Jewish Big Brother Big Sister Program Changes Lives


“He was a part of my life and that was it.”

Older Man and Younger Man Smiling for Photo Outside

This Episode was Recorded Before The COVID-19 Pandemic

When Jared Raitzyk was seven years old, his mother reached out to the Jewish Big Brother Big Sister program overseen by Jewish Community Services. Now, more than 25 years later, his big brother, Seth Katzen, remains an important member of his family.

“To me, [JCS] never laid it out that ‘after two years, it’s done.’ I think he was part of my life and that was it.”

According to Seth Katzen, it was more than the two-year commitment set by the Big Brother Big Sister program.

“You just don’t say, ‘Hey, okay – I fulfilled my obligation,” explained Seth. “It’s not an obligation at that point. It’s ‘He’s family and I’m family.’

The Jewish Big Brother Big Sister program, overseen by JCS, provides one-on-one mentoring, guidance, support and friendship to Jewish children and teenagers, ages 7 to 17.

The story begins with Jared Raitzyk, whose father was killed when Jared was just an infant. When Jared was seven years old, Jared’s mother reached out for assistance to the Jewish Big Brother Big Sister Program. At the same time, Seth Katzen, who was looking to get involved with The Associated through young adult initiatives, found that the program piqued his interest.

“My wife hosted a focus group for young adults to learn more about The Associated, and the one thing that piqued my interest was [BBBS]. I thought I could do it at my age. We were newlyweds, no children yet, and I had some time and thought I could have an impact as a Big Brother.”

The impact of the Big Brother, Little Brother relationship had on Jared and Seth was immeasurable. It created many, lasting memories. Of those memories, Jared recalls an outing to Bill Bateman’s in Towson, where he described it as his first time having real Buffalo Wings.

It became a signature place for Jared and Seth. Soon they went to Oriole games, took trips to the movies, and more.

Jared and Seth have been a part of their lives far beyond those first two years.

“He’s always been there for me,” said Jared. “When my mom was dying of lung cancer, Seth was one of the first people I spoke with. He was ready to fly down and be a support system for me.”

Today, Jared has followed in Seth’s footsteps and, for the past decade, has been giving back to his Jewish community – one of the ways by being a Big Brother himself.

“I’ve had Sean, I think he was 9 years old when I got him. He’s older now and we do the same kind of stuff. We go to the mall, we go to the movies – we talk a lot.”

“It was important for me to volunteer as a Big Brother because I wanted to give back to the community,” Jared continued. “Seth made such a big impact in my life and my upbringing. I definitely wouldn’t be the same person without him. So I wanted to give that opportunity to someone else.” For more on Jared and Seth’s story, listen to their full interview by using the player below or downloading this transcript.

Jewish Community Services, an agency of The Associated, continues to provide valuable resources to the Jewish Community, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and has been successfully able to continue the Big Brother Big Sister program during this challenging time.

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Pull Up A Chair is a monthly Associated Podcast where, each month, we sit down and talk with members of the Baltimore community. Hear the personal stories of Jewish Baltimore – from CEO’s to The Myerberg’s Bagel Boys to Summer Camp Sweethearts. We’ll laugh, reminisce and learn a thing or two about what it means to build a strong community. Pull Up A Chair – You’ll feel like you’re sitting in the room with us.


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