Jews across the globe and across the spectrum of Jewish life and affiliation turned the Hebrew month of Cheshvan into a celebration of social action and unity. During this period, they participated in hundreds of valuable and inspiring social action projects that impacted thousands of people globally. Jewish Social Action Month (JSAM) was embraced by over 100 Jewish and non-Jewish organizations, ranging from major international and national institutions to the grassroots and local groups at the heart of so much social action. For the first time, JSAM leveraged the Internet so hundreds of individuals were able to connect to this global initiative.
JSAM was launched in 2005 by KolDor, a global network of young Jewish activists, www.socialaction.com and Member Knesset Rabbi Michael Melchior in order to create a global celebration of positive action and unity. The backing of major organizations also helped JSAM 2008 reach a vast audience – they were endorsed by many, including the major streams of Judaism, as well as the United Jewish Communities, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Jewish Coalition for Service, the World Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee/ACCESS, B’nai B’rith International and Hillel International.
Through hundreds of community-based activities, JSAM 2008 became a truly global imitative. In North America (for example) the UJA Federation of New York provided funding and support for 22 JSAM service/social action projects. Congregations and Federations in Texas, Pennsylvania, New York and Missouri created one-day events that involved hundreds volunteering with children, the elderly, creating food packages and more. ACCESS’s (AJC’s New Generation Program) worked with the New York Urban League Young Professionals to create a hands-on community service project in Washington Heights organized through the NY Restoration Project. The St. Louis Jewish Community Relations Council coordinated a month of community-wide social action projects – and much more.
In the UK, Mitzvah Day became the largest day of mass social action in the Jewish calendar, engaging over ten thousand volunteers who did their bit to brighten up the lives of others. Over 80 organizations across the full spectrum of the community were involved including the JCC for London, the UJIA, GIFT, World Jewish Relief, the United, Masorti, Reform, and Liberal synagogues, schools, students and youth movements and community centers across the nation. From packing more than 1,000 boxes of clothes for the homeless, to cleaning gravestones and helping on farms, from donating blood to interfaith projects, the day was packed and every Jewish Care home in the country was visited with volunteers coming to sing, bake with and befriend the residents. This year, volunteer events took place in Birmingham, Essex, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Maidenhead, Manchester, Nottingham and Oxford.
Activities in Israel ranged from environmental projects to harvesting fruits and vegetables for the poor organized by a multitude of organizations, as well as Latet, Sviva Israel, Bina Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture, B’zchut, Table to Table and Kehillat Yedidya in Jerusalem. Elsewhere in the world, Jewish communities celebrated JSAM as well. The major communities in Romania organized home visits to the elderly while in South Africa, MaAfrika Tikkun partnered with SAUJS, Limmud and the Orange Farm community to hold the first Heritage Day Community Build project.
Kol Ha-kavod to all who participated and especially to those who spent many months planning the multitude of events.