By Liz Paige, Director of Ethics and Community Initiatives
A year ago, I wrote an article for our kehilah about Tikkun Olam that started with, “If ever there was a time in our living memory when it was apparent to all that the world is in need of repair, this is it.” While life for many appears to be improving thanks to vaccinations, our students returning to school, and businesses re-opening, it is still clear that aspects of our society are still fractured and in need of repair.
In teaching students about our obligation to do Tikkun Olam, one of the key lessons is emphasizing how our individual actions can have a positive collective impact. Our annual “2 Cans for 2 Hands” food drive literally shows our students this lesson in action. In a two-week period, our 386 students K-8 together donated over 2,400 food and baby items for the Jewish Family Service pantry.
Students were proud to see how their personal donations became part of a greater effort that helped people who are elderly, those who are unemployed, and children whose families are struggling to make ends meet. “I like helping people in need of food,” reflected 2nd-Grade student Liviana. When asked how the food drive helped to repair the world, 2nd-Grade student Darby said, “The food drive gave food to people in need which really helped some people. There are a lot of people who cannot afford food in our community. It felt great to add my cans to other people’s cans."
Tikkun Olam can take many forms: social action, tzedakah, and doing good and kind deeds. As students learn how important it is to be kind to one another and to be “upstanders” they are learning that these behaviors repair the world. When students learn to identify bias, discrimination, and privilege, they are learning how to see what is fractured and ways to be allies and agents of change to repair the world. And when students do a kind deed by helping a peer or a teacher, holding the door for one another, picking up litter, or contributing unopened food to our new food rescue program, they are practicing Tikkun Olam.
We believe through acts of kindness, contributions to help those in need, and taking action to ensure all are included are important ways for our students to learn how they can repair the world.