Author Archives: Paula Jacobs

Paula Jacobs

About Paula Jacobs

Paula Jacobs is a Massachusetts-based writer.

Jewish Volunteer Service for Baby Boomers

Baby boomers–who represent one in four Americans–volunteer at higher rates than any other age group, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Volunteer service gives boomers a way to derive new meaning from their lives, especially as they begin moving out of the workforce. But the challenge for boomers is to identify opportunities compatible with their skills, expectations, and high educational levels, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service research report, “Keeping Baby Boomers Volunteering.”
baby boomer volunteering
For Jewish boomers, a specific challenge is to find meaningful volunteer work informed by Jewish values within the context of a Jewish community–and a comfortable way for less-affiliated Jews to connect to Jewish community.

Jewish boomers who want to take hands-on action under Jewish community auspices can choose from multiple entry points, with differing levels of intensity and commitment. Options include teaching, relief assistance in disaster-stricken areas, poverty work, as well as programs for professionals with specialized skills.
When my husband retired, we began our service journey by teaching English to culturally disadvantaged middle- and high-school students in Israel. Since then, we have participated in a variety of hands-on work in the U.S. and abroad, learning and growing from each experience, while striving to make a difference.

These opportunities have been tremendously rewarding. They have also helped me gain some valuable insights on how to get the most out of the volunteer experience.

Critical Success Factors

Don’t just run blindly into any single volunteer program. Successful service requires significant advance preparation and an understanding of critical success factors. Here are some tips.

1. Define your goals. Baby boomers–particularly retirees–should seriously consider their reasons for investing leisure time in unpaid and even difficult volunteer service. Is your primary goal to visit new places, with volunteering just an add-on? Or do you aspire to fulfill a lifelong dream of contributing in a meaningful way to society? If you’re honest with yourself about your goals, you will make a better choice about what to do.

Finishing Saying Kaddish

Reprinted with permission of the author and

The Kaddish prayer binds the generations together. But it also strengthens community ties. The inextricable bonds created by the daily minyan community became apparent to me soon after I began reciting Kaddish for my father five years ago at my synagogue, Temple Israel of Natick, Massachusetts. 

Seeing the same familiar faces each day at minyan became a significant part of the healing process. Total strangers soon became friends. Newcomers and old-timers alike, we sensed the presence of God in our holy community. Our small chapel became a sacred space where we embraced, comforted and sustained each other. When members of the minyan disappeared after their period of mourning came to an end, our close-knit group felt their absence.

There is truly never closure because the memory of our dearly beloved will eternally remain with us. However, I decided it was important to acknowledge both the individual’s transition from the mourner’s path and the important role of the minyan community during this spiritual journey. lifecycle

To do so, I created a ceremony (described below and which has evolved over the years) to mark the end of theKaddish period. An important part of the ceremony is the presentation of a daily prayer book, engraved with the name of the deceased relative and lovingly autographed on the inside front cover by each member of the minyan.


Opens with a passage from Marcia Falk’s The Book of Blessings or other appropriate invocation.

Today, as a holy minyan community we mark the last day that [name] has recited the Kaddish prayer for his/her/their beloved [insert relationship, e.g. father, mother]. By reciting Kaddish and worshipping here as a member of the community of Israel, you have performed hesed shel emet, you have bestowed honor to the memory of your beloved [insert name and relationship, e.g. father, Morris Levy], and expressed an unbroken link with Am Yisrael, and have indeed kept [his/her] spirit alive within our community.