The following post was originally posted in The Forward and Sh’ma on October 30, 2018 and features Repair’s Senior Program Director Adina Mermelstein Konikoff ruminating on Hillel’s famed quote, “If I am only for myself, what am I?”
By Adina Mermelstein Konikoff
I stood in awe watching Melanie, a life-long Brooklynite woman of color. She was speaking beautifully about why young Jewish adults should volunteer in her community of Crown Heights. Listening to Melanie, I heard so clearly Hillel’s aphorism, “If I am only for myself, what am I?” Why does Melanie, someone with a strong and deep faith that isn’t Judaism, work with young Jewish adults who are trying to figure out the meaning of serving others, and are taking a year to do so? Because, she knows, life is not only about meeting one’s own needs but also about seeing beyond oneself.