HOT TOPIC: Is text study a necessary part of Jewish service programs?

Julie Gersten


 Volunteer service has become an integral part of Jewish life. In the past decade, Jewish service-learning programs have proliferated, offering opportunities for Jews to volunteer in their communities at home and around the world. Synagogues and Jewish community centers across the country are organizing volunteer days for members and a new generation of students is engaging in service projects as part of their b’nai mitzvah preparation.

A growing body of research on Jewish service-learning indicates that service programs can provide impactful service to communities in need. They also have the potential to instill a long-term commitment to social activism in volunteers. However, these outcomes are achievable only if service programs integrate a strong educational foundation. Without education, we risk sending volunteers to serve who are unprepared; unaware of the cultural, socioeconomic, and political contexts in which they work; unsuccessful; and, in the end, disillusioned by the experience.

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