Nechama Liss–Levinson — University Without Walls
DOROT volunteer since: I began volunteering with DOROT in the early 1970s, when it was just a fledgling organization.
How did you get involved with DOROT?
When I was an undergraduate at Barnard College, I visited two indigent elderly women. The experience was profound and moving. One woman lived in an SRO (single room occupancy hotel), a living situation I had never encountered before. I remember taking one of the women to buy orthopedic shoes, something she would not have been able to do without the help of a volunteer.
What type of volunteer activities do you do?
About twenty years later, I reconnected with DOROT when I became a facilitator for University Without Walls (UWW), and I’ve been teaching through the teleconference program for the last two decades. I’ve taught many different classes, including Assertiveness Training, Writing Your Autobiography, Improving Communication with Your Adult Children and Grandchildren, and most recently, Developing an Attitude of Gratitude. In the last few years, I’ve also hosted Welcoming Shabbat, which I’ve enjoyed greatly.
In what ways has your DOROT volunteer experience impacted your life?
In my everyday life, I am a psychologist in private practice. I often tell patients that doing volunteer work and giving to others is a way to gain perspective and increase the satisfactions in one’s life. In the newest research in the area of positive psychology, giving to others and being part of a community is clearly correlated with greater personal happiness and joy. Personally, I have found all of this to be true. Being part of the DOROT community has brought me great joy and pleasure. It has expanded my horizons and kept me in touch with people older than myself with lifetimes of experience. Volunteering for DOROT gives me the opportunity to honor my parents, Morris and Gertrude Liss, who died over twenty–five years ago.
What motivates you to continue volunteering at DOROT?
I am motivated to continue to teach because of the wealth of reactions, comments and positive feelings I get from my students. It is a tremendous pleasure to teach a course and find that it has made a difference in someone’s life, whether it’s in their relationship with someone they love, or even in the enjoyment they have being part of the class. I am so happy to hear that students look forward to the classes and make use of what they have learned. Finally, when I am hosting Welcoming Shabbat, I get a chance to be in the rabbinic role, a choice that wasn’t available to women when I was growing up.
Most memorable volunteer moment?
One of my most memorable moments teaching on UWW at DOROT was during the Developing an Attitude of Gratitude class. I asked the seniors to write and send a letter to someone in their life they wanted to thank. I was filled with pride and joy when they read aloud the thank you letters they wrote to their children, sisters, elderly friends and neighbors, clergy, doctors, and one specifically to the former Manager of UWW, Marina.
What would you want other volunteers to know about volunteering at DOROT?
Teaching for UWW doesn’t even require you to leave the comfort of your home or office. By doing so little, you can give so much.
Anything else you would like to share?
About ten years ago, I introduced my mother–in–law, Sylvia L., now 91 years old, to UWW. I have to say that it’s been extraordinary seeing the program from her perspective. She has made so many new friends and enjoyed the stimulation of so many teachers. It has truly changed her life. And she has gotten the pleasure of sharing with her new friends her son’s voice on tape, singing Kiddush and Shalom Aleichem during the Welcoming Shabbat class.
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