Hey NFTY-GER! It’s Liam Klass, your Programming Vice President, signing on for another leadership lesson! This month’s lesson is very important to the foundations of Judaism and NFTY…social action! What do you think of when you hear the phrase “social action”? Do you think of Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World) and Tzedakah (Justice and Equity)? The world of social action is endless. Let’s jump right in!
NFTY promotes social action through a variety of projects and opportunities. These projects can be easily done in congregations and around the community. To name a few, you can
- Participate in a midnight run (an activity that gives a group of people the opportunity to donate items, such as clothing, food, and hygiene products, to the homeless throughout the night in a dense town or city)
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen
- Create a fundraiser to donate to a charity (bake sale, 50-50 raffle, auction)
- Volunteer at a senior living center
- Write letters to congress
- Write get-well-soon cards for the local hospital/medical center
- Host a clothing, food, or toy drive in your temple
These Community Projects can make a big difference in someone’s life, and you are fully capable of making this difference! Get out there are start making change!
I also had the wonderful opportunity to ask the current NFTY-GER Social Action Vice President, Zohar Grinvald, about her experiences with serving the community.
Liam Klass: What ignited your flame for social action?
Zohar Grinvald: Honestly, I never had that “spark” moment. My social justice journey has been pretty parallel with the progression of my life and has often been guided by mentors and friends. My parents have always taught me the importance of being kind to others, and as I became older and more aware of the world around me, that translated into a passion for tikkun olam and community service.
LK: Tell me about a memorable experience of community service.
ZG: My most memorable experiences of community service came through volunteering for Elijah’s Promise with Urban Mitzvah Corps this past summer. My time at Elijah’s Promise was so valuable because I was able to follow the step-by-step process of food justice from planting, harvesting, composting, and weeding, up until preparing in the kitchen and serving to customers. I felt like I was an integral part of a system that functioned solely for the good of complete strangers, and I loved every second of it. There is a certain pride that comes from completing work you truly love and believe in, and that special kind of fulfillment came to me through the work I did for Elijah’s.
LK: What small social action projects can be done at home/in your congregation?
ZG: If you are interested in low-commitment social action projects but don’t know where to start, reach out to nearby organizations through connections you have already established, such as your rabbi, school, NFTY region, or synagogue. Depending on the organization, the work you do could involve wrapping silverware, sorting food supplies, answering the phone, or even simply organizing a file cabinet. Offering up time and a pair of hands can make the biggest difference, and it’s often overlooked in exchange for projects that may not meet an organization’s needs effectively. Both projects and volunteer work can be completed for most issues in most communities, but reaching out to the people you want to work with, and asking “What can I do to help?”, is the best first step in determining what course of action to take.
LK: What is something you would like other people to know about social action and advocacy?
ZG: There is no right or wrong reason or time to get involved with something you are passionate about. A life-changing moment is not a necessary qualification to becoming an activist or someone who cares about an issue. Do not let fear or a lack of education stop you from becoming a more knowledgeable person by asking questions. My greatest growth has come from my own ambition that developed as a result of speaking to inspiring people. A conversation can lead to an idea and ultimately to action so do not be afraid to start one. At the end of the day, your involvement in whatever keeps you up at night is in your own hands. If something excites, angers, inspires, or upsets you, take the time to self reflect on core issue behind those emotions and reach out to others to see what you have the power to do.
NFTY-GER Programming Vice President 5779-5780