Sharing with the world
Jewish News of Greater Phoenix · October 7, 2011 · Link
“On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, piercing shofar blasts will conclude a 25-hour fast, we will set a course toward making good our obligations to others.
“This year when the shofar blasts, I hope it will be a call to serve,” writes Jon Rosenberg, the CEO of a nonprofit called Share the World, in an opinion piece sent to Jewish newspapers nationally.
Certainly, our Jewish community can use as many volunteers as possible, but what Rosenberg reminds us as we prepare for a meaningful fast is that the host of financial troubles that created or exacerbated crises for Greater Phoenix Jewish communal institutions is having an impact on the entire world.
“Hunger, poverty and unemployment pervade our communities,” he writes. “Cities and towns across America face severe budget cuts that threaten … social service programs. Individuals and families are struggling.”
And he hopes that young people in particular will heed the call to service, that the sound of the shofar can rouse us all to give a hand inside and outside our community.
With b’nai mitzvah projects and other aspects of religious education focused on tikkun olam, or repairing the world, it is surprising to read the information he cites on the volunteerism of Jewish young adults.
“Fewer than three in 10 young adults volunteer on a monthly or more frequent basis. Just one in five have participated at some point in their lives in an intensive program of one to 12 weeks, such as an alternative college spring break or an immersion summer experience. And only one in 20 has participated in a term of service of three months or longer,” he writes, citing “In Volunteering + Values: A Repair the World Report on Jewish Young Adults,” a survey of people in the millennial generation (roughly ages 18 to 29).
The good news is that, in 2010, 11.6 million young men and women in this generational cohort gave 1.2 billion hours of service to communities across the country.
While acknowledging that it is quite a lot of service, the problem is that there’s more need than that service can address.
We learned anecdotally at the Jewish Community Conversation a few weeks ago (and Rosenberg cites research to support this) that millennials need to feel that the effort they put forth will make a difference in a cause they feel passionately about. If Jewish leaders want to harness that energy to recharge the community, they’ll need to give people of this generation more responsibility than they have thus far. When they haven’t, millennials have forged their own paths to relevant service.
Considering Rosenberg’s message, it becomes clear that all of us, of any generation, could be more like 86-year-old volunteer Lois Roth (see story), who says, “I’m always on call for something.” Let’s make the shofar blast a call to share more of our time in voluntary service to our Jewish community and to the broader world, especially at a time when financial resources are so strained.
That would be a meaningful blast.