Doing Good in the Community

So many people do so many good things in our community each day. Some of these do-gooders stories are well-known and others deserve to be brought to light. Each week, a Doing Good Volunteer will be highlighted to share their story and recognize all of their hardwork. 

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LIFE & LEGACYThe Jewish population of Pittsburgh has grown to 49,200 according to the 2017 Jewish Community Study, released by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh in February. The study is a testament to the power of collective giving—the study, which was funded by the Jewish Community Foundation, was led by staff from the Pittsburgh Jewish Community Scorecard, which is funded by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Community Campaign. Where the Campaign-funded Jewish Community Scorecard tracks year-to-year metrics on Jewish community engagement, the Foundation-funded Jewish Community Study supplements this tracking by examining in detail the current Jewish engagement and needs in Jewish Pittsburgh. 

The study gives us some insight on how to answer tough questions like: 

  • How has Jewish Pittsburgh grown over the last 15 years?
  • How many Jewish households in Pittsburgh are struggling with economic insecurity and poverty?
  • How does the type of household influence the religious upbringing of their children?

According to the research, nearly every age demographic has increased over the last 15 years except for adults in their 30’s and 40’s and school-age kids. The number of children declined from about 8,300 in 2002 to approximately 6,400 in 2017.

Despite the relative affluence of Jewish households in Pittsburgh, one-quarter (25%) include at least one person whose impairment, disability, or chronic physical or mental health issue limits the amount of work, school, or housework he or she can do. Eight percent of households indicate that health issues have constrained someone in the home from participating in Jewish life in some way in the Pittsburgh area in the past year.

Lastly, the rates of how children are raised regarding religion by household have remained steady since 2002, but, these findings suggest both a challenge and an opportunity for the Greater Pittsburgh Jewish community. 

Very few interfaith families who are not explicitly raising their children as Jews have enrolled them in any sort of Jewish educational program. By contrast, even if parents intend to raise their children as Jews, those children who do not participate in Jewish educational programs have weaker ties to the Jewish community as adults. These findings and others emphasize the ongoing importance of the Community Campaign.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Community Campaign funds programs and agencies to support community growth, the Howard Levin Clubhouse to provide treatment for those with mental health issues and local days schools to support a Jewish education and ultimately a Jewish future. The Jewish Community Study exposed sizable needs in each of these areas.

The Campaign-funded Jewish Community Scorecard will play a pivotal role in the coming year by helping Jewish organizations to translate the Jewish Community Study results into actionable strategy to address our community’s needs. Through these efforts, vital insights from the study will support continued Jewish community growth and outreach.

Help our community to continue to grow, thrive and prosper by supporting the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh Community Campaign.

Visit to learn more.

Community Campaign Project – Young Families

Young Families

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Community Campaign supports young families by supporting programs at the Jewish Community Center (JCC), the Jewish day schools and the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program (EITC).

This support especially helps families who are new to Pittsburgh, like Jordan Fischbach and Yael Silk. Jordan and Yael moved here from Los Angeles in part to be closer to family and in part because of the strong Jewish community—made stronger by the Community Campaign.

The Jewish Federation’s support in the community has enhanced Jordan’s and Yael’s experience in Pittsburgh immensely. They exercise at the Jewish Community Center of Pittsburgh (JCC). Their kids attended synagogue early childhood programs and go to the JCC’s James and Rachel Levinson Day Camp.

The Community Campaign supports young families in so many ways.  For example:

  • The Pittsburgh Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative (JECEI) is an innovative and multi-faceted approach to preschool education that promotes Jewish identity through the involvement of parents in their children's learning. The program has already made a significant impact on Jewish engagement of young parents and reached over 500 children.
  • The JCC not only supports the education and well-being of young children, but also supports the needs of teens. JTeenPGH, as the JCC calls its collection of teen programs, consists of JLine, the Diller Teen Fellows, Hazamir Choir, and JServe. These programs provide Jewish learning, identity-building, and a love for Israel.  
  • Thanks to the EITC program, over 7,000 scholarships for Jewish day school have been awarded since the program began in 2001. It has supported countless low-income families and increased participation in Jewish life for both kids and their parents.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Community Campaign changes lives everyday starting with our community’s children. Help support our young families and the programs that shape their lives by supporting the Community Campaign. 

Svetlana Geguzina - Guardian Angel for Refugees

Svetlana Geguzina is a pillar in the legal department at Jewish Family and Children Services (JF&CS). No one takes on as much work assisting refugees to apply for legal permanent residency and has the positive results as she does.

Svetlana is an Accredited Representative and a former Refugee from the Soviet Union, providing a unique perspective on what it’s like starting life over in America. Svetlana uses this personal knowledge to counsel her clients and assist them in meeting their immigration goals. Svetlana has been an employee of JF&CS for 24 years and has been practicing immigration law for 12 years. She has helped thousands of refugees apply for green cards, hundreds of individuals petition to reunite families and countless others apply for citizenship in the United States. 

“She’s a dedicated and zealous advocate for her clients and has improved so many lives in the process of her work and through her unwavering strength of character. She works on her cases with equal parts humor and intimidation. Without Svetlana’s years of time and dedication, we wouldn’t have the successful program we have today,” President and CEO of JF&CS Jordan Golin said. 

Yuriy Bobnov - Feeding the Community

Jewish Association on AgingThis week we have another Jewish Association on Aging’s Mollie’s Meals volunteer: Yuriy Bobnov.

He a senior who immigrated to the US in the 1990's and delivers about a dozen meals weekly to our "former Russian" population. Bobnov enjoys the small talk and smiling faces when he makes his deliveries.

