Sheva Tauby is a co- director of iVolunteer, a dynamic visitation program that sends volunteers to the homes of Holocaust survivors, providing them with companionship and much-needed assistance. Their volunteers are carefully matched with survivors who live nearby and share common interests. Through weekly visits, volunteers build rewarding and enduring friendships with survivors. They are given the privilege of hearing extraordinary stories, and the inter-generational bonds that inevitably form ensure the experience of the Holocaust will not be forgotten.
Last year Sheva was chosen as one of the “36 Under 36” New York Jewish Week, an award that recognized three dozen forward-thinking young people who are helping reshape the Jewish community. She was also selected as a Jewish Community Hero in the Elder Care division on the jewish community heroes site for the important and inspirational work she continues to do.
MO: What an incredible organization you’ve created. Where did this inspiration come from and how did you start finding both survivors and volunteers?
Sheva: My grandparents were survivors and I never met them. I know they and all other survivors have incredible stories to share and are so alone since about 85% of survivors we deal with don’t have children. This is because they were either unable to have kids after the war, physically or they chose not to have any since they lost hope in all humankind unfortunately. Our volunteers come from word of mouth, we also have a large social media presence on facebook, twitter and other sites so they find out about us there. The survivors are harder to find since they have a lot of pride and have a hard time coming forward and asking for help. But we find them one by one.
MO: What kind of impact have you seen the volunteers make? Is this often a life changing experience for both parties?
Sheva: Of course. We like to say “you never know who benefits more”. We had many situations where the volunteers were life saving, literally. Again, since they have no kids or any surviving family members in many circumstances, the volunteers become the eyes and ears into the homes of these frail and vulernable survivors. The volunteers feel its a privilege to be a part of such an organization since they have so much windom to impart and there aren’t many left.
MO: I read that you are great at connecting people and are responsible for 2 marriages among your volunteers. Have you always had a knack for matchmaking and how important is that skill in iVolunteer?
Sheva: We actually made 6 matches in total since we started our organization 4 years ago. I love people and nothing makes me happier than connecting people for a greater good. Whether its volunteers with survivors, finding people jobs and of course introducing people for marriage.
MO: How has iVolunteer evolved since you first started?
Sheva: We have made over 10,000 visits to the homes of Holocaust survivors since its inception 4 years ago. We have opened two additional branches in FL and Toronto.
MO: You’re starting to get high school students involved in iVolunteer. How has that experience been so far and what kind of feedback are the students giving you so far?
Sheva: High School students feel its necessary to meet/visit a Holocaust survivors since they are the last link to the next generation. If they don’t hear the stories first hand, then who will?
MO: You have an incredible new project on the horizon called Survivorstories.org. Could you please tell our readers what it is and why it’s so important to you that these stories are recorded and shared?
Sheva: There are many survivors who haven’t shared there story on camera yet. Even the ones that have, will have the opportunity to be recorded and shared with people on the web in an interactive way. We plan to put up clips throughout the Internet and on our site that will teach people about what survivors went through and how they can teach our generation about courage, stamina and keeping the hope alive.
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