I was recruited to the JCS Alliance by Laura Raiffe, who is a true (what I call) “weeder” — she yanks people up from the soil and empowers them to step into pursuits to spread light to others. I was a young (23), single graduate student with ample time on my hands and missed my Jewish sorority’s organized philanthropy efforts, so I was intrigued by a new Jewish philanthropy endeavor to save me from my studying toils.
As a small but mighty group of young professionals, we moved mountains with little more than rakes, it seemed, with our grassroots efforts to Tikkun Olam — repair the world. I became a “weeder” myself and enlisted my own friends from all demographics – graduate students, Miami friends, Junior League-ers, and more to participate in JCS fundraisers, happy hours, and other activities that we definitely would not have defaulted to in our spare time. Some even became board members themselves. By that time, the Alliance had an established itinerary for the year’s initiatives, but I loved how my voice and opinion was always considered, valued, and how my time and talents were used most efficiently. Our fearless leader, whom I affectionately call our “chaperone” (young folk can get unruly when So Heavenly schnitzel / wine abound at board meetings, you know) was our guiding beacon.
I was most enamored with the caliber of the board members – extremely impressive career people by day, and mitzvah mavens by night/weekends. No task, plan, or fundraiser seemed daunting — everyone just always assumed an attitude of — “We got this — I’ll use my talents, skills, and connections and we will make it happen, because where there is a JCS need, there is us.” I still revere how we seem to always land on our feet and whip up a masterpiece in what feels like no time, whether it’s tens of thousands of dollars raised for eyeglasses or a casual marathon run.
As years with the Alliance passed, I felt I needed to cultivate my ‘weeder’ status and become more engaged, independently, yet still benefit JCS. Sure, over six years, I had lead chair yoga for homebound seniors at Milk and Honey / Matzoh Mitzvah, I had chased toddlers around the aisles of Winn Dixie during Kosher Food Bank Scavenger Hunts, and I was honored to serve as co-chair and co-chair elect for two years and lead this extraordinary flock. I had maintained my service to JCS between finishing school, starting my career, and then launching my own business, and wanted to somehow put my unique clinical skills to work for JCS in a way that was meaningful to me. I gave nutrition seminars to JCS congregate sites for the elderly, and then to their onsite adult daycare, which really touched me. I learned that funding for these, and many, JCS programs was tight, and felt compelled to mobilize my friends, family, and their contacts beyond to give enough to maintain a trained teacher and suitable activities for the program’s educational endeavors. While all JCS clients and group initiatives move me, this group, especially, stirred my desire to give, and I’m proud to have been able to make a significant impact on their programming to celebrate my 29th birthday. They only know and crave love, and the lesson embedded in that is more powerful than any.
I’m a better “weeder”, business owner, friend, wife, daughter, community citizen, and Jew because of what I’ve seen at JCS. I’ve learned about the power of purposeful passion, the power of a few, and the power of the pursuit of repairing the world in a compassionate, open, meaningful way. One senior’s smile can melt the heart of someone who hemmed and hawed about waking up at 7 AM on a Sunday to deliver canned beets for Passover. Dollars can certainly do good, but people and their ideas, time, energies, and networks can do better. I’m about halfway through a book by the Rebbe’s principal disciple which talks a lot about nourishing our souls (because I think, as a dietitian, I have the corporal nourishment piece well done), and am relieved that through JCS, I’ve been feeding my soul through JCS good works and mitzvot for the better part of this decade, because it’s connecting me more deeply with G-d, the world, and the community of good souls around me.
~ Monica Auslander Moreno