In a strangely disconnected year, Dot Bilsky has relied on her long affiliation with the Memphis Jewish Federation Lions of Judah as a way to stay connected to the people and places she loves in Jewish Memphis.
“I became a Lion because my husband signed me up, and I am very grateful he did. With the support of Federation, Lion of Judah identifies needs and gives people like me a chance to do the most good with greater impact,” she said. “And now with the pandemic, the Lions are even more active because there’s more need. We respond to what’s out there. That’s what it means to be part of this sisterhood.”
A long-time Lion, Dot serves on the LOJ Tikkun Olam Committee, serves on Federation’s Senior Services Collaborative, is involved in her synagogue, and has even become something of a volunteer IT support professional for an expanding circle of friends and acquaintances during the quarantine. She has a habit of stepping in to help others meet needs and is grateful for the many opportunities provided to make a difference.
She offers the Lion’s recent Baby Shower initiative as an example of how she benefits from her connections. Led by the Tikkun Olam Committee, the Shower was launched to help Wendy & Avron B. Fogelman Jewish Family Service at the Memphis Jewish Community Center stock its brand-new Baby Pantry, designed to ensure families in the community have access to the essentials needed to care for babies and young children.
“The Baby Shower proves my point about what Federation does for me as a Lion. I didn’t know there were babies in our community needing help, nor could I have done anything about it without the support of Federation and the Lions,” she said. “We got the word out and took in an enormous amount of supplies for the Baby Pantry. That’s the Lions. They want to do things that help. And when you ask them, they go above and beyond.”
Dot had another first-hand glimpse of the connecting power of Federation as a peripheral player in this summer’s Tech Buddy initiative, designed to help seniors in the community stay connected through technology.
“Part of my job at Memphis City Schools and later with Apple Computers was to help people use computers in the classroom,” she said. “I got involved helping people with their new Federation-provided iPads through the back door. I’m in a book club and two of the people couldn’t participate. I made pictures of ipad screens and added arrows to show where to click and how to get to the home screen, the mail envelope, and how to read an email or join a Zoom meeting. Word got out and people asked me to help with different things. The initial training they got from the Tech Buddy was excellent, but I was able to help them do new things they wanted to learn.”
“Just yesterday I helped a friend of mine get online because she wanted to join a Beth Sholom seniors discussion group on Zoom,” she said. “We were going down the projects that Beth Sholom had planned and while she was scanning through the list, she said: ‘Oh my gosh, Baron Hirsch is making sandwiches- we always did that.’”
“I said ‘Yeah, but this year people are doing it from home.’ She said ‘I want to do it!’ So she helped Baron Hirsch make sandwiches.”
Ultimately, Dot’s connection to the community through the Lions is precious to her, and something she doesn’t take for granted. It’s through this sisterhood that she is able to satisfy her urge to help people in the community in a meaningful way.
“I’ve helped with things that I didn’t even know were problems before Federation directed us there,” she said. “As Lions, we not only want to give money, we want to be involved. That’s how a lot of the women feel. The Federation identifies needs and organizes us to make a bigger impact. I am most grateful for what Federation and the Lions do for me and others like myself.”