I recently visited two unique GBJCL groups that each travel as a team to tutoring. They are from Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly (JCHE)’s Coleman and Golda Meir Houses. I accompanied the Golda Meir House volunteers in their van and was touched by the stories and anecdotes shared on the ride.
In conversation I learned that many of the senior volunteers appreciate their GBJCL tutoring as an opportunity to learn a new skill. Sari Breslow had never tutored students before but she found it easy to pick up. The challenge, she says, is “Learning with the students, constantly finding new ways to connect and progress together. There are ups and downs”, she admits, “but it’s all worth it for the fun, exciting times, when a student lights up with a new realization or insight.” Watching her patiently listen as a student found his way through the page of a book, I could see the love and focus that she brought to the task.
Others see this program as a way to encourage young people, with whom they love to interact. Natalie Chase struggled to learn to read as a child. When she moved to the Golda Meir House and saw a group of volunteers waiting for the van to take them to the Everett School, she was inspired. It is hard for her sometimes to get up early in the morning, to be ready to leave by 9am, but tutoring is worth the inconvenience. She sees how tutoring motivates the students, and how excited they are for the opportunity to work with an elderly person on their studies. On the days when a student is absent, she explains, another student is chosen for tutoring in their place. When that happens, every child in the classroom raises their hand to be chosen.
I was particularly moved by Paula Weitz from the Coleman House, who showed up a week after suffering a heart attack. “I wasn’t going to miss tutoring!” she responded when I asked why she did not stay home. May we all be so motivated!