Joan Kaplan, Brooklyn volunteer, peeling carrots at Masbia food pantry

Joan Kaplan, Brooklyn volunteer, peeling carrots at Masbia food pantry

Maybe it was seeing all the new faces and welcoming the familiar ones or maybe it was the tempting array of lox and bagels, but the atmosphere on January 22 at the Learn About Engage Brooklyn brunch was decidedly festive and charged with anticipation of the program to come.

“There was a wonderful spirit,” said Elaine Gould, a member of the Engage Brooklyn Leadership Committee and of UJA's Caring Commission.  A group of 25 men and women, 18 of them new to Engage, came to hear about Engage programs from Engage members and representatives of partner agencies.  

Hedda Kafka shared her experience volunteering with the English Speakers Union in partnership with HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Through her heartfelt description of her relationship as an English language tutor to a refugee from Colombia, she conveyed to the audience why she found her involvement so rewarding.

Bob Friedlander, another Engage volunteer, explained the emotional component of his work at Selfhelp Community Services and Masbia Soup Kitchen. “Preparing and serving food is just one aspect of the work,” he said. By spending time with Holocaust survivors through Selfhelp or with people coming for a meal at Masbia, volunteers provide support for those in need of a good meal, companionship, or emotional support. “I felt I had something to offer,” Friedlander says. “I have an obligation to give back and make the world a better place.”

Representatives from Reading Partners and the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty joined the other presenters giving an overview of the volunteer opportunities at their agencies.  

The enthusiastic response of Engage members old and new was obvious. There was a sense of interest and energy in the room as questions were asked and people made their way to the sign-up sheets posted around the room, ensuring people would be notified of activities they were interested in. One look at the long list of names on the volunteer sheets and it was clear the Learn About Engage Brooklyn brunch was a huge success.