CJP’s Israel Campus Roundtable hosted its IACTCares Service Day, a day of community service for Boston-area college students, on Sunday, April 15. The event sponsored by CJP’s IACT initiative, an acronym for “Inspired, Active, Committed, Transformed,” is CJP’s pathway of getting Jewish college students engaged in Jewish life and in Jewish values. To that end, the IACTCares Service Day helped students engage in the Jewish value of tikkun olam, repairing the world. Tikkun olam illustrates the idea that the world is not perfect and that we must actively help others in need in order to uplift the world.
Seventy-five students volunteered at three different locations across Boston: Golda Meir House at Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly, Hearth, a non-profit dedicated to the elimination of homelessness among the elderly, and Curtis Guild Elementary School. CJP partnered with Boston Cares, the largest volunteer agency in New England, which helped to set up the locations and volunteer work for the IACTCares Service Day. Students came into Boston to volunteer from across the Boston area, representing BU, Brandeis, Northeastern, UMass Amherst, Wellesley, Clark and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. These students volunteered a cumulative 225 service hours throughout the day.
At Golda Meir House in Newton, student volunteers worked alongside residents to create blankets for Project Linus, a project to “provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans.” The student volunteers at this site also made and packaged together soup kits for residents living at Hearth, another location where volunteers were serving.
Students served lunch and led bingo at Dorchester’s Hearth, bringing smiles to everyone’s faces. The residents at Hearth, some of whom rarely get visitors, were so happy to see young, energetic college students spending time with them volunteering.
Student volunteers at Curtis Guild Elementary School transformed a room that serves as teacher space. Students helped to rearrange the space to make the space cozier for the hard-working teachers of Guild Elementary. Shira Shartiag, a senior at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, noted, “I enjoyed being able to spend time with students from other campuses that are passionate about volunteering and community service.” Many of the students who attended the IACTCares Service Day have traveled together in Israel on Birthright Israel or on an eight-week internship program called Onward Israel, and this event was a way for them to continue to engage in the Jewish campus community.
A significant takeaway from the event is that students might be very busy studying for exams, participating in student clubs and exploring campus life, but many students are eager to participate in community service. Eitan Jaret, a freshman at UMass Amherst and Boston native, reflected, “Being able to support those in the Boston community was a very meaningful way for me to give back to a city that has given me so much.” The students very much embraced the adage that “giving is receiving” and felt that the experience was rewarding knowing they had helped those in need.
Becky Mueller, a recent graduate from Northeastern University, commented: “There are very few volunteer opportunities in college. It was great to not only help out others in need, but to develop relationships with them and express that college students care about helping to improve the community.” The student volunteers came back to campus with renewed energy to help others and are eager to participate in the next IACTCares Service Day in the fall. All the students received a shirt with the Talmudic passage, “Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved the entire world.” The IACTCares Service Day was a successful event and through community service, students can help to repair the world one volunteer experience at a time.