I own a small business in Jerusalem. For close to 15 years, I have been helping my clients define their business and organizational goals while helping them succeed using the Internet. Others see me as a Web designer or Internet marketer, but my business is helping people. This is something that was ingrained in me from a very early age.
In 1979 when Soviet Jews started coming to Cherry Hill, my mother was the Director of Soviet Resettlement for Jewish Family Service. Having been a social worker at JFS she had helped people on a daily basis, but when she began resettling Soviet Jews, her job took on a special meaning for me.
The Soviets who came to Cherry Hill were not only the personification of the victory of a struggle in which we were involved, but their resettlement in our community was also a triumph of the unity of the Jewish people, something which I felt very much a part. From that time forward, I have been involved in helping the Jewish people and community. For my mother, her position was the epitome of why she became a social worker. As an immigrant who fled the Holocaust as a child, she wanted to help people – especially Jewish children and immigrants.
I remember many nights when my mother would leave us to meet the van that brought new refugees from the airport to the Cherry Hill Inn. Though I was young, I accompanied her on a few of these memorable occasions. Words can not describe the gratitude and relief that poured from the recent arrivals when we met them and brought them to the furnished apartments which the Jewish community had prepared for them. Even though we did not share a common language, the kinship we felt cut through any cultural differences. We were one people.
To this day, my mother and I retain relationships with some of those early immigrants. They will never know how much meaning they gave to our lives, just as we will never truly understand how important we were to them.
Living through such experiences predetermined that my life work would also be helping people. Nothing compares to the feeling I get when I help someone.
Knowing these stories and that of my mother’s immigration, I felt very lucky when I made aliyah and started to make my home in Israel as a new immigrant. As my career began to develop, I never had the goal to create a large business or to make a lot of money. Even when I chose to pursue potential leads and clients, I focused on those businesses and organizations which provided services and helped people, not big business, high-tech or large retail ventures. I had to remain true to myself. I wanted to help people who were helping people.
It may not have been the wisest business strategy at first glance, but I quickly learned that non-profits do not have to be low-budget and that small businesses can see multimillion dollar profits. While it may be a popular romantic notion to think that poverty accompanies good deeds, my experience has showed me just the opposite. Business success comes from making valuable contributions to my community without any expectation of a return. Ironically, in the age of virtual communities and on-line networking, this lesson is reinforced and in my profession it has become a guiding principle of social media marketing campaigns. While businesses often seek to emulate on-line community involvement with a measurable return on investment (ROI), my message to my clients is the result of my own experience: If you consistently contribute value to your community, you will never have to spend money on ads to reach your audience. Your audience will come to you. This is true if you are an individual looking for employment or a company looking for sales.
I have learned that helping people and contributing to a greater community than myself is beneficial to all involved. For me Israel and the worldwide Jewish community have become the focus of my work and, like my mother, I helping immigrants has a special meaning to me.
Last month I hired three new employees. All are recent arrivals in Israel. I feel fortunate that I have been able to provided three more immigrant families with a portion of their livelihood based upon what I have built. While many people are experiencing difficulties earning a living these days, I know that immigrants face special challenges.
I have seen that there are so many opportunities to do good and that acting upon these opportunities empowers me and enriches my value both personally and professionally. In the coming weeks I will be organizing Parnasafest in Jerusalem. It is a professional networking event taking place throughout the world which started in North America as response to the massive layoffs in the Jewish nonprofit world (see http://parnasafest.org to get involved). I am also preparing a course for PresenTense, an organization in the United States and in Israel which promotes Jewish social entrepreneurship. I have also started coordinating the partnership of Gvahim, Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Conservative Movement’s Project Reconnect in launching a new mentoring program for American olim in Israel. All of these efforts are part of a worldwide Jewish communal effort to help fellow members of our community in reaching their professional goals. In doing these, each member of the community and the community itself grows and becomes a better resource.
All of these opportunities aim to help others as I share my knowledge, experience and network. Everyone benefits. To me, that’s what being in a community is all about.