The following essay on community service was written by Anna Young, a middle schooler, enrolled in City Congregation’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah program. Students spend a year and a half researching their heritage, values and beliefs, and write on a Jewish subject of their choice, their major project; they also perform 13 hours of community service, and write about it. An example of this component can be seen below. The process improves both the student’s writing and critical thinking skills, as well as their self confidence and overall maturity.
I love kids and music, so I helped out at Noar, an afterschool program for young kids at the 92nd Street Y, and I performed at the Spring Arts Festival at my school to raise money for the arts programs there. For my main community service, I went to Long Beach, Long Island about a week or two after Hurricane Sandy to help people get their lives back to normal as soon as possible.
The first time, I went with my mom, my dad, and my brother, through Tunnel to Towers, an organization formed in honor Stephen Siller. I will be donating a portion of my Bat Mitzvah gifts to this helpful organization. Stephen Siller was a firefighter who made a heroic decision on 9-11. He had just gotten off his shift and was going to play golf with his brothers when he got the first alert about the Twin Towers. He raced back to get his gear and drove his truck to the city. But when he got to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, it was closed to traffic. So he ran through the tunnel to the Twin Towers, where he died a hero.
At Long Beach, we helped by cleaning the beach. Then we went up and down different blocks handing out supplies like bleach, face masks, paper towels, mops, and a bunch of other materials useful to people in the neighborhood. While we were there, we met another family that was volunteering and spent the whole day with them. The daughter and I hung out and even had some fun even though we pretty much had nothing in common except for the fact we both wanted to help. It’s kind of weird and wonderful how helping out can bring people together.
One thing that surprised me was that people only took what they really needed when you could see they could use whatever they could get. Sometimes, a person would just take one roll of paper towels when we would offer them three. It was amazing to see how far one roll of paper towels could go. Their houses were destroyed and they wanted to save stuff for people in worse conditions. Another thing that surprised me was their good spirits. We even played catch with toilet paper with one family.
On my second visit, a week later, I went with my mom, my friend, and her mom. On that trip we walked around the same neighborhood and handed out supplies again. Though it was still messy, it was amazing how much cleaner the streets were. Everybody still seemed to be asking for paper towels! This time, we met a Jewish/Italian woman named Karen. We found out she had a daughter with Crohn’s disease and she let us come into her house. Inside, it was a mess. All that was left of the walls were the beams and the outer wood. The floors were all messed up too, and the worst part was, she didn’t even have flood insurance. In fact, a lot of people we met didn’t have flood insurance.
Hurricane Sandy was terrible. First off, since it was downgraded to a tropical storm, hurricane insurance didn’t apply. According to one article I read, only 54% out of the 56,000 people affected got insurance money. Also, the aftermath was at Thanksgiving time, Hanukkah time, Christmas time. It was a time when people were supposed to be happy and having fun with families at home. So many people need to restart. I met one lady who had just moved back into her house after it was damaged from Hurricane Irene.
I like to look at the good things. This hurricane brought so many communities closer together. Many people were handing out food and supplies. This storm brought out the best in people. There was one guy driving around in a red car with hot chocolate, which I treated myself to (twice!). I also heard him say to another guy, “Would you like chicken soup?” A woman was driving around too; she had cookies and chips with her (which were very yummy too!). It was also a “blessing in disguise,” according to the brother of a hoarder that my mom spoke to. But as he threw things out, his brother kept bringing them back into the house.
Hurricane Sandy was a terrible and horrific event. The victims lost so many things, They had to make the most of what they had. Whether it was making sure they only took what they needed to save supplies for those that were needier, or serving food, the victims of Sandy that I met wanted everyone in their community to be okay and they wanted their lives to be back to normal. I wanted to do something to help the victims, so I put my values into action for my community service. And that is what being humanistic means, to have certain values and to put them into action for the sake of people around us.