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Values and Volunteering

I have learned many an important lesson from my father, lessons which I carry with me to this day. Better to get an average grade and not cheat than to copy from another student and get an ‘A’. If the grocer gives you too much change you must return it, even if you have to walk all the way back to the store. Always keep an eye open for an older person who might need help. And the one that resonates with me every day, the one that I try to listen to as much as I can, admit when you have made a mistake. There is nothing wrong with saying that you could have done better. As individuals we always have something to learn, and as a community, as a people, we always have a new lesson waiting around the corner. Such is the challenge of the Jewish people. To learn our lessons, act, and move on.

In this spirit, the recent Volunteering + Values report from the Repair the World leaves me to reflect with candor. This is a report which we as a community should find alarming. We are sending young Jewish adults out into the world to make a difference, to make a change when they don’t even know why they are doing it. But if we are to sustain our people, if we are to continue the heritage of Tikun Olam then volunteering has to be one part of a bigger personal Jewish identity. Our young adults need to know why their contribution is different and important – why it is part of the big picture of leading a Jewish life and WHAT that big picture of Jewish life is all about.

After I read the nine strategic implications in the report I could not help but think that there is a tenth. The missing implication, the missing link, the missing ‘mistake’ is that this report does not touch on the one factor which does make a difference as to whether a young Jewish adult sees their volunteering as a Jewish act.

The one factor is the central role a strong, vibrant, and relevant Jewish identity could play in the mind and heart of today’s young Jewish adult. A comprehensive Jewish identity which would touch multiple elements of their lives and give them daily messages of personal and community responsibility would drive them to see their volunteering as not only a Jewish act but a Jewish obligation.

In his book Defending Identity, Natan Sharansky defines personal identity in the context of our survival of and as a democratic world. Now maybe as a Jewish child of the 70’s I sometimes see the world through the bars of the Let My People Go poster which I had hanging in my bedroom with Ida Nudel’s picture on it, but if there is one person in contemporary Jewish life who can define Jewish identity and explain what it means to create one, it is Natan Sharansky. He describes the ‘universal quality of identity’ as one which ‘gives life meaning beyond life itself’ and ‘offers a connection to a world beyond the self.’ He further explains that identity is developed by association with others who share similar backgrounds, by connecting with previous generations and/or by being a part of a nation or culture. Identity gives one a sense of life beyond the physical and material where one feels a sense of belonging to something greater than oneself. It was this sense of identity which gave Sharansky the strength to stand up to the strongest and most powerful regime in the world. A regime which aimed to crush him and his identity.

Our identity as the Jewish people goes back thousands of years in time and is rich with culture, community, hope and a commitment to not only remember but to act. To give, teach, learn, and do. We are a people of action so naturally a message of Tikun Olam is easy to convey. Yet a strong personal and community identity cannot be sustained in the long run without the other elements of being, doing and leading a Jewish life.

Folks, it is a package deal. This is how our ancestors survived pogroms, oppressive regimes, and our being thrown out of our land and exiled. And so the missing tenth ‘strategic implication’ – a well developed Jewish identity – will allow us all to look at the volunteer experience not in a vacuum but rather as one part of the whole Jewish package.

We cannot build one element of someone’s identity without other ‘have to do’s’ such as joining or forming a Jewish community, celebrating holidays and Shabbat, pursuing Jewish learning, looking at our roots and history and for every 24 hours doing something Jewish. Maybe we should ask ourselves how we can build a community of young Jewish adults which is educated to fulfill the mission of the Jewish people by being educated on the individual level and collectively making the world a better place. Volunteerism has to be part of life as a ‘whole Jew’ – a complete Jewish identity.

So how do we even approach this doing thing? How do we engage young adults in the personal pursuit of strengthening their Jewish identity?

John Dewey, world-renown educational theorist of the twentieth century, advocates the education by experience model. His theory of experience focuses on the individual having experiences of the right character in the appropriate settings and is based on the experiential continuum principle.

As we all know there are some experiences which are worthwhile educationally and others which are not. Dewey argues that it is necessary to use the principle of continuity of experience (meaning the repetition of an act) as criteria for determining whether the act is worthwhile or not. This discrimination then leads to the creation of habits – those actions we repeat, customize and perfect as we do them and as time elapses. The creation of a new habit transforms the person and engages them in the development of their personal identity. This is how opinions and attitude are formed and sensitivities developed.

The principle of continuity of experience means that each act, each experience blends into the being of the person. Remember when you were learning the ABC’s? How did you eventually know it? After you sang it over a hundred times and your parents were climbing the walls you knew it and then it became automatic – so much a ‘habit’ that when you learned to use a dictionary finding words was easy – you referenced back to your continued knowledge. This is what we call growing.

