Liza Freed always knew she wanted to help people. But when her father passed away three days after her graduation from college, she knew that service, a value she learned from her father, would not just be a value, but a mission.
“I had two parents who were fiercely committed to caring for others,” said Freed. “My parents were really intentional about making sure we cared about other people and knowing that we were going to commit our lives to that.”
Helping others was part of the fabric of Freed’s childhood in Westchester. Her father, an optometrist who worked with low-vision patients, often worked in clinics with low-income patients who could not afford vision care. Her mother volunteered at a women’s prison. “We cared about people who looked like us, who didn’t look like us, who had as much as us and who didn’t have as much as us,” said Freed. Of her father, she said: “It fully inhabited his being to help others.”
Freed especially loved working with kids. She described herself with pride as a devoted “camp person,” having spent 12 summers at the Reform movement’s Camp Eisner, first as a camper and then as a counselor. She credits camp with launching her “into the most meaningful part of my life,” referring to her current work as Program Manager at Repair the World Harlem, a service organization which places volunteers with local organizations.
When she first started working at Repair the World, she said, she was skeptical of the work. “I think I saw massive inequity…and I thought that it was caused by structural inequity and structural issues, things that could only be shifted through advocacy work,” said Freed. After working for Repair for two years, Freed is convinced that service work can make a real difference in communities and loves to engage volunteers in discussions about how their service can impact them and the people they help.
“The fact that we’re talking about this together will make us consider it this week, maybe it’ll make us vote next week, maybe the fact that you met a neighbor that you never met before, now when you see them and they’re a different color than you, maybe you won’t call the police,” said Freed. “There’s a ripple in a really big way.”
Cut a rug: Freed can do the dance move, the worm.