At the inaugural Service Matters: A Summit on Jewish Service last week, more than 200 people joined together committed to elevate the place of volunteer service in American Jewish life. The Summit was hosted by Repair the World with more than 35 partners from across the fields of Jewish service, social justice, leadership development, and communal engagement. Together, participants uncovered existing breakthroughs and generated new ideas to create meaningful Jewish service experiences that address inequalities and injustices in society.
Summit speakers and panelists shared personal stories about their motivations to serve; how the field can work to engage more people in service and learning; and how those service experiences can be most meaningful for participants and the local communities with which they serve. Topics for breakout sessions were crowdsourced from attendees – including some chosen in real time via online poll.
Summit partners included Hillel International, Moishe House, Jewish Federations of North America, BBYO, JDC Entwine, and others, as well as secular service-related organizations like Points of Light, the Service Year Alliance and City Year. Summit participants included professionals, social entrepreneurs, current and prospective funders, Jewish educators, and others working to engage people—especially Jewish millennials—in meaningful service through a Jewish lens. A “day of Service” on September 16, following the Summit, included multiple service activities in Brooklyn, New York.
Presenters included Ian Cohen, co-founder of Next Generation Men; Erin Schrode, founder of Turning Green; Leah Lizarondo, founder of The Brazen Kitchen; Wendy Etheridge-Smith, Ph.D, Executive Director of Higher Achievement Pittsburgh; Diane Bell McKoy, President & CEO, Associated Black Charities; Ben Sperling, co-founder, Next Generation Men; and Rabbi Jessy Gross, director of the Charm City Tribe, among many others.
“The Jewish service movement has blossomed over the past decade. Young Jews especially are rolling up their sleeves in growing numbers, putting their Jewish values into action,” Lisa Eisen, Vice President of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. “But there is still so much more we can do to address the enormous challenges facing our country and our world. Starting today, let’s collaborate closely to mobilize many more members of the Jewish community as a powerful force for good.”
Adds Dawne Bear Novicoff, Assistant Director of the Jim Joseph Foundation, “The Summit brought together leaders from both the secular and Jewish service worlds to share ideas, successes, and challenges that come with this deeply important work – and together these leaders will continue to make Jewish service learning a central part of American Jewish life.”