by Jordan Spiwak
During the pandemic two years ago, I was working a sales job. The job involved a lot of cold-calling and working behind a screen. Yes, it paid the bills, but it was not in any way meaningful or enjoyable. Every day, it felt like I was taking rather than giving.
Last summer, I went on a Birthright Israel trip by myself. I didn’t know what to expect, nor did I think the experience would ultimately lead me to my work with Keshet. I had become more religious as I’ve gotten older, and being in Israel only inspired me to further my connection to Judaism. One of the days on the trip we volunteered at Shalva, an organization that supports people with disabilities in Israel. That day was the most fulfilling and fun experience I’d had in a very long time. It was at this moment I vowed to do a complete 180 with my life and career. I decided to leave sales and pursue a career where I could give back to others.
I’d been familiar with Keshet for most of my life, having grown up in Skokie, attending Camp Chi and through volunteering in high school. The first genuine connection I had made with someone with a disability was when I befriended a classmate of mine who had Down Syndrome. Every day during lunch, he would play the air guitar, and instead of just laughing and walking away, I would get up and join him. An experience like this allowed me to see the bigger picture and the impact I could have on someone else through just a simple act of kindness. Now coming back to Keshet to work full-time, I can now make a difference on a much greater scale.
In the last few months that I’ve been a DSP at GADOL, my life has completely changed. I get up each morning excited to go to work and feeling like I have a sense of purpose. I’ve learned so much about patience, remaining calm and how to stay positive during stressful situations. I also have become so much more knowledgeable on different types of disabilities and how to best support the people that we serve. Each day I come to work, I continue to learn more and more from Keshet’s incredible participants and my amazing colleagues.
While I’ve gotten to know all of the team members, I’ve made a connection with one of them on a deeper level. If you know Keshet, you probably know Avi Lesser. Avi is quite literally a Keshet veteran, yet he was the first person to introduce himself to me on my first day at GADOL. He remembers every single thing about you (and I mean everything), which immediately made me feel welcome. Avi’s also just a creative spirit. We share a passion for music, especially the rock n’ roll classics, and I can always count on him to jam out with me. I feel so grateful to have created a relationship with Avi and the other team members through this job.
Working at Keshet has also allowed me to create a deeper connection to my Jewish identity. We have some adults at GADOL who are more observant, and they’ve inspired me to keep up with my Judaism practices and even take it a step further. Each morning when we arrive at GADOL, these team members wrap tefillin and daven, and I have had the privilege to be able to participate in some of these rituals with them. I love how this experience has equally bonded me to my Judaism and these team members, and I want to continue to be a good example for them.
What makes working at GADOL so special is the impact we get to make not just on people with disabilities, but on the greater community. We volunteer weekly at organizations like the Niles Township Food Pantry and the Chicago Mitzvah Campaign. As a staff member, I don’t just sit there or give them a ride to these places, but I am actively participating in these activities alongside the team members. This is something that I don’t take for granted, and I feel fortunate to be able to make a difference in multiple ways through this job.
In the short time I’ve been at Keshet, I’ve felt a deep sense of belonging with the GADOL team and the organization at large. I plan to be here for the long-term and continue to build relationships with the team members that will last a lifetime. I hope to look back five to ten years from now and be able to say that I am just as invested and enthusiastic about this job as I was when I started. To anyone who is just beginning their journey as a DSP or at Keshet, I want to remind you to not get discouraged when things get challenging. There is a lot to learn and take in all at once, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The work that DSPs do on a daily basis is not always easy, but it is by far the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I still can’t believe this is my job!
If you or someone you know is interested in joining the Keshet team, learn more about our open positions and apply at keshet.org/careers.