Chairman's Perspective: Why I Volunteer


50th anniversary celebration at URJ Eisner Camp, Great
Barrington, Massachusetts. Photo by Warren B.

Like many of you reading this column, I am a volunteer. And, like all of us who volunteer, there are days when I question my own sanity and ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” As I reflect on it, the answer to why we volunteer in a congregation or at the Union for Reform Judaism is no mystery.

We are changing lives.

This summer, my wife Helene and I visited two URJ camps and experienced firsthand the exuberance of our young people as they celebrate Shabbat, gather for song sessions, bentsh after meals in the dining hall, and just have a great time with friends. I am convinced that the 11,000+ youth who attended our camps last summer have all been affected for life, as have the 300,000 alumni who preceded them. Helene and I also witnessed the URJ’s impact on our youth at the NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth) Convention in Los Angeles, where more than 860 teens celebrated and affirmed their commitment to Judaism and to our Movement.

So why do I volunteer? To be able in some small way to make possible such life-changing opportunities for future generations of rabbis, cantors, educators, leaders—and volunteers.


Photograph by
Marshall H Cohen

Even as I take great pride in the Union’s campaign to enhance youth engagement, many other rewards stir my activism. I feel renewed every time our Movement reaches out to help a family or community in need, whether due to an illness, a death, or a natural disaster; every time we support the State of Israel and help our Progressive congregations there fight for full recognition and pluralism; every time we engage in tikkun olam (repair of our world) in the United States and Canada; every time we convene a Biennial and I worship with more than 5,000 other Reform Jews who are volunteers just like me.

So, whenever you suffer a bout of volunteer fatigue, stop and think of all the things you are doing that enhance your life and the lives of those around you. And for a super recharging of your volunteerism batteries, join us at the San Diego Biennial this December 11–15.

Stephen M. Sacks, Chairman
Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees

Union for Reform Judaism.