Community Service: Isabel Lubinsky (2018)

The following essay on community service was written by Isabel Lubinsky, 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.

Over the last two years I have volunteered for various organizations and charities to complete 15 hours of community service as part of my Bat Mitzvah. These organizations reflect the beliefs I wrote about in my values paper. Community service is not only a part of my Bat Mitzvah requirement, but it is a big part of my family’s values and culture. Each of these different organizations I volunteered for show different aspects of what we care about as a family and where we want to help improve.

The first aspect of my community service was attending the Women’s March in Washington DC. This march was the first of two, both of which I attended, one in January 2017, and the other one a year later in New York. This protest reflected my value of Social Justice. This march was in support of equal rights and opportunities for women, and it was in response to Trump’s recent inauguration.  A stunning estimate of half a million people attended the march in Washington DC, earning it the title of one of the biggest marches in US history. This march was so well attended because it was such a shock after having Obama as president for so many years. People were outraged and angry that things could go downhill so quickly. This march made me feel like I am part of a community. People flew from as far as Alaska to march in DC. That is extreme commitment to a cause. It shows that even though it might not seem this way, a lot of people care about women’s rights, the Black Lives Matter movement, the LGBTQ+ community, and other causes worth supporting.

The next act of community service was the walk out that happened at our school after the Florida shooting earlier this year. Our entire school walked out in support of the March for Our Lives movement. We walked around the block, and stayed outside for approximately 17 minutes, one for each of the students who was shot and killed. At the end of the walk out, the high schoolers who we share the building with, released balloons into the air. This was a moving sight, and allowed us to think about what we can do to support this cause.

After the walk out, I participated in the Egg Rolls, Egg Creams, and Empanada’s Festival at the Eldridge Street Synagogue, in June of 2018. This festival celebrated Chinese, Jewish, and Hispanic cultures on the Lower East Side. During the festival you could eat food, play games, and make art from all three cultures. One class taught you how to braid the challah, there was a Chinese paper artist who made origami, you could play the game mahjongg, and other interesting activities. It was amazing to celebrate three different cultures at the same time and in the same place. It shows that people of many different ethnicities and backgrounds can come together to celebrate themselves and one another. Not only that but people could go in and look at the historic Eldridge Street Synagogue.

I was taught how to make Egg Creams, and later ran the Egg Creams booth alongside other volunteers. Part of why I did this volunteering was to look at and learn more about the Lower East Side. I needed to become more familiar with this part of New York City because for my major project, one short story I wrote was set in the Lower East Side.

After this, in August, I walked a dog around the neighborhood through the Sean Casey Animal Shelter. At this organization people volunteer to walk dogs for about 40 minutes. These dogs were either abused or without a home – awaiting an adoption. Some of them had health problems because of bad treatment or neglect, so a few were timid or shy around people. Sean Casey had a lot of volunteers. Even on an afternoon during summer vacation, plenty of people showed up to walk the dogs, which is good because the walks that the volunteers offer are the only exercise the dogs get. Sean Casey, (the founder of the organization) grew up in Brooklyn, and would always take care of the stray cats.

Later in August my entire family volunteered to work a shift in the park, for the Prospect Park Alliance. This organization works to clean and shine the park, picking up trash, pushing back weeds, cutting down overhanging branches, and overall making the park nicer for all its visitors. This community service was important to me because I go to the park all the time, and it would be extremely upsetting for it to be overgrown and covered in garbage.

The last organization I volunteered at, in September, was CHiPS Soup Kitchen in Park Slope. I helped to make breakfast for homeless and food insecure New Yorkers. Around 75 – 100 people come in for food per day. The fact that 100 people could be homeless or hungry in NYC shocked me. Yes, I had seen people begging on the streets, but a crowd that size, every day, was eye opening. And knowing that it wasn’t the extent of it. That there were so many more homeless people in the city, even in the neighborhood, that couldn’t come to CHiPS each day. I helped set the tables and prepared the trays for people to take. This organization represents the value charity, the idea of supporting others, donating food or money, or helping those who need it in other ways.

In conclusion, for my community service, I chose organizations that spoke to my values, and the beliefs that I want to support. I am donating a portion of my Bat Mitzvah money to these organizations, as well as giving any leftover food from the party to CHiPS, so that they can use it. For my community service I volunteered for a variety of organizations and charities, ranging from cleaning up the park across the street from my house to protesting in Washington DC, but all of them are important causes that deserve to be supported.