The following essay on community service was written by Maya Mondlak Reuveni, 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.
For part of my Bat Mitzvah preparation I did community service. It was a rewarding experience even though at times it wasn’t so easy. I did several different things, each one so different yet having the same purpose in mind, to help other people. I don’t really do community service often; however I think I should do more of it. When participating in the activities that I did, I felt that I was making a difference.
The first activity I did was helping out in a preschool classroom at my school, Bank Street School for Children. I played with the kids, helped them put their hats and gloves and coats on to go outside, and I helped the teacher watch them out on the play deck. This experience really meant a lot to me especially because I was helping in the exact room I was in for preschool when I was four and five years old. It was really nice to be there for the kids’ school day and experience how different their day is versus my school day. I really enjoyed seeing how creative and different each kid’s mind was, and their facial expressions when I played house with them was something I will never forget.
I really love spending time with younger kids, so for my second activity for community service I worked with Bloomingdale Head Start Program. This experience was similar yet very different from working at Bank Street. Bloomingdale Head Start Program is designed for children from low-income families. It is a free program that teaches over 180 three and four year olds. When I arrived at Bloomingdale I was immediately greeted by many smiling faces. However I noticed that the actual play was more aggressive than I had seen at Bank Street. Also the teachers were very differently trained than their Bank Street counterparts. At one point two kids started to hit each other. The way the teacher intervened was to lecture them not to fight. This happened throughout the day. The teacher was not very effective. Soon after playtime was over it was time for breakfast. Breakfast wasn’t very much: half of an English muffin, and a small portion of an artificial fruit cup. Seeing this I couldn’t help thinking to myself how lucky I am, how even without realizing it so many of us, including myself, take so much for granted.
Something else I did was participating in the Climate Change March in New York City in the fall of 2014. It really moved me seeing how many people showed up. It was estimated that 311,000 people were there. Knowing that I was part of that 311,000 is so gratifying. At some points I wanted to just give up and go home because it took forever to even walk one block, but I was so happy that I didn’t. My mom and I marched from 86th Street to 34th Street in six and a half hours! Although my feet were incredibly sore, and I was exhausted, it was so amazing to see all different kinds of people there and all different ages. This was a global event and even though I was not working with individuals like I was at the schools, I hope it made a difference in the world. I feel like I was a part of history.
My earliest community service was two years ago. With my Hebrew class of five and our teacher I went to a soup kitchen on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. In a tiny kitchen we cooked a whole meal for homeless women. We spent about two hours there and had fun doing it. We didn’t serve the food, but we did see the women coming in. The location did not look very welcoming at all, however I think the food was appreciated.
Most recently, my classmates and I went to Riverside Park to help clean up. It was a cool day just before the start of spring. We raked and pulled weeds and dead plants. Then we planted new plants. It was hard work but I noticed that the Riverside Park crews had to do this every day. This is not a community service I would choose to do again. I would rather work with young children because I work well with them and find it gratifying.
Community service is an extremely important thing to do even if you only do it every once in a while. I believe that it doesn’t only make you feel good for doing something nice for other people, but it makes the people you are helping feel wonderful knowing that there are individuals out there who actually care. It gives me such an amazing feeling knowing that I can do something to help.
Throughout my experience working with children I only encountered healthy kids going to school. However, I realized a lot of kids are very sick and can’t spend their day playing with other children and learning in a classroom. I would really like to help their cause so a portion of my Bat Mitzvah gift money will be donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital which is the only cancer center devoted just to children.