Carolyn Gerecht on November 24, 2015
A special program at the JCC with J Line on Sunday defined for me the positive direction in which we’re moving, and our own potential and enthusiasm to bring Jewish learning to life for teens.
Last Sunday morning, in partnership with 412 Food Rescue, nearly 40 J Line teens and staff met at the JCC to pack more than 120 bags of food for local students in need over the upcoming Thanksgiving break. These food bags will be discreetly slipped into the backpacks of students in need in local elementary schools – students who rely on their schools to receive breakfast and lunch every day and risk hunger at home over weekends and long school breaks.
A new J Line Community Service committee, one of three student committees taking on leadership roles at J Line this year, played an important role in choosing and planning this project.
Also this Sunday morning, teens turned to Jewish text to examine not only why we help others in need, but also HOW we can give in ways that are particularly respectful of the dignity of those in need.
Looking around the room on Sunday, I saw teens laughing and talking over breakfast together in our new Second Floor space. I saw teens adding to a growing mountain of donated food brought from home that morning. I saw teens energetically pack hundreds of cans of tuna, granola bars, and fruit for those in need. I saw teens engaged in conversation, in hands-on Jewish learning, and in community service.
As the morning drew to an end, we looked together at the text of Leviticus 23:22, surrounded by bags of packed food:
ֽבְקֻצְרְכֶ֞ם אֶת־קְצִ֣יר אַרְצְכֶ֗ם לֹֽא־תְכַלֶּ֞ה פְּאַ֤ת שָֽׂדְךָ֙ בְּקֻצְרֶ֔ךָ וְלֶ֥קֶט קְצִֽירְךָ֖ לֹ֣א תְלַקֵּ֑ט לֶֽעָנִ֤י וְלַגֵּר֙ תַּֽעֲזֹ֣ב אֹתָ֔ם אֲנִ֖י ה’ אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶֽם:
22 And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I Adonai am your God.
We talked about peah (corner) in our lives – if I don’t have crops in my backyard anymore, what are the corners of MY field? In what ways am I generous to strangers? In what ways do I consistently look out for others, instead of restricting my service to certain days and times? How does peah apply to me today?
Our J Line students harnessed Jewish wisdom and made it relevant and meaningful to their lives, all while making a difference together in the community. Jewish teens giving back, connecting an authentic and powerful experience with a 2,000-year-old tradition, and envisioning the Jewish values that might inspire our everyday lives – that’s what it means to join the “J Line.”
Learn more: 412 Food Rescue