by Patti Vile
I have seen some amazing acts of philanthropy because of my organization, Volunteer Expeditions. Well over 40 groups will have traveled to rebuild New Orleans by the end of this year – which means close to 1200 volunteers! These groups come from all over the nation and the majority are Jewish. Others have drastically different backgrounds, yet they unite in a spirit of philanthropy.
Recently, I had the pleasure of leading two separate synagogue youth groups on volunteer vacations to New Orleans. The participants, 18 and younger, were completely committed to helping those less fortunate. Many teens have trouble focusing on a “tweet” for more than a few seconds, but these dedicated volunteers spent many full days cooking meals for the homeless, clearing fields, insulating and painting homes, becoming acquainted with families who are rebuilding their lives, and immersing themselves in New Orleans’ rich culture.
These teens (and other youth groups I’ve worked with) prove to me time and again that you can give back at any age. Even though these teenagers lacked the life experience of older volunteers, there was no difference in their enthusiasm or commitment once they began working.
I attribute this commitment to the rich heritage of Jewish philanthropy. These wonderful volunteers have grown up in a tradition of tzedakah, kindness and engagement. Jewish people of all ages take to heart the mission of tikkun olam. But to me, the embodiment of Jewish philanthropy is sharing the passion of helping others with our children and grandchildren. It is important when we donate our time, money, and supplies to those in need. But more important still will be the legacy that they carry on.
Jewish teen philanthropy means to me that we shall always care. We shall always invest our faith and energy with those who are less fortunate. And we shall always teach our children the importance of helping others in need. It is my mitzvah that I have been a gateway over the last four years for volunteer philanthropy for hundreds of Jewish teens. My only hope is to continue in this important work.
Patti Vile is the proud grandmother of seven and the founder and president of Volunteer Expeditions, a nonprofit that plans group trips to rebuild in New Orleans and tutor children in Jamaica. For more information or to start planning your trip, she invites you to her website, volunteerexpeditions.org.