Meet the Future Today: Skilled Volunteers for Israel

Baby Boomers represent the largest, most educated and financially secure generation in history. They see the stage after retirement as a time for meaningful work and service which includes volunteering. In the United States, the secular community has set up programs to tap the skills of boomer volunteers. However, nothing comparable exists today to attract, recruit or match Jewish baby boomers with the needs of Israel’s nonprofit organizations.

That’s about to change.

Skilled Volunteers for Israel has launched to help fill the gap. At the same time, the venture will enable the Israeli nonprofit sector to harness the talents of this abundant Jewish communal resource.

Skilled Volunteers for Israel was conceived by Marla Gamoran of Madison, Wisconsin. Marla, whose motivation to begin this venture came from her own personal experience, told us, “I’m at a place in my life where I can spend more time in Israel and started looking for volunteer opportunities for myself. I found so many options for volunteering for Jews up to the age of 35 as well as unskilled options such as the Sar-El program, but I found nothing specifically geared to the Jewish professional, over age 50 looking for volunteer opportunities tied specifically to my interests or profession.”

Karen Koven, from Phoenix, Arizona, is characteristic of the volunteer engagement Skilled Volunteers for Israel seeks to attract. Karen visits twice a year and the more she’s here, the more she “wants to be involved in the community.” Karen says, “To me, Israel is home.” Over the years she has had varied experiences while visiting Israel, including attending family simchas, volunteering on an army base and attending a study program at a Jerusalem yeshiva. Despite being well connected here, and at home, she found it trying to put a volunteer opportunity together.

This summer, Karen is spending ten weeks in Jerusalem utilizing her CPA skills for an Israeli-based nonprofit, setting up and transitioning the organization’s accounting system from a home grown spreadsheet based system to QuickBooks. While making this connection herself, she welcomes the possibility of working through an organization such as Skilled Volunteers.

For the near term, Marla will be refining her business model and simultaneously piloting volunteer opportunities with various Israeli organizations.

Fairly, or unfairly, many consider the Baby Boomer generation the “me” generation. With the onset of ventures such as Skilled Volunteers for Israel, it seems they want to leave a legacy as the “us” generation.

You can learn more about Skilled Volunteers for Israel, or contact Marla, through their website.

Skilled Volunteers for Israel is one of the ventures to emerge from this summer’s cohort of the PresenTense Institute.