We can do better. We have for thousands of years. I am putting together a team of young adults who will be collecting and distributing ways for their peers to enhance their Jewish identity and since everyone has something to share we would like to ask each of you to take some time and send us one idea, one thought that could give us the guidance we need to make a difference.

Lisa Barkan is the Co-Founder and Director of Volunteer Jerusalem and Jerusalem Challenge and can be reached at [email protected]

Teach For America and Teach First Israel Join Forces to Build a Global Movement to End Educational Inequity

In just a few short hours, 57 up-and-coming U.S. change agents will be on their way to Israel to connect with local peers and leaders – and their counterparts at Teach First Israel – through the REALITY Israel Experience for Teach For America corps members program. While here, they will learn from one another on how best to inspire students in disadvantaged areas to succeed in school and to work on a communal vision of educational equality.

The encounter is just one stop for Teach For America corps members on the REALITY Israel Experience program, supported by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and the Samberg Family Foundation in partnership with Teach For America and the ROI Community of Young Jewish Innovators. The 10-day trip is designed to introduce corps members to Israel’s education and social justice systems, give them exposure to top Israeli leaders and thinkers, and help them uncover and recommit to the values that drive their passion for public service.

Speaking on behalf of both foundations, Lynn Schusterman told eJP, “By partnering with Teach For America to create the REALITY program, we hope to inspire corps members to embark on meaningful engagement with their personal journeys and with Israel, as well as cultivate long-term dedication toward Jewish community involvement and service.”

Both Teach For America and Teach First Israel are based on a simple but powerful concept: Enlist top college graduates to become lifelong champions for educational equity by first recruiting them to teach for two years with students from low-income backgrounds. They are both part of the Teach For All network – a collection of independent social enterprises working to expand educational opportunities in their respective countries – and are highly selective. Last year, 48,000 people applied for 5,200 spots with Teach For America. Similarly, Teach First Israel chose 90 out 1,400 applicants for the coming school year. In 2011-2012, it will be expanding from Jerusalem, Beer Sheva, Haifa, Horfeish, Holon, Bat Yam, Petach Tikva and Or Yehuda to include schools in Lod, Acco, Kiryat Shmona, Arad and Dimona.

The participants in the 2011 REALITY Israel Experience come from a wide background of experiences, including:

  • Jessica Bero, who worked as a chef before joining Teach For America, helping to turn around Kansas City’s largest soup kitchen by bringing students in as kitchen staff.
  • Eric Poris, a math teacher at American Horse School on the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation in South Dakota and the only Jew on the reservation. He has also taught in the Swiss Alps, Brazil and Peru.
  • Leora Sher, who taught adolescent AIDS awareness in the villages of South Africa before she began teaching in Chicago.

The REALITY Israel Experience introduces corps members to key Israeli figures in the education and social action movements, and to trailblazing Israeli initiatives like B’Maagalei TzedekAtid Bamidbar and Friends of the Earth. Not only will participants examine the values that drive their commitment to public service, they will also explore the connection between Jewish values, public service and how the two reinforce each other.

REALITY trips for Teach for America corps members were also conducted in the summers of 2009 and 2010, and the impact of the visit to Israel has been profound. According to The REALITY Israel Experience: An Impact Study, it strengthens the link between participants’ Jewish identity and passion for service while deepening their commitment to social justice and the Teach For America mission.

Rachel Brody, who currently calls D.C. home, embodies REALITY’s transformational power. Before she participated in the first REALITY trip in 2009, she had never been involved in the Jewish community nor did she connect her dedication to teaching students with disabilities to Jewish values. Today she is a participant in the PresenTense Global Institute Fellowship in Jerusalem, where she is working on GIM, or Global Inclusion Movement, which will work with Jewish community centers to integrate people with disabilities into the broader community.

“I had never felt any connection with Israel or felt particularly Jewish,” Brody said. “Coming here on REALITY, I learned a lot about Israel and Judaism. I felt a connection with Judaism that I did not feel before. I especially identified with tikkun olam andtzedaka.”

Indeed, the REALITY Israel Experience anticipated the finding of the recently released Volunteering + Values: A Repair the World Report on Jewish Young Adults – a study that underscored the need for programs that help young Jews see their volunteerism through the lens of a Jewish framework to ensure an active, enduring commitment to service and to strengthen the Jewish community’s social impact.

“Meetings such as these expand their horizons, enrich their perspective, enable them to see that they are not alone and that teachers in other countries experience similar situations,” said Asaf Banner, CEO and Co-Founder of Teach First Israel, a joint initiative of the Ministry of Education, JDC-Israel, HaKol Hinuch and the Naomi Foundation. “This peer-to-peer opportunity to share tips, knowledge and best practices is empowering. They will come out of it more motivated, knowing they are part of a global movement of young leaders who want to create a better future for children around the world.”

