The reasons for volunteering are many. From supporting a cause close to your heart, to modeling community service for young people, to keeping active after retirement, just to name a few.

Volunteer Recognition
Marc Utay, Chair of UJA-Federation's Volunteer & Leadership Development Division; (left) Cynthia Levy, Mount Sinai Medical Center Volunteer Director; and Jean Rawitt, volunteer honoree

But underlying all of these motivations is often a feeling expressed by Jean Rawitt, a volunteer at Mount Sinai Medical Center for 20 years and one of 36 dedicated volunteers recognized on April 24th for outstanding service at UJA-Federation of New York’s network agencies: “I really enjoy feeling that in some way I’m helping to make things better.”

The annual volunteer recognition ceremony, held at UJA-Federation’s headquarters in Manhattan, honored these remarkable volunteers who are helping in a variety of ways —everything from making after-school programs for girls an empowering experience to helping homebound older adults. Staff from UJA-Federation’s network agencies nominated exceptional volunteers for recognition during National Volunteer Month.

Volunteers are what make a caring community possible, noted John S. Ruskay, executive vice president and CEO of UJA-Federation. “Thank you for your abiding gift to the network agencies, to the community, and to Jewish life,” he said at the event.

Linda Mirels, chair of the board of UJA-Federation, shared how she was inspired by her own parents’ volunteer work in an orphanage in Swaziland, the country where her family lived when she was a young girl. “It is an honor to pay tribute to you for extraordinary work that makes an incredible difference in our community in a beautiful way,” Mirels said.

The Value of Volunteers
Volunteers devote thousands of hours of service to the network of agencies.

For Rawitt, who has assisted in developing a program that allows high school students to serve as patient-care volunteers, her eye is on the volunteers of the future as well as the present. “I want the students’ volunteer experience to be a good one so they want to volunteer throughout their lives when they have the time and opportunity to do so,” she said.

“The value that volunteers like Jean Rawitt give to Mount Sinai and our patients is incalculable,” said Cynthia Levy, director of volunteer services at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

It was a view reflected by many of the network agency professionals attending the event.

2014 Volunteers of Excellence:
Joshua Adamson — UJA-Federation of New York
Ginger Aubry — United Jewish Council of the East Side
Carolyn Belinsky — Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center
Mike Cohen — Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island
Pazit Dayan — Sephardic Community Center
Jodie Elyachar — Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty
Ruth Finkelstein — Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation
Bunny Jacobs — DOROT
Sigrid Jakob — Selfhelp Community Services
Linda and Hal Kaplan — Bronx Jewish Community Council
Michael Karnes — Westchester Jewish Council
Doris Kaufman — Riverdale YM-YWHA
Amy Kurfist — Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services
Stu Lahn — Jewish Association Serving the Aging
Svetlana Levitin — Jewish Child Care Association
Ronald C. Mayer — New York Legal Assistance Group
Susan O’Donnell — Westchester Jewish Community Services
Alan Palzer — Samuel Field Y
Caitlin Paniaqua — Bronx House Jewish Community Center
Naum Rabinovich — Edith and Carl Marks Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst
Judith Raff — Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center
Sarah Raphael — Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush
Jean Rawitt — Mount Sinai Medical Center
Linda Salomon— YM & YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood
Sabina Samaylova — Tanger Hillel at Brooklyn College
Elaine Schenkerman — Jewish Home Lifecare
Jenna Segal — The Jewish Community Center in Manhattan
Ariel Shapiro — Queens College Hillel
Vadim Shiglik — Kings Bay YM-YWHA
Irene Shomberg — Central Queens Y
Anita Sterling — Joan & Alan Bernikow Jewish Community Center of Staten Island
Marjorie Stern — FEGS Health & Human Services
Marian Stoltz-Loike — Jewish Community Relations Council of New York
Karen Tanenbaum — Rosenthal JCC of Northern Westchester
Sarie Teichman — The Educational Alliance
Roslyn Weiser — Jewish Community Center of the Greater Five Towns