Community: In Service Of and With
With Pesach/Passover around the corner, I find myself thinking about the community oriented focus of the Torah and Judaism. One of the most important values of Pesach, and in my experience one of the pillars of the Jewish people, is that no one should be alone for seder. Indeed, our rabbinic sages created a mitzvah to invite anyone who is without a seder into our homes so that they, too, may partake in telling the Pesach story and meal. Continuing this emphasis on community and helping others, two of CESJDS’ core values are Kehillah/Community and Tikun Olam/Repairing the World. Kehillah is defined as “a vibrant, caring, moral community based upon the concepts of ahra-yut and areivut/individual and collective responsibility. Tikun Olam is described as “passionate desire, active engagement, and individual/collective commitment to repair the world and make it more compassionate, just, and peaceful.
We are a community that stands in service of and with others so that we may leave the world a little bit better than we found it. At CESJDS, we incorporate multiple ways for our MS students to participate in direct community service and service learning opportunities. Some of these are proactive while others are direct reactions to current events. For example, our Zman Kodesh communities often step up to help communities who suffer due to natural disasters or inexplicably from human hands.
In this vein, it is my pleasure to share with you several ways in which we involve our MS students in service with and of others for the purpose of Kehillah and Tikun Olam.
8th Grade Service Learning Curriculum. Our 8th grade curriculum focuses on what it means to be a leader and make an impact on the communities to which one belongs, locally, nationally, and globally. Through Humanities Experience, 8th grade students explore issues of equity, philanthropy, and activism. In Tanakh, English, and Social Studies, they meet a variety of historical and fictional leaders and analyze the qualities and characteristics that make these individuals leaders. All of this is done with the goal of students embarking on the 8th Grade Atlanta trip where they immerse themselves in the world of the Civil Rights movement and explore the ways different people responded to injustices in their communities both near and far. As part of the Atlanta trip students will also participate in hands on direct community service.
8th Grade Capstone Project. As a culmination of the 8th Grade Service Learning Curriculum, 8th graders complete a capstone project during which they must identify a societal challenge that is important to them and that they want to work to improve. Students are required to research non-profit organizations working to improve this issue and then write a proposal for….
7th Grade Service Learning Curriculum. In Humanities Experience, 7th grade students engage in a semester long unit on Holocaust and Human Behavior. They study the Pyramid of Hate and consider how each step can be combated through acts of kindness, taking a stand, and education. At the end of the year, our students create individual virtual memorials to the Holocaust that live in perpetuity on the Facing History and Ourselves website reminding the world never to forget.
Lehmann Day of Service. All MS students participate in the Lehmann Day of Service each year. We partner with multiple local organizations to ensure our students can find something that is meaningful to them, allows them to learn about the organization and its importance to the community, and spend time doing hands on community service.
The Green Team Club. Our MS Green Team includes students, grades 6-8, who have taken it upon themselves to improve the environmental awareness and friendliness of the CESJDS community at school. Last year they won a $200 grant to help their efforts. This year they are working toward creating a school garden.
In addition, we know that many of our students are actively involved in a community service project for their B’Nei Mitzvah. We ask all of our students to share what they are doing with us so that we can support their efforts through school announcements and collection areas. Each year we encourage our students to host a booth during Families in Action Day to showcase the wonderful work that they are doing and to educate all of us about their organization and their efforts.
The Portrait of a CESJDS Graduate emphasizes ethics, taking care of others, and acting through compassion. Our middle school service learning curricula and experiential opportunities help our students as they grow and practice the skills of being ethical, responsible, and compassionate global citizens.
Wishing each of you a meaningful Pesach.