For more information about the REALITY Israel Experience program, please visit the program website.

The risks of Jewish particularism

Seems the old particularism vs. universalism debate is rearing its head again, the critical question of whether we should help primarily “our own,” or rather view all human suffering as equally urgent.

Writing in Commentary Magazine, Shalem Center Senior Vice-President Daniel Gordis recently decried American rabbinical students’ criticism of Israel, a trend he believes stems from a shift in worldview among young Jews toward universalism.

Gordis is clear in his own preference. “What is lacking in their view and their approach,” he writes, “is the sense that no matter how devoted Jews may be to humanity at large, we owe our devotion first and foremost to one particular people—our own people.”

In an otherwise sweeping critical response to Gordis, Leonard Fein called in The Forward for a thoughtful discussion on the issue of universalism vs. particularism.

Now is a good time to continue the discussion, since the Repair the World organization has just released its “Volunteering and Values”survey of young Jewish adults.

The results will no doubt prompt community members to wonder how they can better engage Jewish youth in pursuing Jewish volunteering efforts.

Of the central findings of the survey is that “only a small portion of Jewish young adults prefer to or actually do volunteer with Jewish organizations,” that “the vast majority of Jewish young adults say it does not matter if they volunteer with a Jewish or non-Jewish organization,” and that “Jewish young adults are primarily drawn to service through universal rather than Jewish-based values or identity.”

Jewish youth are certainly volunteering – 72 percent reported such activity in the past twelve months. But they are not necessarily connecting this work to Jewish values, and most are not doing it through Jewish organizations or targeting Jewish causes.

Is the universalist-looking generation we seem to have on our hands a cause for concern? I, for one, don’t think so. What’s more, I think that we push for particularism as a serious community value only at our peril.

The problem with forcing a particularist worldview, as Gordis would, is at least two-fold. One aspect is strategic. We all possess multiple identities — gender, political, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, even neighborhood.

If I were to practice a stridently particularist approach to my charitable, volunteering and political involvements, what’s to say that my Jewish identity would win out over my being a heterosexual, female Canadian who lives in an urban center? There are already so many competing identity commitments that pushing a particularist vision might simply backfire.

The second reason is more chilling. It has to do with what happens when empathy vanishes from human interaction.

There’s a famous quotation attributed to German Pastor Martin Niemoller, and which is on display at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem: “First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Tragically, we all know what happens when a particularist worldview is pushed to the unthinkable extreme.

To mark our son’s first birthday a few years ago, my husband and I decided to contribute to Project Tembo, an initiative to build schools for girls in Northern Tanzania. We knew that at some level, our son would experience certain global privileges that his female counterparts — particularly in other corners of the world — would not. We specifically went universal in our giving, hoping, in some tiny way, that he would absorb the importance of empathy early on.

As much as so much of contemporary Jewish discourse tends to stress the particular nature of Jewish (and Israeli) historical and contemporary struggles (Israel being “singled out” for criticism in the face of other countries’ egregious actions; the uniqueness of the Holocaust, and the particular nature of the origins of anti-Semitism), pushing the particularist mantra is a risky strategy at best.

Management theorists know that a silo-approach to organizations is less effective than one that harmonizes various levels of the corporation.

Political observers know that civil wars are more likely to break out when parties are organized along ethnic or religious lines rather than capturing cross-cutting identities under a single mantle.

And if we don’t act on the pain of others, there’s little reason to believe that others will help us in our time of need.

We are all interconnected on this tiny, hurting planet. At Jewish camp, we used to sing “Ani v’atah, neshaneh et ha’olam” (You and I will change the world).

The message was that tikkun olam (repairing the world) would only come about if you and I, Self and Other — not only our fellow Jews — join hands.

A universalist approach to fixing the world’s ills is efficient, strategic, and so much more richly moral than the alternative.

Farm in the City: Urban Adamah

In the last decade, the country’s growing obsession with local, traceable food has lured many Gen Y-ers away from the city and towards rural life on the farm. (Green Acres anyone?)

