Practitioner Spotlight: Jerry Rubin, Jewish Vocational Services of Boston

Practitioner Spotlights are an opportunity to hear directly from individuals working successfully to improve SNAP E&T programs across the country


Jerry Rubin congratulates a JVS Boston program graduate
Jerry Rubin congratulates a JVS Boston program graduate.

What Does Jewish Vocational Services of Boston Do? 

JVS provides adults with education, skills training, and job opportunities to help them advance to economic self-sufficiency. While we work with all adults looking to learn more and earn more, we particularly focus on the immigrant community. This is in the DNA of our organization and about one-third of Boston’s workforce is non-native born. There are two things we’re most proud of about our services. The first is that we offer a continuum of education and employment options: whether you are a low-skilled new immigrant needing contextualized English for your first job, or whether you want a short-term certification up to an AA degree at a community college, JVS has programming to support you. The second is JVS’ strong relationship with local employers. We support them with incumbent worker training and provide them with new workers from our other programs. Employers compensate JVS for these services, supporting our model.  JVS operates most of our own training with nearly 200 staff, most of whom are instructors or career navigators.  Our programs target multiple sectors, emphasizing the life sciences/healthcare sector. We typically serve between 15,000 – 20,000 people every year. JVS also operates the downtown Boston Career Center, part of the one-stop system. 

What is Your Role at JVS?

I am the President and CEO and have been with JVS for 13 years. I see my role as having three main functions. The first is forming and sustaining the partnerships that we need to support our work. The second is helping to support JVS staff to achieve a culture of excellence that helps us deliver on our strategies.  And the third is helping JVS stay ahead of the curve on changing trends in workforce development and the labor market so that the work we do is relevant and has maximum impact.

What is Your Experience with SNAP E&T?

When I came to JVS I was aware of the existing SNAP E&T program in Massachusetts and its potential for increasing services for SNAP participants both at JVS and statewide. JVS became a third-party provider in the State’s E&T program. Not long after, Massachusetts implemented some program design changes to SNAP E&T that made it more difficult for third-party providers, and JVS’ SNAP E&T program essentially ended. I then had an opportunity to work with a new Governor and administration, advocating for them to figure out a better way to administer SNAP E&T because of its enormous potential benefit for Massachusetts. We pulled together a day-long meeting with USDA/FNS present and we began the work of redesigning the program. Within a few months, the State’s Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) had a new model in place and the program has been growing ever since. JVS has also been a partner to DTA serving ABAWDs through SNAP E&T.

What is So Valuable about SNAP E&T to Your Mission and Work? 

SNAP E&T has allowed JVS to expand our services, but we also have a public policy and systems change agenda and supporting SNAP E&T is integral to that work. A big reason for this is that SNAP E&T as a program can really emphasize skills training. I believe it is the largest source of federal support for workforce training in the Boston area and training is critical for disadvantaged individuals and populations if they are to access good jobs. SNAP E&T also has broad eligibility; it can, for example, serve low-wage workers, not just the unemployed. And the 50 percent reimbursement that SNAP E&T can provide is a huge incentive for States, philanthropy, and private industry to invest more in employment and training services. I can’t think of any other program that has this feature.

Note: S2S interviewed Jerry Rubin for this Spotlight just prior to the COVID-19 shutdown. To hear more from Mr. Rubin about how JVS Boston has adapted its services to the pandemic, please listen to the June 2020 SNAP to Skills webinar, Adapting SNAP E&T Services For the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond.