The City of Boston is a thriving, diverse community. For years, we have welcomed new immigrants, new technologies, and new ideas to improve the quality of life locally and throughout the Commonwealth. Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) is proud to be a part of this community, serving nearly 20,000 greater Boston residents each year through adult education classes, job training programs, and career services. We serve lifelong Boston residents, as well as new Bostonians, helping our clients achieve their goals, become self-sufficient, and participate in Boston’s booming economy. One Boston Day’s themes of resiliency, generosity and strength align so well with what we do here at JVS – and the volunteers and supporters who help us make an impact.
Founded in 1938, when the first victims of the Holocaust began arriving from Austria and Germany, JVS worked to prepare these refugees for the American workforce. We have continued to work with every wave of immigrants and refugees since our founding, and today our clients represent over 67 nations and speak 59 languages. Together with our dedicated staff and volunteers, we are helping those we serve change their lives by finding employment and building a career.
At the age of 21, Yamileth left Venezuela to come to Boston and run her late father’s convenience store, leaving the comforts of home and her college studies. For years she worked at the store, wondering when her life would begin again. Yamileth came to JVS with a dream to go back to college, but no idea where to start. She enrolled in our college preparation program and graduated at the top of her class. She went on to Bunker Hill Community College to study accounting, and stood out as a leader to both her peers and the faculty. When she graduated with her Associate’s degree in 2015, she was named one of the 29 Who Shine, which recognizes student graduates from the Commonwealth’s public higher education system. Yamileth is now enrolled in UMass Boston and on track to complete her Bachelor’s degree.
Yamileth embodies the resiliency of Boston, the push to overcome obstacles and achieve one’s potential. JVS is honored to be a part of this story, and to provide the supports necessary for adult learners to succeed.
The support of many individuals and organizations throughout Greater Boston (and nationally) exponentially increases the impact of JVS’s programs and services. We are humbled by the more than 400 individuals who donate their time to JVS annually – serving as tutors for adults learning English, assisting teachers in classrooms, and lending their expertise to job seekers through mock interview sessions. We are proud to partner with an ever increasing number of community based organizations and employers, who refer clients to our programs and hire our graduates. We are strengthened by our philanthropic relationships, including individuals who sustain our work through annual contributions and foundations that help us plan and implement innovative programming.
Daily we see the generosity of our volunteers who devote countless hours to ensure our clients succeed. Barbara moved from Baltimore to Boston in 2012, and sought out JVS because she wanted “to make a positive contribution in people’s lives.” She began tutoring refugees in English, helping them build their language skills to enter their first jobs in America. In 2015, Barbara was honored as the JVS Volunteer of the Year and in her speech she noted:
Often students will speak 2 or 3 languages. Together, my students and I are able to translate so everyone understands every word. We might spend 5 minutes on a single word or phrase, translating between Somali and Arabic, Chinese and French, Spanish and Haitian Creole and many more, until everyone can say, in English, “Yes, I understand.”
Building understanding and working together is fundamental to our work, and also what continues to bring us together as Bostonians as we move forward – together – after the tragedies of April 15, 2013.
Many of those we serve come to JVS at a point in their lives where they want to make a change, and need assistance and support to take their next step. Our clients come from all walks of life, yet share the same motivation to reach their career or educational goals. One particular challenge that JVS, with partners The Ruderman Foundation and Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), is meeting with an innovative solution is unemployment for people with disabilities. In Massachusetts alone, the unemployment rate for those with a disability is nearly 3x that of those without a disability.
In 2011, the Transitions to Work program launched, which partners with employers to provide extensive training and internships to enable young adults with disabilities to develop the skills needed for employment. Charles was applying to jobs and feeling discouraged. He was unsure of his skills and his confidence was wavering after months of searching for employment. He found the support and training he needed through Transitions, and was even selected as the student speaker for graduation. In that speech he noted, “I gained confidence and transferable retail skills through the Transitions program. The instructors were supportive and prepared me for work.”
Today, Charles works as a cashier at CVS, and his confidence is restored. Like so many of our clients, Charles was seeking a better life for himself and turned to JVS to help him make the next step. This strength and the determination to persevere makes JVS clients successful in their programs and in their careers.
How will you make a difference?
This is the driving question of One Boston Day. Below is a short list of what you can do to make a difference to JVS and the nearly 20,000 Bostonians we serve each year:
- Share this story. Take a moment to share this post on your social networks to let others throughout Boston know about the work JVS does for the community, and the successes of those we are proud to serve.
- Share your time. Make an impact by becoming a JVS volunteer. There are always opportunities to get involved and share your support with our clients. Visit our Volunteer Match page for current openings or contact Amy Stein.
- Share your support. The successes of our clients are made possible in part thanks to the generous support of donors like you. Please consider making a donation to help sustain JVS’s important work in Boston.