Matchmaker, matchmaker find me a volunteer online
By AMY R. KAUFMAN, Special to the Jewish Review
article created on: 2012-01-01T00:00:00
Volunteers are the lifeblood of Jewish Portland’s synagogues, schools, senior facilities and social services. There are thousands of opportunities to do a mitzvah, whether that act of goodness takes a day or a lifetime.
Though volunteerism runs high in Portland, until now the Jewish community lacked a central resource for people who wished to devote their skills to a project that would be particularly meaningful for them.
This February, thanks to a Community Impact Grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, Congregation Kesser Israel will launch www.mitzvahmatchmaker.org, which will offer instant access to comprehensive, detailed listings of volunteer opportunities throughout greater Portland.
The brainchild of Rebbetzin Aviel Brodkin, Mitzvah Matchmaker is designed to bring people together from all parts of the community as they become aware of specific needs for volunteers and come forward to carry out the tasks on the site.
The goal is to provide a central resource that will serve both individuals and groups, connecting people of all ages and interests with organizations in search of volunteer talent, according to Kesser Israel’s introductory letter to representatives of Portland’s Jewish organizations.
The interactive website will enable the city’s core Jewish institutions, as well as many lesser-known or nontraditional community service venues, to tap into the massive volunteer workforce that historically has enabled Jewish Portland to grow and thrive.
An ideal space for material that would have consumed pages of newsprint, the Internet site will allow individuals to explore opportunities that could conceivably include, for example, visiting or transporting the elderly, ushering at High Holiday services, preparing and delivering food packages, leading an art project for hospitalized children, publicizing a walk for charity, promoting Holocaust awareness and supporting a shelter in Israel as a bar or bat mitzvah project.
The website is expected to spur innovative thinking that will result in the creation of independent mitzvah projects.
Brodkin said she believes Mitzvah Matchmaker will “encourage more people, through volunteerism, to get connected to the Jewish community by having a simple way to find out what volunteer opportunities are out there.”
Her grant proposal explained the concept as a way of “connecting people with an online shidduch for that one-time mitzvah of helping a ‘Portland neighbor’ in need or a longer commitment of a ‘mitzvah project.’”
She wrote that, as a teacher of b’nei mitzvah and adults, she has often observed that people have a desire to perform “acts of kindness,” but they haven’t found the right niche.
“There are a lot of goodhearted people, each with unique abilities, but they need a simple way to get involved,” she said.
Brodkin said the website is nondenominational and welcomes descriptions of any good works that originate with Jewish agencies and organizations or that have a “Jewish twist.”
“I truly feel that Portland is a unique city that is progressive in its approach to meaningful living,” she said. “Mitzvah Matchmaker speaks directly to the culture of caring about the world at large.”
Currently under construction, the site is now accepting submissions of volunteer opportunities. To submit a listing, email email@example.com and either ask to speak with a member of the volunteer staff or request a listing form, which may be completed on the computer and returned by email.
The site allows ample space for a description of the organization, its mission, and current opportunities for community service. People who are interested in a particular volunteer opportunity will respond directly to the contact person listed for the organization.
Volunteers are now contacting representatives of Jewish organizations to discuss how the website can best represent them.