But in some cases, it has also brought the farm to the city. Urban agriculture and community garden projects are literally sprouting up in cities across the country from New York, Chicago and Detroit to Seattle and Los Angeles. In northern California, a new program called Urban Adamah is planting roots on a city block in Berkeley. (See what the plot looked like before the farm, here.) The food will be grown by fellows who’ll work together for three months and live in a communal house nearby. 90 percent of Urban Adamah’s produce will be donated to organizations serving people in need in the local community. The rest will be consumed by the fellows.
Read more

July 2011 Newsletter Opportunities and Events


7/19 · Focus on Justice: Films on Food, “The Price of Aid”

This three part series will deepen your awareness of food justice at the local, national, and international level. Learn more about intersecting issues and the responsibility to respond as the community prepares to take action around the US Farm Bill in 2012. Each session will feature a documentary film, discussion with Jewish thought sources, delicious eco-kosher refreshments, and time to socialize and network in community. (No prior knowledge of food justice issues and/or Jewish text is required or presumed.) Learn more »

8/18-21 · Hazon Food Conference: Food Justice and Tikkun Olam Track

What does a just food system look like? What’s wrong with the way we’re doing things, and what are some of the creative ways that people across the country and the world are working to make it right? Explore how to be part of creating a socially and economically just, environmentally-sound food system. These sessions at the Hazon Food Conference will showcase food programs, social justice and community activists who are voting with their forks — and more. Learn more »

9/19-22 · Social Good Summit

Mashable92Y and the UN Foundation present the second annual Social Good Summit. Held at the heart of UN week, the Summit is where big ideas meet new media to create innovative solutions. The Social Good Summit unites a dynamic community of global leaders to discuss a big idea: the power of innovative thinking and technology to solve our greatest challenges. The most innovative technologists, influential minds and passionate activists will come together with one shared goal: to unlock the potential of new media and technology to make the world a better place. Learn more »


Agahozo-Shalom’s Service Learning Trips

Agahozo-Shalom organizes 10-day service learning trips for various groups and institutions. Designed for 15-20 people, program participants learn about the development of Agahozo-Shalom and the history of Rwanda while taking part in a volunteer project at the Village. Groups include college and graduate programs, religious and interfaith groups, as well as community organizations. Agahozo-Shalom offers pre-trip orientations, educational materials, class sessions an extensive follow-up curriculum that brings the lessons and themes of the experience into the daily lives and communities of the volunteers. Learn more »

Amirim Israel

Attention Jewish college students and young professionals, ages 18-27: Spend your summer in Israel with Amirim, giving back through community service! Amirim is your opportunity to experience authentic Israeli life in Bat Yam, Jerusalem, or Arad while giving back to the community through meaningful volunteering options. The program gives participants a structured yet independent framework, in which you will volunteer four days per week at a non-profit organization in their area of interest. Outside of volunteering, you will discover the Israeli landscape through weekly trips and explore Israeli culture through fun and insightful speakers, events, and learning opportunities. You will make friends and expand your global network while living in apartments with young adults from North America, Israel, Europe, and Africa. Learn more »

AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps

AVODAH is still accepting applications! AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps is a year-long program combining work for justice, Jewish learning and community building. Work full-time on issues you care about, learn from veteran organizers, activists, and educators, and live with other young people ages 21-26 who are committed to integrating social change and Jewish values. Learn more »

B’Tzedek LIFE Program

LIFE, Leadership and International Fellowship Experience is a service-learning program for participants from across the Jewish world with Israeli peers. LIFE starts in Israel with a two-week orientation, continues in India for four months and finishes with four and a half months in Israel. LIFE is now accepting applications. Learn more »

Bina’s Gap Year Program in Tel Aviv

Bina’s Gap Year Program in Tel Aviv offers a unique and exciting opportunity to experience Israel first hand, combine in-depth study of Judaism with meaningful social action and live in a vibrant community in south Tel Aviv. Learn more »

Community of Living Traditions Residency

Community of Living Traditions is seeking residential volunteers. CLT is looking for volunteer residents who would like to contribute to the building of our community. CLT seeks people who are grounded in Muslim, Jewish or Christian life, and who are passionate about living in community and learning and working with people of other traditions on issues of nonviolence, and social justice. CLT seeks all kinds of diversity including race, ethnicity, age, gender, ability, sexual orientation, and religious background. CLT welcomes volunteers with children. CLT is looking for individuals who have experience in and commitment to racial justice, interreligious solidarity, and the practice of nonviolence. Learn more »

Do Something Disaster Relief Grants

In response to the devastating tornadoes ripping across the deep south which have killed over 200 people at latest count, is offering 10 special $500 grants for community action projects that directly relate to domestic disaster relief. Whether your program will help those affected by the recent southern storms or Texas wildfires, we’ll support the best ideas that will give back to communities fast. Learn more »

DoSomething Seed Grant

Are you working to start a community action project or program? Do you need money to put your ideas into action? If you answered, “YES!”, you are eligible to apply for a Do Something Seed Grant. DoSomething gives out a $500 Do Something Seed Grant every week to help young people just like YOU! Learn more »

Edna Award for Young Women in Social Justice

The Berger-Marks Foundation announces a new award of $10,000 to a young woman working for social justice. The Edna Award will be given to a woman who has made an extraordinary contribution to social justice early in her career. The recipient’s outstanding achievements to date should indicate that her ongoing work will significantly improve the lives of working women and men. Applications must be received by July 15, 2011. Nominees must be 35 years or younger on 12/31/2011. Learn more »

GOOD is hiring!

