I am totally energized right now. Exhausted but energized. I am just coming off a whirlwind three days at the 2010 General Assembly (GA) in New Orleans, where service and volunteerism took center stage.
Whether you were in New Orleans or not, I hope you heard of the historic Day of Service, a joint effort of Jewish Federations of North America and Repair the World. This first-of-its-kind endeavor saw more than half of the GA attendees participating in service learning, panels discussions about service and social justice, and volunteer service projects around New Orleans on Monday afternoon.
For me, the actual service experience was a watershed moment: 1,500 people, all GA volunteers, deployed across different areas of the city, clearing brush, packing meals, cleaning parks and recycling trash off the streets.
The statement this makes about the Jewish community and our values is loud and clear: we take seriously the sacred imperatives of tikkun olam (repair the world), tzedek (justice) and chesed (kindness), and we are fully committed to repairing the world around us and to helping communities and people in need.
Indeed, the roots of Jewish service have taken hold across our communal organizations and institutions, and a full-fledged movement is blossoming. We have a generation of young people ready to be inspired, eager to make an impact, thirsting to be called to something higher. We need to provide them opportunities to do that with a connection to Jewish values and communities, in a Jewish context and/or with a Jewish lens.
We at CLSFF could not be more proud of, or grateful for, the efforts of the organizations who made the GA Day of Service happen: Repair the World, Jewish Federations of North America, AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps, American Jewish World Service, Jewish Funds for Justice and the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans.
We are also excited about the PANIM Institutute of BBYO’s The Big EASY: A Jewish Teen Summit on the Environment, in which 82 teens participated in service and advocacy training, took a bus tour of New Orleans, and met and spoke with survivors of Hurricane Katrina and those impacted by this summer’s oil spill in the Gulf.
I know that much work remains ahead of us to continue to growing this movement to better our world, but for this brief moment, I am propelled by the vision of a Jewish community in which serving others is paramount.
Read More: Why Repair the World, By Jon Rosenberg and Lisa Eisen, Zeek, Winter 2010