“I truly believe that everyone has something in them to give someone,” said Irene Rosenzweig, a founding member of the JF&CS Journey to Self-Empowerment Mentor program.

Irene has been a JTSE Mentor from the beginning, from brainstorming with JF&CS staff to being part of the first group of mentors. The program is a component of Journey to Safety (JTS), the JF&CS response to domestic abuse, which is in part funded by The Victim of Crime Act (VOCA), The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and The Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Within the program, volunteer mentors are matched with a survivor of domestic abuse with economic-related goals and meet with them throughout a period of one academic year to offer inspiration, encouragement and support.

Reaching Goals and Finding Security

Domestic abuse happens at roughly the same rate in the Jewish community as in the general population, crossing demographics, including geographic, denominational and cultural lines.

According to Elizabeth Schön Vainer, program director of Journey to Safety, “The role of a mentor is to collaborate with their mentee and champion their goals and support them in their process to reach those goals. Mentors, trained to understand the impact of trauma on survivors, are tasked with targeted work. The mentor helps research and set realistic steps to reach goals and find economic, physical and emotional security.” In addition to learning about trauma, mentors receive training about domestic abuse, coaching and clinical supervision in twice-monthly group meetings to support each other in this role.

A Natural Mentor

Stepping into the role of mentor was a natural fit for Irene. Irene ran the Sisterhood rummage sale at Temple Isiah in Lexington, which isn’t your average rummage sale. The sale, according to Irene, serves as not just a fundraiser, but also as a way to distribute much-needed goods to those in need throughout Boston and the surrounding communities.

“We enlisted our temple’s teens to help research items that people needed,” said Irene of her early connection to JF&CS. “I had the opportunity to connect with the Journey to Safety program by advertising the rummage sale to women in need. We printed postcards that helped women know it would be a safe space.”

“The idea of the program is to really be a support,” shared Irene. “Support can come in many forms. It can come in the form of working toward economic security, but first and foremost, it is being there for someone who is just trying to survive the day-to-day.”

Being in Someone’s Corner

Irene calls on her own background when approaching the program and offering mentorship. As the daughter of Holocaust survivors, her parents “raised us in a way after their experiences to always give. They were two remarkable people who always saw the good in people.”

For anyone who is considering volunteering as a mentor, Irene offers the reminder that the program provides training and support for all mentors. Even more so, for Irene, it’s not about the skills you have, but the ability to be in someone’s corner. “It didn’t matter to my mentee if I could help her write a resume or not; that wasn’t the point. For her, the need was confidence and support. It’s a whole team approach that makes the partnership, and the program, successful.”

To learn more about JTS and the Empowerment Mentor program, visit our Journey to Safety page or contact Elizabeth Schön Vainer at eschonvainer@jfcsboston.org or 781-647-JFCS (5327).

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