GOOD combines smart business practices with a high-energy, creative culture. Our employees are willing to work tirelessly to influence the future of the planet, but they want to have fun in the process. GOOD aims to incorporate its core values of authenticity, creativity, transparency, utility, and love into everything they do. Several positions are available. Apply today. Learn more »

Impact: Design for Social Change

To remain competitive, corporations are looking for innovation and impact in the area of social change as it relates to their businesses. The non-profit world is seeking new ways to support their constituencies through design strategy. Impact: Design for Social Change is a six-week summer intensive, which will introduce participants to the growing field of design for social advocacy. Learn more »

Serve Abroad with JDC: Belarus, Ethiopia and Israel

JDC is currently accepting applications for three incredible overseas experiences for young professionals. Explore what it means to develop Jewish life within a former Soviet country with Inside Jewish Belarus. Learn what it takes to create strong, sustainable international community development with Inside Ethiopia. Explore the challenges faced by Israel’s many diverse communities through the lens of JDC-Israel’s incredible work with Israel 2020. Learn more »

Livnot U’Lehibanot – Israel Study Opportunities

Come and experience all the classic elements that have made Livnot special for over 25 years! Livnot programs are designed for those with little or no Jewish background who are looking for an open, non-coercive, and creative environment. Learn more »

Lynn and Jules Knoll Fund for Jewish Documentary Film

The Lynn and Jules Kroll Fund for Jewish Documentary Film provides grants for the completion of original documentary films that promote thoughtful consideration of Jewish history, life, culture, and identity. The priority of the Fund is to support projects in the latter stages of post-production that address significant subjects; offer fresh, challenging perspectives; engage audiences across cultural lines; and expand the understanding of Jewish experience. Deadline to apply is July 22. Learn more »

Moishe House Opening

Moishe House is coming to Miami and is currently looking for residents! Moishe House is one of the leading programs for post-college Jewish adults – they empower Jewish young adults to create a vibrant Jewish community for other Jews in their age group by hosting a variety of cultural, learning and social programs out of their home. Thanks to a generous grant from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, Moishe House has received funding to open in Miami. Learn more »

Nechama: Jewish Response to Disaster – Volunteer Opportunities

Nechama’s primary mission is disaster response, and its greatest need for volunteers is out in the field. NECHAMA has the equipment and expertise, you provide the muscle. Though every deployment is different, all of them need people just like you to come out and volunteer. Sometimes volunteers are needed for a day, sometimes for a month, but they are always needed. Volunteers will cut trees, gut houses, remove debris, and work as a team to help those who need it most. Though most of the work is physical, it does not all require immense strength and NECHAMA will provide all the instruction and safety gear. Learn more »

The Not for Sale Fellowship: Cultivating Leaders in the Abolitionist Movement

Are you ready to take your passion to the next level? Work alongside NFS Staff in beautiful Half Moon Bay, CA – gaining hands-on, dynamic experience while creating new futures in a fast-paced, interactive, innovative atmosphere. Want to know what it’s like to be a Fellow? Learn more »


OTZMA is officially accepting applications for its 2011-2012 Program! OTZMA is a 10-month program that offers Jewish adults ages 20-26 (college graduates preferred) an opportunity to live and volunteer in Israel in a variety of settings.OTZMA: Promotes direct contact and strengthens ties between the North American Jewish Community and Israel; Provides its participants with the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution of service to Israel; Facilitates opportunities for development of leadership qualities and personal exploration of Jewish identity; and offers experiential and educational opportunities that foster a deeper understanding of Israel. Learn more »

Pardes Social Justice Track

We want to build a better world, but how should it look and how will we get there? The Pardes Social Justice Track explores social issues such as the environment, economic justice, gender and minority welfare through the lens of Jewish values. Students examine the application of classical and modern Jewish texts to the challenges of Israeli society through field visits, guest lectures from the governmental and non-profit sectors, and volunteer work. The Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies brings together men and women of all backgrounds to study classic Jewish texts and current Jewish issues in an open, warm and challenging learning environment. For more information, contact NaomiLearn more »

