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14 Year Old Maya Supports Asylum Seekers Through Yoni Jesner Award

At first it was difficult for JCoSS student Maya Lachmann to ask complete strangers what size socks they needed. She thought it might be embarrassing for the recipient to be asked such an intrusive question by a 14 year old girl such as herself. But showing maturity far beyond her years, Maya quickly realised it was not embarrassing at all. At the New North London Synagogue’s Asylum Seeker’s Drop In, socks along with other basic necessities were in high demand.

Once a month, Maya volunteers at The New North London Synagogue which is transformed into a safe haven for hundreds of asylum seekers, giving them an opportunity to pick through kindly donated clothing, toiletries and other basic necessities of which they are in dire need.  Maya helps set up and distribute clothing as part of her Yoni Jesner Award which she completes through evolve, JLGB’s youth volunteering initiative.  The Yoni Jesner Award is a community volunteering award in memory of the late Yoni Jesner. The award challenges 11-13 year olds to channel Yoni’s giving nature by selflessly giving 20 hours of their time to help out in their communities.

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14 Year Old Maya Supports Asylum Seekers Through Yoni Jesner Award

At first it was difficult for JCoSS student Maya Lachmann to ask complete strangers what size socks they needed. She thought it might be embarrassing for the recipient to be asked such an intrusive question by a 14 year old girl such as herself. But showing maturity far beyond her years, Maya quickly realised it was not embarrassing at all. At the New North London Synagogue’s Asylum Seeker’s Drop In, socks along with other basic necessities were in high demand.

Once a month, Maya volunteers at The New North London Synagogue which is transformed into a safe haven for hundreds of asylum seekers, giving them an opportunity to pick through kindly donated clothing, toiletries and other basic necessities of which they are in dire need.  Maya helps set up and distribute clothing as part of her Yoni Jesner Award which she completes through evolve, JLGB’s youth volunteering initiative.  The Yoni Jesner Award is a community volunteering award in memory of the late Yoni Jesner. The award challenges 11-13 year olds to channel Yoni’s giving nature by selflessly giving 20 hours of their time to help out in their communities.

Each group of asylum seekers are allotted five minutes to look through the donations and pick clothes. Maya explains that “generally they just took whatever fit them.” Maya approaches the asylum seekers, asks them what they are looking for and what size they need before sifting through the donations to find something suitable.

Emphasising how good the cause is and how friendly the New North London Synagogue staff are, Maya, very sternly, tells me “there needs to be more donations”.  She explains that despite all the generous donations hardly anything was left at the end, something that made Maya reflect on her own life.  Solemnly, she describes the tatters of the asylums seekers possessions “one rucksack with very little in it” compared to the “unlimited selection” she has at home.

Although it made Maya sad to see the reality of asylum seekers lives, exclaiming “They didn’t even have underwear!”, she also described feeling empowerment at being able to help, describing her volunteering experience as “a privilege”. Even from our brief conversation, Maya’s pride of volunteering was evident.  She said: “It made me feel really good that I was helping lots of people”.  Likening her volunteering experience to that feeling of giving someone a present, Maya explains that it feels better to give one than to get one.  She enjoys talking to lots of new people and thinks that she can now speak to a wider variety.  Maya continues to make a positive impact on society every month by volunteering at the Asylum Seekers’ Drop in. She enjoys her volunteering so much that next month she is bringing her friend with her.

Thank you Maya for everything you’ve done! We wish you luck in completing your Yoni Jesner Award.

As told to Shani Reback, evolve intern. 

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Social Action at the Heart of JLGB this Purim

On Radlett High Street a young boy dressed as Harry Potter embraces a friend clad in a green Power Ranger costume. Draped over their arms are bags full of similarly ridiculous costumes which the unlikely duo are donating on behalf of their JLGB weekly group to underprivileged communities in Israel. Similar events occur all over the UK ranging as far as a pirate in Glasgow to a witch in Leeds, as JLGB weekly groups unite in this social action project.


The project was headed by Shir and Asmara this year’s JLGB Israeli Emissaries, the shinshinim, to embrace the giving atmosphere of Purim and Israeli good deed day, Yom Maasim Tovim. Combining the two celebrations, the shinshinim challenged JLGB members to an inter-weekly groups costume competition and to donate old costumes to vulnerable communities in Israel. The initiative was promoted across social media using the hashtag #JLGBPurim with Mill Hill crowned as the best dressed. The project accumulated exceptional results with the donation box overflowing with costumes of all shapes and sizes.

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Social Action at the Heart of JLGB this Purim

On Radlett High Street a young boy dressed as Harry Potter embraces a friend clad in a green Power Ranger costume. Draped over their arms are bags full of similarly ridiculous costumes which the unlikely duo are donating on behalf of their JLGB weekly group to underprivileged communities in Israel. Similar events occur all over the UK ranging as far as a pirate in Glasgow to a witch in Leeds, as JLGB weekly groups unite in this social action project.


