2018 MVHC Faith and Social Action Award for Higher Education
Application for MVHC Faith and Social Action Award for Higher Education
I have always been proud to be a Jew and to be a member of my Jewish community. One of the reasons I am proud is the strong moral obligation for helping others and giving back that I grew up seeing as an integral part of Judaism. A cornerstone of Jewish teaching is the idea of tzedakah. Tzdeakah doesn’t just mean “charity.” It also means “justice.”
It is not right or just that some people don’t have enough to live or that they are oppressed in any way. It is our responsibility to create “justice” by helping those in need whenever we can. Personally, I like volunteering my time as I feel that is a good way to do this. I found it rewarding when I was able to do things like working at a car wash to raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, to help at local “soup suppers,” and to assist with Betty Burton’s food distribution at the Baptist Church Parish Hall.
Judaism has taught me the concept of tikkun olam , which means “healing the world.” At the Martha’s Vineyard Regional high School, I volunteered to serve at a dinner event that was designed to help people really understand the inequities in our world and the huge gap between rich and poor. People were randomly assigned to three different groups. One group got to sit at fancy tables and eat a three course dinner. The second group got clean water and rice and beans to eat. The third group had to drink “dirty” water ( made to look muddy by adding bean juice) and a small cup of rice. I realized it could just as easily be my family in reality who doesn’t have enough and , even if it wasn’t my family, nobody deserves that. This event helped me actualize the experience of poverty and really brought home the need for social change and that I should be a part of it.
I grew up in a community that strongly modeled doing acts of caring and social responsibility. At the Hebrew Center every Bar and Bat Mitzvah did a mitzvah project. Every High Holidays we collected food for the Island Food Pantry. When I walked into the synagogue and saw the many bags filled with food that our congregation had banded together and collected, I was filled with this feeling of awe that each family or individual just brought one bag, but that all together it turned into a sea of good will and giving. It really showed me the power of the individual, and the power of community. Everything we do to heal the world matters, no matter how small. Major social change comes from the cumulative effect of a bunch of individuals each doing their part.
On a very personal note, Judaism has inspired me through the caring actions of the Hebrew Center community, which has always been so welcoming and supportive to me through all my struggles. It feels like a family to me. At my worst, when I wasn’t able to even go to school because of how socially anxious and depressed I was, I was still able to go to the Hebrew Center because it felt like a second home. I have always been grateful for that. I try to take all that kindness, openness, and acceptance and give it back to everyone around me because I know how powerful it is.