Raising a hand: Volunteer leadership through the Hineni Volunteer Network

Rebecca Scharfstein, Vice President of People at New York-based software company, RapidSOS, is a strong proponent of giving back to the community through volunteer service. Next year, she’ll complete her 9-year role on The Rashi School Board of Trustees. When seeking the next opportunity to serve the Jewish community, she didn’t know where to start.

Enter CJP’s Hineni Volunteer Network.

Rebecca landed her “dream placement” through Hineni, a program designed to help individuals interested in taking on impactful governance and advisory roles with opportunities to serve organizations in the Greater Boston Jewish community. This past September, Rebecca began her role with Jewish Vocational Service (JVS), serving on their Public Policy Committee, where she works with other volunteers to provide guidance on public policy actions that impact JVS’s clients.

CJP: Why is volunteer leadership important to you?

Rebecca: It energizes me, gives me purpose, it’s intellectually stimulating, and it’s flexing muscles that I don’t always get to flex at work. The committee helps me consider new perspectives and ideas I wouldn’t have the opportunity to discuss otherwise. This is a way for me to invest in myself — in my own learning and growth — and build community.

CJP: How did you know you wanted to be matched up with JVS?

After graduating from business school in 2018, I was involved with JVS as a volunteer career coach assistant in their Lynn location — and I loved it — but I had to stop when I began my new job. Helping people most in need, connecting them to job opportunities that can change the trajectory of their life — I found that to be extremely rewarding. When I heard about the Hineni Network, I said to the CJP staff, I’m really looking at ways to get involved, am very interested in workforce development, and explained that I was hoping to be matched with JVS.

CJP: How did you first connect to CJP and then Hineni?

I grew up in Boston and I went to Rashi, but I never really engaged at all with CJP. I was encouraged by someone to check out the Dewey Stone Kadimah Leadership Program, which I completed last year. Even though I had a lot of leadership courses in graduate school, I saw Kadimah as a way to meet other people, to learn about what CJP was doing, and to think about leadership through the lens of our Jewish community. Additionally, many of the people I admired were also involved with the CJP Board — women like Cindy Janower and Shira Goodman [CJP’s immediate past and current Board chairs, respectively] who are smart and motivated and contributing in meaningful ways. I thought that CJP could be an organization where I could get the opportunity to make an impact and engage with other driven and passionate people. Through Kadimah, I was introduced to the Hineni Volunteer Network, and so I connected with [Hineni Co-chair] David Adler at CJP.

CJP: Can you share more about the process?

Rebecca: I filled out the form on the website and David reached out to me to chat and discuss my interests. He asked if I wanted to be matched immediately, or if I would be willing to wait longer for the perfect opportunity. I told him, “David, frankly, I’m super busy, so there's no rush. If I’m going to spend time doing something, I want it to be the right opportunity, so if it takes a year — that’s totally fine.” Fortunately, a few weeks later — not even — David called to say JVS was interested in chatting with me, and of course, I jumped at the chance.

CJP: How do you feel that the Hineni Network is supporting you?

Rebecca: For me, the biggest thing was CJP’s role in serving as that connector. That is invaluable. In terms of follow up, Dara Klein [who leads the Hineni Network] reached out to me to see how things have been going. I also appreciate that CJP included me in a focus group to see how they can expand Hineni and get more people interested. I like the approach CJP is taking to get more people involved in board and committee work because there’s so much need in the community and they’re doing this in a thoughtful and intentional way that helps volunteers and organizations.

CJP: What do you see as some of the barriers keeping people from volunteering in leadership roles?

Rebecca: Most people don’t know about the opportunities that exist and don’t know whom to talk to about it. The people filling the leadership positions don’t know who you are and whether it’s worth their time engaging with you — especially if you don’t have any volunteer experience or donor history with the organization. You may not even know that there’s an organization that exists that may be a really good match for you. Especially as we think about how to cultivate the next generation of Jewish leaders in Boston, this service of matching people to organizations throughout the community, developing skills, learning about how boards operate, what a strong board looks like, how boards can improve is really advantageous — not just for the future of CJP, but for general Jewish leadership in the community, regardless of whom you’re serving.

CJP’s Hineni Volunteer Network matches experienced community members with communal organizations that need governance and advisory support. Learn more and consider sharing your expertise today.