Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Jill and Sylvia, Two Matzah Ball-Making Friends

May 02, 2022

Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Jill and Sylvia, Two Matzah Ball-Making Friends

In Fall of last year, Jill Frances attended a volunteering day through JF&CS with her synagogue. The event was filled with family-friendly volunteer activities, such as tzedakah box making, children-centered volunteer activities, and food pantry education. Jill enjoyed the event so much, she reached out to JF&CS asking about other opportunities to give back to the community.

That was when she found out about One Good Deed, our friendly visitor program that matches independent older adults with younger adults for companionship and connection.

“One Good Deed sounded like a great opportunity for me,” Jill said. “I have regrets about not talking more to my own grandparents. I think it’s important to volunteer with older people, and it is a gift to hear their stories and be able to share them.”

Jill was matched with Sylvia Andrews in October, and a beautiful friendship blossomed.

Sylvia and Jill’s Friendship

Sylvia is a nurse by trade, and served as the Director of Nursing at the William Breman Jewish Home for 18 years. When her husband died in July of last year, a family member familiar with the One Good Deed program referred Sylvia.

“They wanted to make sure I had contact with other people during a difficult time in my life,” Sylvia said. “I heard from somebody from the program, and the next thing I know, there’s Jill!”

Jill and Sylvia meet every other week, spending the hours together just talking and enjoying each other’s company. Jill said that they share similar values, make each other laugh, and remind each other about what is important in life.

“Sylvia is full of sage wisdom, and she keeps me grounded,” Jill said. “I ask her advice on a lot of things, and I have learned so much from her. She has an incredible sense of humor, and her best gift is her ability to laugh at herself and not take anything too seriously or too personally.”

Sylvia agreed with Jill, and said: “Jill and I have very similar values and outlooks on life. She is a very easy person to be around, and makes you feel comfortable. We can talk about anything to each other, and we aren’t ever worried about offending each other. She has a great sense of humor. I always say, ‘if you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re in trouble!’”

Sylvia's Role in Jill’s Conversion to Judaism

Jill also is part of the health profession by trade, and served as a college professor in health and physical education, with a specialty in athletic training. She's been in the Atlanta community for 13 years, and is converting to Judaism. She began the process a year ago, and said her synagogue, Gesher L’Torah in Johns Creek, has been extremely supportive, caring, and patient with her throughout the journey.

“My husband decided recently to embrace Judaism as he focused on being a father,” Sylvia said. “I think like many of us, he was focused on finding something bigger than us to guide him. And he realized through his studies that Judaism needed to be partnership between the two of us, not just in studying but in living Jewishly. Our kids are currently in Hebrew school, and I embrace the learning process.”

She said that Sylvia has been an amazing friend to have during her process of converting to Judaism. Jill regularly talks to Sylvia about various aspects of Judaism. Sylvia gives her the best advice she can about living a Jewish life and liked to joke: “You aren’t Jewish until you’ve made matzah ball soup!”

For this most recent Passover, she and Jill made matzah balls together from scratch. Sylvia said, “I only ever make matzah balls from scratch. I cannot stand those mixes – yuck! I wanted Jill to have an authentic matzah ball experience.”

"While Sylvia learns about all the ‘hard’ stuff with the conversion process, I like to be the person who can tell her about how to live life as a Jewish lady,” Sylvia said. “For me, growing up Orthodox, all of it was second nature to me. But for Jill, it’s all new. I even taught her some Yiddish words.”

“She has been so helpful in helping me feel more and more like part of the Jewish community,” Jill said. “Every convert needs a Sylvia in their life.”

The One Good Deed Volunteer Process

Jill said she was blown away by how amazing the volunteer process for One Good Deed was, and that she highly recommends the opportunity to others.

“I cannot believe how thoughtful the entire process was from start to finish,” Jill said. “From the interviewing to answering questions, to being matched with Sylvia, it was great. I was in awe and reassured that my volunteering time would be well spent and would make a true difference.”

Jill went on to say that Vivienne Kurland and Laura Marcus, the One Good Deed Program Manager and Program Coordinator, did “a master job” when matching her with Sylvia.

“When I meet with Sylvia, we are open minded, curious, and can learn from each other,” Jill said. “I have formed a friendship with somebody who has 89 years of wisdom to offer. She’s a great person, and we have so much fun together.”

Are you interested in volunteering with One Good Deed? Do you know an active, independent adult aged 65 or older who could benefit from some extra company? Learn more about One Good Deed by clicking the button below.