2019 MVHC Faith and Social Action Award for Higher Education
MVHC Faith and Social Action Award for Higher Education
Since I was young, the MV Hebrew Center has allowed me to be part of a community committed to activism and tikkun olam, and passed those values on to me. I enjoyed working with the other students of the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center collecting and delivering bags of groceries to the Island Food Pantry. I proudly added part of my allowance to the tzedakah box that sits on a shelf in our kitchen— a wooden box that I decorated with a Star of David when I was 3 years old. During Purim, at Hebrew School we assembled baskets to be delivered to some of the elders in our congregation, one of the many traditions of mitzvot we participated in throughout the year.
At weekly religious school classes we were taught about the Jewish values of tikkun olam, kavod, and tzedakah and I felt proud to incorporate these into my daily life. Part of my Bat Mitzvah experience was a mitzvah project, a chance to do good within my community. I chose something that had the greatest impact on my childhood- reading. Over the course of the year prior to my 13th birthday, I collected over 1,000 children’s books that I donated to literacy organizations and a homeless shelter near Boston. I also worked with a younger student at my school who had difficulty reading, and made bookmarks that I sold at a school event to raise money for PJ Library, the organization that sent me Jewish themed books throughout my childhood.
Last year I worked with our synagogue again. This time, however, the impact reached far beyond our own community. Youth members of our congregation, together with teens from the West Tisbury Congregational Church, traveled as an interfaith delegation to Atlanta, GA for a service trip. It was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. This made the trip especially meaningful to me since my grandfather, an Episcopal minister, was a Freedom Rider. A copy of his mugshot from his arrest in Mississippi was always displayed in his home, and I grew up with this constant reminder of the importance of social activism that was a part of his life and family heritage.
In Atlanta we attended services at both the Temple and Ebenezer Baptist Church, which gave me a chance to connect with people who I otherwise would never have met, yet with whom I had so much in common. Not only was I able to experience the lives and cultures of people far away, I also made connections closer to home. The trip was filled with powerful reminders, both of how far we have come and also of how much further we have to go. It renewed my passion for social justice, both on a worldwide and on a local scale.
I work to better the world with everything I do, not only through grand gestures like attending the Women’s March and March for our Lives rallies in Washington, but also closer to home when volunteering at Windemere or serving as the Co-President of my school’s GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance). I am looking forward to attending a college where I will have many more opportunities to pursue my passions and to try my best to improve our world.