JFCS’ resident matchmaker Bobbie Goldfarb retires after 28 years
Bobbie matched “bigs” and “littles” for the Jewish Big Brother/Big Sister Program
Making matches is simply in Bobbie Goldfarb’s DNA. For almost 30 years, she matched “bigs” and “littles” in mentorship relationships as the Program Coordinator for JFCS’ Jewish Big Brother/Big Sister Program (BB/BS). Prior to that, she was making different kinds of matches – romantic ones – for 20 years with the Jewish Dating Service.
Bobbie retired in June, capping a 28-year career at JFCS. Though small in physical stature, Bobbie’s outsize and hilarious personality, constantly sprinkled with Yiddish phrases, served as the spark for hundreds of meaningful relationships throughout three decades. For Bobbie, finding just the right match, and making sure it would take hold, has been her goal with each and every match she’s made, said Carole Cera, who started at JFCS the same week as Bobbie and has been her supervisor almost the whole time.
“There are literally 30-somethings all over the planet who are still connected significantly to their big brothers and big sisters, because Bobbie made sure that her pairings would be indestructible,” Carole said. “The stories are amazing! One big sister flew all the way to Australia to be with her “little” sister on the day of her wedding. That event took place likely 25 years after they first met. These are not just matches that Bobbie was making – they were and are lifelong connections.”
It’s also very common for littles to become bigs when they get older themselves. “The program has been so successful for us,” Bobbie said. “For me, the core of it is to keep your eyes open for possibilities.”
About 30 years ago, Bobbie’s own kids were getting older and she was looking for a part-time job when she happened to see an ad for the coordinator of volunteers for BB/BS. As a former teacher – she taught kindergarten for five years for Minneapolis Public Schools – she thought the position was perfect, as it combined her two passions – matchmaking and working with children. “I don’t have a social work background, but I love kids,” Bobbie said. “I always worked well with kids with special needs.”
BB/BS matches Jewish littles who can benefit from having a carefully screened and selected mentor big. Match activities are tailored to the little’s individual or special needs and the big’s interests and abilities.
When families approach JFCS about a child participating in the BB/BS Program, Bobbie said she always tries to assess the needs for both the child and their parent or guardian. In the event that JFCS offers another service that would help the parent, she would make a referral for them, with the goal of serving the family holistically. “I never get tired of listening to a parent or a grandparent talk about what the issues are,” she said.
When creating a match, Bobbie always looked at what the child’s needs are and then determines which potential big could offer the most help. The big has to have unconditional expectations – they shouldn’t have a set idea that they can “change” the little, she said.
Bobbie’s advice for her successor, Becky Lyle Sulkin, is to always do the most you can for the families who are signing up for the mentorship program. “It’s a big step for a parent to say ‘my kid needs a friend,’” Bobbie said. “The people that come here are in need of something so important for their child – otherwise they wouldn’t call. The depth of the relationship is immeasurable.”