“He is one of our volunteers who delivers Mollie's Meals to homebound seniors. To do this, volunteers have to drive to our loading dock to retrieve the route, separate the bags so they go to the right recipients and then drive to the appropriate locations. His service is invaluable because he can communicate with the people in their native language, Russian. If there are problems, he can report back,” explains Coordinator of Mollie’s Meals Fraida Estrin. 

Yuriy, was an engineer before coming to America. He has one daughter and one granddaughter, and both are doctors. Like most grandparents, he is especially proud of his granddaughter who is an ophthalmologist, specializing in retinal surgery. He'll be taking a small break from his deliveries in a couple of months when his granddaughter gets married to "a great guy." 

We wish him continued nachas!!

Alla Puchinsky - Welcoming All with Open Arms


Alla Puchinsky arrived in the U.S. 20 years ago as a refugee from the former Soviet Union. She was greeted and welcomed by Jewish Family and Children Services (JF&CS) and volunteers from the Jewish community -- some of whom she is friends with until this day. In 2000, Alla brought her skills and high level of education (she has a Ph.D. in rhetoric) to bear as a refugee case , assisting with the resettlement of Russian-speaking refugees. With 17 years under her belt, she is the longest-serving member of our refugee department. Alla's primary role is ensuring that new arrivals are connected to government benefits and with help navigating the medical system -- two critically important roles and critical to future success in the U.S. Alla follows our most vulnerable clients through the complicated medical maze. She has been at births, deaths, major surgeries, 5 am appointments and 1 am emergencies. After one birth, a Burmese mother asked Alla what to name her newborn. Alla chose David.

Alla is is dearly loved by her colleagues and refugee clients for her huge heart, knowledge of community resources, and unmatched dedication to meet client needs. Clients from all different parts of the world refer to her with an endearing and respectful word from their language: the Burmese called her "Pi" (pronounced Pee) Alla or Grandma Alla. The Bhutanese call her Alla ma'am. We, at JF&CS, call her simply amazing.

Alla was nominated by Jordan Golin, Psy.D.President & Chief Executive Officer Jewish Family & Children's Service.

Elinor and Nate Young - Mollie's Meals All-stars

The Jewish Association on Aging’s Mollie's Meals volunteers Elinor and Nate Young are very involved and always there to lend a hand.


Elinor began delivering Mollie's Meals when a friend asked her to help. They shared driving and deliveries until unfortunately, the other woman became too ill. That didn't deter Elinor, herself a senior, who has been delivering once a week (sometimes twice!) for the last four years, with and without the help of her husband. A retired school secretary, she also volunteers for her synagogue and other groups. In her capacity with Mollie's Meals, she and her husband see about 14 people on an average day.

“There are challenges. For instance, many recipients are hard of hearing or have difficulty getting to the door. One woman was very confused. I reported her and she's now in a nursing home. From my end of it I can't find anything easier. Everything is prepared and ready to go,” Mollie’s Meals Coordinator Fraida Estrin explained.

Big thanks to the Youngs (who are grandparents, as well). Wishing you many more healthy years as JAA partners!

Paula Riemer - Pillar of the Holocaust Center Community


“I am nominating Paula Riemer, a member of our Advisory Board and a pillar of the Holocaust Center community,” executive director of the Holocaust Center Lauren Bairnsfather said.

Paula attends every event we host, is extremely supportive of our staff, and keeps in touch with us when there is news about a survivor. Paula’s father, Jack Sittsamer, was a Holocaust survivor and advocate for Holocaust education. He was known and loved throughout the community and was committed to Holocaust education. It is said that more than 100,000 students and others heard his testimony. So committed was he that he left an endowment for the Holocaust Center to continue its efforts in Holocaust education into the future.

Paula was part of a young group of children of Holocaust survivors that began to meet in the late 1970s. Most had not heard their parents’ Holocaust stories first hand. This included Paula – the group came together before her father began to tell his story. In this small group was the seed of the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh. Indeed, Paula has been with us from the beginning!

Paula is the Administrator in the Department of Music at the University of Pittsburgh and has been supportive of the integration of music into the Holocaust Center’s commemorative programs.

Thank You Paula.

Stu Harris – A Dedicated Volunteer.

Stu is a Volunteer Center Committee Member. When asked to nominate a volunteer, Stu Harris immediately came to mind.

The compassion Stu shows to the people we serve is an inspiration for us all. He is a dedicated volunteer in terms of giving of himself and back to the Pittsburgh Jewish Community and the city abroad .  Stu has such a wonderful ability work with a variety of people at different levels and always brings a sense of cheerfulness to the volunteer experience. As a selfless volunteer, he sets a great example for those who are around him. The extra effort, dedication, insights and opinions are all extremely valuable to the successful undertakings of Stu’s involvement with the Volunteer Center.

Rozie Rabinowitz - Making Her Family Yours

Rozie-RabinowitzRozie Rabinowitz  has been a dedicated employee of Jewish Family and Children's Services (JF&CS) for 16 years.  She is an outstanding staff member for so many reasons.  Her excellent work ethic alone would merit recognition, but she goes above and beyond her job duties.

Advocating for JF&CS Guardianship clients, acting as a protective mother, caring for each and every one of them as if they were her own children.  An example of this is during holidays, Rozie uses her own time and resources to ensure that clients who otherwise would not receive any gifts or comfort get something.  It maybe something small, but it is always thoughtful and means so much to someone who has nothing or no one to call family. 

The effort and care that Rozie puts into her job ensures that our clients know they have an advocate that truly cares about them. Rozie's love and compassion for our wards reminds us that little things can make dramatic changes in people's lives and in our communities.  

When asked what she loves about her job, she replied:

"I enjoy helping clients and working with the best team ever has made my job at JF&CS  rewarding and enjoyable." - Rabinowitz