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October 10, 1986 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-10-10

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Jewish women's
are feeling
the pinch
of a dwindling
volunteer corps.


he impact of social change
has thrown many of our cherished
institutions into crisis. But
volunteerism, one of the great
mainstays of Jewish survival, is
facing perhaps the greatest
challenge of all.
A wave of changes — the strug-
gle toward equality in the work-
place, changing fortunes in the
economy, increasing diversity within
the community, to name a few —
has placed tremendous stress on
Jewish charitable organizations —
and women's organizations in par-
Over and over again in recent
years far too much in our commu-
nity is being done by far too few, ac-
cording to a consensus of women's
leadership. Volunteer burnout is an
epidemic. Why? Is women's volun-
teerism dying? Have forces prevail-
ing in the mid-'80s combined to stifle
the growth of women's charitable ac-
Marjorie Saulson, past president
of the • League of Jewish Women's
Organizations of Greater Detroit,
doesn't believe that. She does see
problems, - but believes. organized
Jewish philanthropy is responding to
changing conditions.
"Thirty or 40 years ago, women
who didn't work outside the home
had one avenue open to them — vol-
unteerism. The pool of women in
this category was much larger then
because there were not the stagger-
ing numbers of women in the work
force," she said.
The number of the people who
attend meetings has declined and
the meetings have been the avail-
able time has shrunk. There are
more 'nuts and bolts' meetings, and


Friday, October 10, 1986

0 1. 1J N I E E


Special to The Jewish News

fewer 'make work' and 'speaker'
The fat has been trimmed out. I
don't think dues-paying membership
has declined. But there are fewer
participating, and many who do par-
ticipate do so less often."
Patty Liss, public relations asso-
ciate for the Jewish Community
Council, concurs. "Both as a profes-
sional and a volunteer, I've seen a
tremendous change in volun-
teerism," she said. "There are many
dormant organizations. And many
groups no longer have year-long
programming with monthly meet-
ings. They meet a couple of times a
year and manage to have successful
fundraisers. The organizations are


still seeing money come in, but it's
harder to get people to volunteer,"
she said.
"Volunteerism is no longer an
outlet for many women. They are
now working, and are not getting
satisfaction from volunteering. Even
meetings at the end of a workday
mean more work. It's a matter of
choices. Many people feel that this
meeting's not going to live or die
without me.' And who's going to fire
a volunteer?"
Liss said that conflicts also af-
fect attendance. There are several
meetings scheduled every day and
many people belong to more than
one group. "It gets to a stage of
burnout," she said. "People are not

waiting in line to volunteer."
"People do get burned out when
it falls on the same five or so
people," said Diana Katz, past
president of B'nai B'rith Aviv Chap-
ter (formerly Huntington Woods). "I
can see both sides. "It's very difficult
to keep up full-time volunteerism
when you have a young family. And
so many women are in the working
world, they don't have time to volun-
"They don't want to make plans,
or phone calls, but may want to go
to a meeting, though. Time is so pre-
cious. You also can't make phone
calls with little children around, and
at night you're too tired. And it's
never one or two hours a week be-

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