One Good Deed Volunteer Jessie and Her Phone Friendship with Valeri and Chana

June 30, 2022

One Good Deed Volunteer Jessie and Her Phone Friendship with Valeri and Chana

The COVID-19 pandemic turned a lot of people’s lives upside down. And for husband and wife, Valeri and Chana, who are connected to JF&CS through our Holocaust Survivor Services, they were no exception.

Originally from Moscow where they both had worked in the medical field, Valeri and Chana were used to taking English classes, and relied on them heavily. They also know Hebrew, having worked in Israel, as well.

When their English classes stopped meeting, they found themselves in a tough spot. They couldn’t go out and practice the language organically because not many people were getting out. The few who were wore masks, making it harder to understand them.

Thankfully, Anat Granath, social worker with Holocaust Survivor Services and winner of the 2022 Stacy G. Fialkow Staff Appreciation Award, partnered with our One Good Deed program manager, Vivienne Kurland, and found a solution in Jessie, a multi-lingual One Good Deed Volunteer.

Jessie Matches with Valeri and Chana

Jessie had spent a year in the 90s in Ukraine, and knew some basic Russian. She also spent a few years in Israel, making her relatively fluent in Hebrew. When Anat approached Jessie with the opportunity, Jessie joked that “It’s hard to say no to Anat,” and said “Anat approaches everything truly from the heart and wants to make a difference.”

Through One Good Deed, Jessie matched with Valeri and Chana in August of 2020. It started with Jessie making FaceTime calls to Valeri. Initially, Chana was very shy and only listened to Valeri and Jessie talk in the background, wanting to hear the English being spoken first.

Today, they are both more confident English speakers, and they talk for an hour every week without fail. According to Valeri, they talk about everything: current affairs, books they have read, grandkids and family, and life in general. Since she started speaking to them, Jessie has noticed a difference in Valeri and Chana’s English.

“It’s been incredible,” Jessie said. “I have watched them gain a really strong comfort in English. It’s been an extremely rewarding experience to be a part of, and I always look forward to our regular conversations.”

Valeri and Chana and JF&CS

Jessie said that their weekly phone calls are not the only ways that Valeri and Chana have benefitted from JF&CS. The couple have enjoyed some of the many programs that Café Europa puts on for its clients, which were instrumental to their mental health during lockdowns.

“For a lot of survivors, there was PTSD during COVID about being isolated and stuck in your house,” Jessie explained. “And the virtual programming really helped them. It gave them that connection point that they needed, and it’s amazing to witness.”

She added that Anat worked hard and stayed optimistic when it came to planning programs and seeing Holocaust Survivor Services clients. Many events went virtual, and Anat made phone calls instead of house visits. “She never got down about what was going on in the world, she just found a way to make it work,” Jessie said.

Jessie has not met Valeri or Chana in person yet, but they plan to meet in person as soon as possible. Valeri recently was granted his American citizenship officially this year on Yom Ha'atzmaut, or Israel Independence Day.

“Even though we have never met in person, I feel so connected to them,” Jessie said. “Meeting them and maintaining a relationship has been such a gift.”

Learn more about volunteering with One Good Deed by clicking here.

The Holocaust Survivor Services at JF&CS offers everything from social programs to counseling to case management to Holocaust survivors and their families. JF&CS serves as a leading support service for Holocaust Survivors both locally in Georgia, and for the Southeast Region including, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and sections of Florida and Texas.

To learn more, please click the link below.