Pardes Educators Program

The Pardes Educators Program (PEP) is a vibrant and innovative two-year teacher training program that combines intensive text study at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem with an interactive and pluralistic Master of Jewish Education from Hebrew College. PEP prepares skilled and devoted Judaic studies teachers who are ready to empower North American Jewish day school students towards excellence, growth, and opportunity. Applications are currently being accepted for Fall 2011. Learn more »

Rebuilding from Devastation – Campaign for Tornado Relief

The Rebuilding from Devastation – Campaign for Tornado Relief is an effort to rally attention, donations, and volunteers for the storm-ravaged region. It will also use blogs, videos, and interviews to highlight stories of perseverance and service as volunteers and citizens across the American South band together to rebuild communities and individual spirits. Learn more »

ROI Micro Grants

Starting from March 16, 2011 members of the ROI Community can apply for one of four types of Micro Grants. Without making a Megillah out of this, in short, each member of the ROI Community can apply for a Micro Grant of up to U.S. $1,000 per calendar year. Applications will be open all year round and the process is both quick and easy! Learn more »

Rebuilding from Devastation – Campaign for Tornado Relief

The Rebuilding from Devastation – Campaign for Tornado Relief is an effort to rally attention, donations, and volunteers for the storm-ravaged region. It will also use blogs, videos, and interviews to highlight stories of perseverance and service as volunteers and citizens across the American South band together to rebuild communities and individual spirits. Learn more »

Schusterman Foundation seeks Program and Communications Intern, DC Office

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is seeking a creative, energetic candidate for a Program and Communications Internship position in its National Office in Washington, D.C. this summer. You will have the unique opportunity to contribute to the Foundation’s efforts to strengthen the Jewish identity of young adults around the world and empower energetic, creative young Jews to create meaningful Jewish experiences for themselves and their peers. You will work directly with the Foundation’s small team of dynamic staff to help manage and execute its communications, programming and social media strategy. Learn more »

Summer of Smart

The Summer of Smart is an intensive, three-month experiment in urban innovation. Over the course of this summer, urbanists of many disciplines – developers, designers, planners, journalists, civic leaders, community activists, and more – will come together to address the most pressing issues facing cities today. In the end, the leading projects will be publicly presented to candidates in the San Francisco mayoral race, along with an esteemed panel of experts, to generate a meaningful dialogue around the potential of new tools to create lasting change. Summer of Smart is using Twitter to collect application ideas (#SoSidea) and discussion points which will feed into three Urban Innovation Weekends, public presentations, and other events throughout the summer. Learn more »

TED2012 Fellows applications now open!

The TED Fellows program is designed to bring together young world-changers and trailblazers who have shown unusual accomplishment and exceptional courage. The program targets individuals from the Asia/Pacific region, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Middle East, though anyone from anywhere in the world, age 18 and over, is welcome to apply. Application deadline is Monday, July 25, 2011, 11:59pm US/Eastern. Learn more »

Tevel b’Tzedek /IsraAID seeks Business Program Advisor

The Dam Dam Craft Cooperative is an income-generation project established by Tevel B’Tezedek /IsraAid. The project has been running since September 2010 and targets women living in communities which were affected by the January 12th earthquake. The primary purpose of the project is to create a sustainable, long-term income generation source for the women and their families. This is in conjunction with the goal of encouraging personal development, group education and a commitment to volunteer within the community. Learn more »

Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv – Jaffa

Volunteer in Israel with Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv – Jaffa. Tikkun Olam is currently accepting application for 5 and 10 month programs starting this September. Learn more »

Tom’s of Maine 50 States for Good Community Sponsorship Program

50 States for Good is a national initiative to support the goodness behind grassroots community projects. Six organizations will share in our $150,000 sponsorship fund, including one organization that will be given $50,000! A panel of judges will select 20 organizations doing great things in their communities to be voted on by you. Learn more »

Uri L’Tzedek: 2011 Summer Fellowship Program

Uri L’Tzedek is now accepting applications from college and graduate students for 2011 Summer Fellowship Program in New York. This 6-week program is an opportunity to work alongside Uri L’Tzedek’s staff and board, experiencing the many mechanisms that come together to create an effective non-profit organization, gaining exposure to communal Jewish life, effecting change, and learning Torah, social justice philosophy, and community organizing models. Learn more »

Volunteer Jerusalem

Volunteer Jerusalem brings volunteer tourism to the city of Jerusalem by connecting Jewish tourists visiting the city with meaningful community service projects. Volunteer Jerusalem combines social activism in needy neighborhoods with cultural and Jewish experiences and connects visitors to the city in a way that will create meaningful connections and long term relationships. Apply now for summer sessions – June 26-30th and July 24-28th. Learn more »