The project was headed by Shir and Asmara this year’s JLGB Israeli Emissaries, the shinshinim, to embrace the giving atmosphere of Purim and Israeli good deed day, Yom Maasim Tovim. Combining the two celebrations, the shinshinim challenged JLGB members to an inter-weekly groups costume competition and to donate old costumes to vulnerable communities in Israel. The initiative was promoted across social media using the hashtag #JLGBPurim with Mill Hill crowned as the best dressed. The project accumulated exceptional results with the donation box overflowing with costumes of all shapes and sizes.


Elsewhere, an unidentifiable man in a goofy hat with a big wigged female delivered Purim Packages to residents at Jewish Blind and Disabled. These contained food parcels made by JLGB HQ together with Purim cards made by Year 8 Student at Hasmonean High School for Girls as part of their Yoni Jesner Awards. The residents were so grateful for their Purim gifts with one member recording a message on JLGBHQ snapchat asking whoever made her card to come forward so she could thank them in person. Another resident was a former JLGB member from the Stanmore Drum and Fife band. She was incredibly proud that JLGB were still so active in the community and participating in social action.

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The Memory Collectors - Dena Balkin and Tamar Neville

There’s a slight stillness in Dena’s voice as she tells me what first drew her to volunteering with Jewish Care’s ‘memory books’ opportunity, volunteering with people with dementia. She reflects on the things she values in her life saying “I have a really close connection to my friends and family. Feeling like I could forget everything, it makes me really sad.”

Dena Balkin and Tamar Neville aged 17 from Hasmonean High School for Girls visit a dementia ward once a week, in a Jewish Care facility in Golders Green as part of their vInspired Awards which they complete through evolve, JLGB’s youth volunteering initiative. They work together talking to the residents in the early stages of dementia, discovering their life stories and writing them down for the future, to be read when the crippling disease of dementia has progressed such that the residents are no longer able to remember their own past. Each week the girls speak to the same residents, building relationships, learning more about their lives and crafting a detailed book of memories. “They did so much from such a young age and all I do is play video games!” Dena says and even over the phone it’s clear how much both girls enjoy listening to the residents and how interesting they find their stories. 

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The Memory Collectors - Dena Balkin and Tamar Neville

There’s a slight stillness in Dena’s voice as she tells me what first drew her to volunteering with Jewish Care’s ‘memory books’ opportunity, volunteering with people with dementia. She reflects on the things she values in her life saying “I have a really close connection to my friends and family. Feeling like I could forget everything, it makes me really sad.”

Dena Balkin and Tamar Neville aged 17 from Hasmonean High School for Girls visit a dementia ward once a week, in a Jewish Care facility in Golders Green as part of their vInspired Awards which they complete through evolve, JLGB’s youth volunteering initiative. They work together talking to the residents in the early stages of dementia, discovering their life stories and writing them down for the future, to be read when the crippling disease of dementia has progressed such that the residents are no longer able to remember their own past. Each week the girls speak to the same residents, building relationships, learning more about their lives and crafting a detailed book of memories. “They did so much from such a young age and all I do is play video games!” Dena says and even over the phone it’s clear how much both girls enjoy listening to the residents and how interesting they find their stories.

The girls first heard about this opportunity at a JLGB evolve volunteering fair at their school last year. They spoke to a Jewish Care representative who listened to the girls’ interests and suggested this opportunity. “I love chatting to people. I’m quite creative and like to make things look pretty. This opportunity fits exactly with what I think I’m good at” explains Tamar.

Initially, Tamar was nervous. Having no previous experience volunteering with the elderly she feared it would be challenging. Indeed, it can be dispiriting to watch the residents deteriorate as their dementia progresses.  But Tamar need not have worried. Jewish Care supports every aspect of their volunteering. This includes an excellent training session prior to volunteering which taught the girls about dementia, prepared them for interacting appropriately with residents and even handy conversation starters. “They really do care, it’s in their name” Dena says. It is through this network of support and the support Dena and Tamar give each other that allows the girls to work as a team so efficiently. “Dena and I work really well together” Tamar tells me, she explains they keep conversation light and fluid to avoid residents becoming embarrassed when they can’t remember things.

Both girls find the experience rewarding and feel they have gained new skills. Dena thinks her communication skills have improved and Tamar told me she is more confident speaking with new people, skills they feel are applicable to other situations in life. As a future medicine candidate, Tamar feels that volunteering at Jewish Care has equipped her with many skills necessary for her desired profession. Having had to call on these same skills gained through her volunteering during her work experience on a stroke unit in a hospital, she thinks this makes her a stronger candidate for securing a place at medical school. 

Dena and Tamar love volunteering together and meeting more residents as the weeks go by. Even though they can’t be sure the residents remember them from week to week, Tamar thinks they do and likes making a difference to their days. Both girls recommend this opportunity to anyone who wants to make a difference in someone else’s life. Using evolve to find new placements and track their hours, both girls volunteer elsewhere including charities like Britsom and GIFT,  as well as volunteering in their local communities. We wish them the best of luck in completing their vInspired Awards and thank them for all their hard work!

As told to Shani Reback, evolve intern on 03/01/17 

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