunteering contribute directly to feelings of belonging. Looking for a way to be more connected in the synagogue? Volunteering as a substitute teacher, offering to
read a story to a class, helping with filing or taking pictures are all great ways to give back.

Volunteering Extends Empathy; Empathy Leads to Life Satisfaction

Jeremy Rifkin, a best-selling author, has a wildly popular video and book called ‘The Empathic Civilization‘. He argues that the only way we can truly create a sustainable and healthy planet is by extending empathy across borders. By doing so, he explains that you will create relationships which ultimately lead to happiness. There are lots of ways to engage and help support our local community. Please consider taking the time and giving back to our congregation—not only do we need your help but it will make you happier in the end!