Yahel Social Change Program

Yahel Social Change Program is a unique 5-month service learning experience for young adults between the ages of 21 and 27. The program is based in the town of Gedera, about 45 minutes south of Tel Aviv, and combines hands-on volunteer work with in-depth learning and immersion. The program is offered in collaboration with Friends by Nature – a local grassroots non-profit organization working in the Ethiopian community in the fields of community empowerment and education. Throughout the program participants live, volunteer and learn alongside their peers from the local Ethiopian-Israeli community. Yahel is currently accepting applications for Fall 2011. Learn more »

Youth Social Entrepreneurship Competition

Calling all changemakers! Ashoka’s Youth Venture has launched its fifth annual Staples Youth Social Entrepreneurship (YSE) Competition. The competition was created to recognize exceptional, innovative young people who are advancing positive change in their communities around the world. The focus of this year’s competition is technology, and how digital, online, and social connections can be leveraged to create solutions to pressing social problems. Anyone ages 12 to 24 who uses innovation and technology to drive their venture and improve their community is eligible to enter the competition. Deadline is September 19, 2011. Learn more »

Yoxi’s Trim the Waste of Fashion

In the nearly trillion-dollar clothing industry, waste abounds from the estimated 15-20% of fabric trashed on the cutting room floor, fabrics sourced from unsustainable materials, massive carbon emissions from transporting products, as well as excessive packaging, tagging, storage and beyond. Fashion choices matter to everybody, not just models, magazines and style mavens. How can we reduce waste and increase sustainability in making clothes? Compete in Trim the Waste of Fashion to be the next rockstar of social innovation. Deadline extended to July 15. Learn more »

YU’s Certificate Program in Experiential Jewish Education

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Fern Chertok on Jewish adult volunteer work

Fern Chertok is an Associate Research Scientist at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies (more bio here), and was in charge of the new and very interesting study: Volunteering + Values: A Repair The World Report on Jewish Young Adults. Some news reports had covered this study in the last two weeks (see here and here), but I had some unanswered questions and Chertok kindly agreed to respond:

Your study tells us that “a majority of contemporary Jewish young adults engage in volunteer work” – and while that might sound impressive, it can’t be understood without some additional data: Do they volunteer more than the non-Jewish young adults? If not, what makes volunteer work of young Jews different than volunteer work of all young Americans?

The information for this answer is available in the Volunteering + Values Technical Report available on our website.

Comparing the volunteer rate obtained in the current survey to national surveys of volunteering is difficult due to the different ways each of these surveys asks about volunteering. Specifically, the rate of volunteering usually rises as the number of questions asked about volunteering increases. This phenomenon can be seen by comparing the volunteer participation of the subset of young adults with similar educational backgrounds in the Volunteering + Values study and in three national surveys of volunteering (Table 1). The Current Population Study of the United States and the Center on Philanthropy Panel Study had similar rates of volunteering while Giving and Volunteering in the United States reports a much larger figure. Respondents in the latter survey were given more opportunities to indicate that they volunteered and the definition of volunteering was very expansive. Because volunteer participation is sensitive to question wording it is not appropriate to compare volunteer rates directly between this survey and other national datasets.

TABLE 1: Comparison of Volunteer Rates across Survey

In order to really understand differences between the patterns of volunteering of Jewish and non-Jewish young adults you would need to study them within the context of the same study. National data from two of the three largest surveys of volunteering, Giving and Volunteering in the United States (Independent Sector, 2001) and the Current Population Survey; Volunteer Supplement (U.S. Census Bureau, 2009) do not include information about the religious identity of respondents so we cannot compare the rates of Jewish young adults and their non-Jewish peers. The third national study, the Center on Philanthropy Panel Study (Wilhelm et al., 2005) asked respondents about their religion, but included too small a number of Jewish young adults, to allow for meaningful comparison.

2. And another missing component: Do they volunteer more than their elders from previous Jewish generations?

A good question but again the information required to answer it is not available. As previously noted national surveys of volunteering either do not include information about the religious identity of respondents or include too small a number of Jewish respondents to allow for meaningful comparison. Previous research on the Jewish community specifically looked at attitudes toward and involvement in social justice efforts, a subset of volunteer engagement (Cohen & Fein, 2001).

Also, volunteering rates change over the lifespan so it is not appropriate to compare between different age groups. Instead one would have to do a longitudinal analysis to see if there is a generational change. In other words do the current generation of young adults, volunteer more or less than their parent’s generation when they are at that point in their life? Volunteering + Values is the first comprehensive study of Jewish young adult volunteering and will provide baseline numbers for tracking the level of volunteer engagement of this generation over time as well as providing a methodology and survey instrument that can be applied to other age groups.

