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Outstanding volunteer receives Jefferson Award

Jeff Herzog 2016Volunteer Jeff Herzog keeps a sign posted above his desk listing the eight degrees of giving according to Jewish principles. The eighth, and highest, principle written on his sign says: “To help another to become self-supporting by means of a gift, a loan, or by finding employment for the one in need.”

Jeff is a volunteer employment specialist working in the Refugee & Immigrant Services department at JF&CS. For more than two years, he has volunteered 15-20 hours a week helping refugees find employment. This critical step in refugee resettlement makes it possible for these newcomers to become quickly self-supporting and contributing members of our community.

JF&CS is thrilled to announce that Jeff is being honored with a Jefferson Award, awarded by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (and corporate partners) to people whose volunteer service makes a definitive impact on our community. We could not be more proud to say that Jeff fits this bill in every way.

A typical day at Jewish Family & Children’s Service for Jeff includes meeting with refugees and local employers; teaching job readiness workshops; making skills, language, education and experience assessments with newly-arrived refugees; assisting with job applications and practice interviews; and driving clients to visit employers and job sites.

Jeff’s style and grace wins every heart at JF&CS. A fluent Spanish speaker, a result of over five years with the Peace Corps, Jeff’s approach is warm and direct. Clients, employers and staff alike respect him for his integrity and commitment. He is curious and eager to help in all aspects of welcoming refugees: housing, transportation, wherever he can be useful. He strategizes with the staff and happily reaches out to personal and professional connections.

When asked what motivates him, Jeff says, “This job suits every facet of who I am. I’ve worked with many different cultures, lived abroad, and I’m good at networking. I get such a rush every time I find somebody a job, because then I know that that family is on their way.”

Jeff has also been a mentor to a Bhutanese refugee family for more than three years. He sees them regularly, goes to the kids’ soccer games, and helps them get to medical appointments and jobs. He is considered part of their family; the children call him Grandpa!

About them, Jeff simply says, “Once again I am the winner. Refugees have been through so much and worked hard to get here. My reward is knowing that they’re getting their chance at the American dream.”

Jeff was the Executive Director of Rodef Shalom for twenty-two years before he retired. Though he is usually at JF&CS every week day, he also volunteers elsewhere: running a men’s discussion group and tutoring in the public schools

Jeff Herzog is a wonderful ambassador for JF&CS and for refugees, creating good will for our work and these new Pittsburghers! Congratulations Jeff!