In the 10th and 11th grades, JCHS students deepen their community outreach practice. It’s a school requirement that many fulfill, but for some it goes beyond the requirement. We want to honor a handful of students that represent exemplary community outreach work.
In Jewish tradition, there is a belief that in every generation there are 36 (lammed vav) righteous people. The Lammed Vavnik Award was created to recognize some of the students who have demonstrated righteous action this year.
This year, we honor six individuals who have exemplified the following qualities:
“Anavah” - Humility
Sophia Brodie-Weisberg has been volunteering with the Village Project for 3 years and has been a JCHS “COACH” for 2 years -- but she hasn’t let it go to her head. On the contrary, Sophia embodies an essential trait for leadership - humility - in the way that she approaches her service activities with deep curiosity and an open mind. Whether she was listening to the experiences of Muslim teens at our first Muslim-Jewish Teen Encounter or grappling with ideas about dignity with her fellow COACHES, Sophia reminds us through her actions that we must approach every service experience ready to acknowledge what we don’t know and poised to learn.
Lo Ta’amod (Do Not Stand Idly By)
Barry Esteen knows that it’s not enough to stand up to bias and bullying. You have to model the change you want to see. As a veteran member of the Student Advisory Board, a 2nd year participant in the Student Diversity Leadership Conference, and a leader in the Ally Training Workshop at JCHS, Barry has committed his time and energy to gaining skills for creating a positive climate in his community. More than that, he has brought his skills back to JCHS and to the elementary school where he regularly volunteers as a tutor. May Barry remind us that (To quote Albert Einstein ) “the world is a dangerous place not because of those who do evil but because of those who look on and do nothing.”
Awareness & Education
Many of us grow up learning about the Holocaust - but very few of us take the opportunity to deepen that learning. This year, Nika Karp participated in The Next Chapter - program that enabled her to interview a Holocaust survivor and build a deep relationship with her.
What is striking is that she took her education and shared it with the school by interviewing AnneMarie at our Yom Ha’Shoah ceremony. May Nika remind us that sometimes the most significant action we can take is to LEARN about an important issue and then share our knowledge.
Ometz Lev (Courage of the Heart)
Often, Community Outreach it can be difficult to begin - often because it makes us uncomfortable. Maya Gross began her service with SNAP unsure if she would be able to communicate with the participants. SNAP - which stands for Special Needs Aquatic Program - is a motor development program in the swimming pool for children with a variety of disabilities including cerebral palsy, arthritis, and autistic spectrum disorder. In spite of her concerns, Maya dove in (pun intended!) as one of the youngest volunteers and the first ever from JCHS. Maya overcame her productive discomfort to discover new ways to communicate that transcend words. Like Maya, may we all recognize productive discomfort as that place of growth and value rather than a reason to give up.
Sometimes our best intentions to help can actually be harmful. When we volunteer from a place of pity, our actions might actually embarrass those we are hoping to serve. So what does service ideally look like? Michael Pilovsky embodies what it means to do service from a place of solidarity. Whether he is playing basketball, like an older brother, with kids from the Village Project or remaining silent for a day in recognition of those who are silent about their sexual and gender identities, Michael demonstrates his genuine respect for others. Like Michael, may we all approach our community outreach with a sense of solidarity with our community partners.
Sometimes, we have the opportunity to channel our personal challenges into strengths that benefit others. Vanessa Waldman has not only shared her own experiences with narcolepsy at national conferences, as a youth ambassador; she has taken a leadership role in training the next cohort of youth ambassadors -- thereby widening her impact. She also shared her wisdom and experiences in a Huffington Post article that has no doubt helped others with this condition feel seen and affirmed. Beyond this, Vanessa jumps at the chance to make the school a welcoming and inclusive space through the various service programs she is part of. May Vanessa remind us that we can transform our challenges into strengths that lift up others.