3. One of the most interesting findings in your study relates to the fact that the offspring of intermarried couples volunteer more than those who come from in-married households. You speculate that the reason might be “sense of identity and obligation that is more expansive” among the product of the intermarried households. You also suggest the possibility that “intermarried parents may encourage volunteering as an easily agreed upon and non-religious avenue for imparting compassion.” Political correctness aside: Is there not a possibility that volunteering is more a value associated with the Christian tradition – hence the higher percentage of intermarried children involved with it?

Unfortunately, the current research does not allow us to determine the mechanism by which growing up in an interfaith family leads to greater likelihood of volunteering.  Since our survey did not ask the religious background of non-Jewish parents it is very speculative to imply that something about Christianity, in particular, is what non-Jewish parents pass on to their children in intermarried families. Our hypothesis that because parents of different faith backgrounds can agree on the shared emphasis on helping in all major religions that this becomes a fertile area for moral teaching of children in these families needs more research and is far from being a conclusion at this point.

4. Israel “distancing” is much talked about in recent years. Your study shows that the “Conservative” (politically) are three times more likely to think that involvement in volunteering associated with Israel/ME peace is important. Is this not a sign of young Jewish “distancing” from Israel for political reasons?

As my colleague Theodore Sasson cogently points out, there is no reason to believe that young Jews are any more “distant” from Israel than previous generations were at the same developmental point in their lifespan. The Volunteering + Values study captures a moment in time and cannot, by the very nature of the data, show a generational trend toward or away from support of Israel or toward or away from different political stances.  In our study, those who identified as politically conservative were also more likely to identify as religiously Orthodox and to have greater involvement in religious life. As you know, the Orthodox and religiously traditional have always been more connected to Israel.  In other words, it is not surprising to find this connection between political ideology and support for Israel among young adults and in this regard they are very much like older cohorts.

It is also important to understand the current data on interest in volunteering to support Israel/Middle East peace within the context of a larger discussion of the causes that are of interest to young adults. Jewish young adults are most motivated to serve when they think they can make a difference in the lives of others and when they can work on issues about which they care deeply. Although Jewish young adults have a diverse set of interests, clearly some issues and causes have greater potential to attract participation than others. The top issue for which young Jewish adults want to volunteer is assisting the poor in America, but the next most commonly cited issues are the environment and sustainability, education and literacy, healthcare and medical research, and the eradication of poverty. Portions of the Jewish young adult population are also interested in assisting youth, peace and conflict resolution, protecting human rights, and humane treatment of animals. One challenge is to develop volunteer opportunities that address these core generational concerns with support of Israel.

5. If young Jews insist that volunteer work is important because they want to “make a difference in people’s lives” – much more than because “it is a Jewish value” – maybe critics of Tikkun Olam fashions are right, and the whole notion of volunteering as the new venue for Jewish involvement isn’t authentic and can’t fly? Also: Many Jewish leaders believed (and might still believe) that the best way to engage Jewish youngsters is through social work and Tikkun Olam projects. But your study doesn’t quite support such assumption, as it shows that the most engaged are the ones who volunteer more than other Jews – or does it?

I think that would be called “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.” First and foremost our study shows that Jewish young adults are committed to working toward the common good and they believe they can make a difference. Our study does show that Jewish religious engagement is a predictor of greater likelihood of volunteering but so is having a history of volunteering from the teen years.

Volunteering as a venue for Jewish involvement faces the same challenges as any other approach to outreach.  For most Jewish young adults, Jewish identity is separate from most aspects of their day to day lives.   In much the same way they see volunteering as an activity partitioned off from their Jewish identity. They do not completely disavow Jewish values but do not see them as very relevant to their volunteer commitments. The challenge is to help these young adults see their volunteer work, regardless of its sponsorship or focus, as a Jewish act.

Our study also shows great potential for the Jewish community to reach out to young adults and help them address the concerns about which they care most deeply within a Jewish context. Jewish young adults believe they can make a difference and they want to do just that. Remember, most young adults in our survey (78%) do not care if the sponsor of their volunteering is Jewish or non-Jewish. In other words, most Jewish young adults are open to the idea of volunteering through the Jewish community. However, even when Jewish young adults are open to volunteering under Jewish auspices, they simply do not know what opportunities exist. Few recall recruitment efforts by Jewish organizations, and their diverse social networks are more likely to lead them to discover opportunities outside the Jewish community. A related theme is the perceived lack of local Jewish volunteer options especially related to the causes about which Jewish young adults care most deeply. What this suggests is that the Jewish community needs to do a better job of getting the word out about the excellent work being done to address universal causes. It also means that the Jewish community needs to expand the repertoire of volunteering options to more closely address the concerns of Jewish young adults.