As more Jewish organizations work to engage individuals, particularly young adults, in innovative ways, a new toolkit – We Plant Seeds: A How-to Guide for Effective Jewish Service-learning Programs – offers a range of activities for meaningful, effective, and authentic volunteer service experiences proven to attract and retain those audiences. Produced by Repair the World and Avodah, the toolkit’s activities draw on the organizations’ many years of leadership in Jewish service learning and represent best practices in deepening the experience and impact of participants. The toolkit release comes on the heels of a new report, Building Jewish Community through Service, which shows the increasing numbers of young adults engaging in Jewish life through service.
The toolkit activities are premised on three important steps that lead to meaningful learning in conjunction with direct service or hands-on volunteering: investigating the social issue, exploring Jewish values, and reflection. First, volunteers are more effective when they understand the social, economic and historical context in which the service occurs (for example, understanding the causes of hunger in a community, as opposed to just feeding the hungry). Second, by exploring and reflecting on Jewish ideas and values that relate to service and social issues, participants grow to understand that they are living Jewishly by engaging in service. And third, when volunteers have time to reflect upon their service – to “think out loud” before, during and/or immediately after the volunteer activity – they can not only become more intentional in using the experience toward self-improvement; they can also tackle uncomfortable questions and challenges about injustice, inequality, and their role in perpetuating them or bringing about change.
The toolkit is available here. Repair the World and Avodah also will each provide training and other support in how to use the tool. These efforts will lead up to the first annual national Jewish service convening – Service Matters: A Summit on Jewish Service, to be held in New York City on September 15, 2016.