One simple yes started my life’s path of volunteerism

Lynn Bunim is the 2012 winner of the Judith Chapman Memorial Women’s Leadership Award, which recognizes outstanding Jewish volunteer leaders. In this post she describes in her own words how her life has been shaped by volunteerism. Lynn will receive her award at the Power of One on February 16.

By Lynn Bunim

I was an apple that did not fall too far from a tree in the 1960s. My mother, Jane Burrows, was a volunteer with the Mt. Zion Hospital Women's Auxiliary.  She and many other volunteers did their version of "bring your daughter to work" was actually  "bring your daughter to Mt. Zion to volunteer."  That was the role of Jewish women then and it is still the role of Jewish women today. In most cases, we are the family member who models and teaches our children about Tikkun Olam. At the time none of us young "Candy Stripers" knew what Tikkun Olam was.  We just knew we were making Mt. Zion patients' days a little bit brighter. For sure, we left our shifts with a feeling of satisfaction. Tikkun Olam has remained an integral part of my life ever since the Mt. Zion experience. I don't think about "putting" it into my life. It is just part of my DNA, part of who I am and who I became.

Lynn Bunim and Jane Burrows

Lynn Bunim (right) and her mother, Jane Burrows.

I approached community involvement like I approached my career in the corporate world.  I said "yes" to requests to become involved in nonprofit endeavors, even when I did not know where "yes" would lead.  I said "yes" to a request to attend "just one meeting" for Jewish Vocational Services.  That first "yes" led to nearly twenty years of an affiliation with JVS, including serving as its President.  The JVS leadership experience led Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr. to name me the founding Chair of San Francisco's Workforce Investment Board. By taking a risk, I found a new passion and leadership roles, serving the vulnerable in both the Jewish and the general community. My experience and position with JVS led me to a position on the Federation board. Once I reached the board, I was fortunate to have volunteer mentors and key Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund staff members who continuously matched my skill set with challenging volunteer opportunities. 

Past recipients of the Judith Chapman Memorial Women’s Leadership Award like Adele Corvin, Joelle Steefel and Kathy Williams have supported and advocated for various positions relating to allocations. Long time JCF staff member Susan Mall has been my "inside" mentor.  She helped me see the value of balancing my charitable giving between the JCF and select Jewish agencies. My advice to young Jewish women who want to grow their involvement and leadership in the Jewish community is simple.  For starters, just say "yes" when a friend asks you to donate an hour or two of your time.  Alternatively, let Katherine Tick, the JCF's Director of Leadership Development, know about you, your skill set and your interests. Katherine Tick's email is  She will take it from there and try to make a match.

If you don't take the first step, you will never know where it might lead or what passion you might unleash. Looking back it was just one, small, first step into JVS that put me on a path of ever growing engagement in our Jewish community.

JOIN LYNN AT THE POWER OF ONE AWARD CEREMONY Lynn will receive the Judith Chapman Memorial Women’s Leadership Award at our annual Power of One event, taking place February 16 at the San Francisco Hilton.  Learn more and register for this celebration of Jewish women who inspire us to make a difference in the world.


January 10, 2012


The Federation