JFS is proud to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, and we are interviewing members of our board and staff to get their perspectives on what this celebration means for them and for our community. We spoke with JFS CEO Lino Covarrubias to learn more!
What is your goal for partnering and expanding the Hispanic needs of the community we serve?
JFS’s goal is to continue to service large numbers of needs through partnerships with non-profits, municipalities, faith organizations, and corporations. It was clear to have the greatest impact during COVID, we needed to enhance our volunteer capacity and grow our network of community partners. Further, the largest Hispanic Immigrant community in the Metrowest lives in Framingham and Milford. Ten years ago, this group was primarily from Brazil; however, in the last five years, new Spanish-speaking immigrants have arrived from Central America. We estimate the needs are going to triple in the next few years. Working with other organizations is the only way JFS can move the needle in a positive direction.
Examples of our partners that service the Hispanic community are:
- CASA DEL TRABAJADOR/Metrowest Work Center in Framingham provides civil rights advocacy for construction laborers and landscapers. Casa del Trabajador helps force employers to comply with the employment laws so that workers are not taken advantage of. JFS takes a holistic approach to help the entire family. During COVID, we have identified and built trust with Casa Del Trabajador clients. This was an identified market of not only the clients but the families who are in need.
- Our initiative to expand our partnerships with faith-based groups such as Saint Stephen Parish in Framingham, a Catholic Church, has a large population of Hispanics. They have a social welfare program, which is focused on the whole family. I met Father Paco who grew up in the same town in Mexico as my mom, and I believe this helped to build trust between our two organizations. We worked with other faith leaders in the area concerning Vaccine initiatives. When you hear how important it is to be vaccinated from your faith leader, it carries weight, and parishioners listen.
Leveraging these partnerships is critical to get the word out about the importance of getting the COVID-19 vaccine. For example, at a recent JFS Children’s Clothing Closet event, with the help of the City of Framingham, we offered individuals a $50 Market Basket card if they got vaccinated! We even translated a children’s book about herd immunity written by a JFS volunteer into Spanish and Portuguese, and we participated in a community partner’s video to encourage vaccinations. We are very proud of the vaccinations we have helped facilitate
What does Hispanic heritage mean for you? To the JFS community?
My personal life story is that my first language is Spanish. I am a 40% indigenous person from Mexico, a descendant from the Huichol tribe on my father’s side. The Huichol tribe separated from the Aztec Empire and were Chamans-priests. I am also 40% from the Iberian Peninsula on my mom’s side from Spain.
I identify as Hispanic (people who speak Spanish) or Latino (those who speak Latin-based languages) or there is Latinx, (people who speak either Spanish or Portuguese.) but having grown up in California, I also identify as a “Chicano”. Chicano is a person who is fighting for injustice. I grew up when Cesar Chavez came to be recognized as a civil rights activist and labor leader in support of migrant farmworkers. My family worked in agricultural labor and were part of working for our worker’s rights. (Cesar Chavez started the UFW United Farm Worker Union movement to help migrants in agriculture fight for fair labor practices).
For JFS as a Jewish organization, the makeup of the Jewish community is changing. It is no longer made up of mostly white, Ashkenazi Jews. The community is becoming more diverse and as a leader that has a diverse background, it is important for us to have both a staff and the board that represents the changes in diversity. It adds strength to the organization. We have to retail recruit to find the right staff and board members who appreciate our work and can really represent the people we serve. For the last 13 years, we have diversified our staff, now we are adding strength to the organization’s board.
Could you share some traditions that you and your family celebrate that are related to your heritage? Favorite holidays, foods, songs?
- My favorite holiday foods are from the winter months such as tamales, which are indigenous and exclusive during festive days. They take a long time to make, so they are reserved for special occasions
- My winter holiday special is Chocolate Caliente (hot chocolate directly from Cocao beans, not processed).
- In the summer, my favorite is gazpacho and ceviche which are always accompanied by fresh corn tortillas.
- My favorite song is Mexico Lindo y Querido (Beautiful and loved Mexico). It is a Marachi song that speaks about the love of Mexico.
How can organizations like JFS support and advocate for families and individuals of Hispanic heritage in our community?
Creating relationships with people, and organizations. Building trust with the families of need and partnerships with organizations of similar Hispanic heritage. Addressing the needs of the whole family.
JFS of Metrowest would like to thank all its supporters and partners who make our work in the Hispanic, Latinx community and Metrowest community possible.
To donate to JFS of Metrowest, please visit https://jfsmw.org/donate/
For volunteer opportunities with JFS of Metrowest, please visit https://jfsmw.org/volunteer/