The following essay on community service was written by Jordan Klein, 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 my community service I’ve spent many hours doing what I love — for other people. The first thing I did was join a group of friends to form what we called “The Mitzvah Squad.” Most of us were getting ready for our Bat Mitzvahs, so we combined our efforts. The Mitzvah Squad is a group that does acts of community service, and each time we do something, one child and their parent leads the event. The act I led was learning songs from Hamilton to perform for elderly people and people in rehabilitation who are living in the Northern Westchester Hospital Center. In preparation, we spent hours rehearsing at my home, giving out and learning parts to all of these complicated songs. When we finally went to the hospital I was extremely nervous, but when I got there and saw all the faces in the audience, I felt a wave of excitement. They were all smiling at me and they were all so happy. Once we told them that we were playing songs from Hamilton, their faces lit up. I understood that they can’t get out to see shows like Hamilton and therefore, we were bringing this amazing show to them. Before we started singing, one man was telling us how excited and happy he was. And he also was shouting words of encouragement throughout the performance and at the end. It felt great to see him so happy.
The second thing I have been doing and continue to do also has to do with music. At my congregation I, along with my mom, lead the children and families in music for what we call “Kehillah Circle”. I have had to learn lots of Hebrew, Yiddish, and English songs, as well as songs for special occasions, both vocally and instrumentally. It has been an interesting and challenging experience. I feel like I have a job with a lot of responsibility. It also feels good to do something for my congregation.
The last thing I did for community service is not music related, but it is still important to me. I attended the Science March on April 22nd in New York City with my mom and other members of our congregation. My sign said on one side, “teach science, not creationism” and on the other side said, “science is my jam” with music notes all around it. I was hungry and tired during that march, to be honest, but I think that is what social justice is about–to put your needs aside and fight for what’s right.
What I found interesting about all of my community service is that I never felt like I had to do it. Never did I feel like, “Oh, I should do that to add to my list of things I’ve done for community service!” Helping others felt so natural and right because I was able to do things that felt natural for me. I didn’t just do anything, I did community service that I could use my talents or skills to do. I think this is probably the best way to do it, to put your own special skills to good use to help others.
After doing some community service, I will continue to follow the path of using my skills to help others, and I plan to do this service voluntarily, not because I am forced to do it. I will do it because it feels right, and makes the people I am helping feel good, too.