I’ve always felt the most Jewish when I’m fighting for a more just world. A feminist research program with a local Chicago Jewish organization first taught me the word “intersectionality” and brought me back to a religion and culture that had felt so alienating and foreign in Hebrew school. When I marched in climate strikes, with Never Again Action, or for racial justice, I would usually bring a sign scrawled with some of my favorite Jewish quotes: “If not now, when?” or “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” I usually brought my shofar, too. And when I started learning more about my identity as a Bukharian Jew, one of my extended family members, knowing my political views, sent along a link for a Facebook group called “Progressive Bukharians” (it’s small but mighty). I am fiercely Jewish, and it is through this lens that I have been able to find my way to practice and exist.
I first joined Serve the Moment—a national service initiative powered by Repair the World with more than 40 other partner organizations—this summer as a Chicago Corps member working with Raise Your Hand, an education equity parent nonprofit organization. I loved it so much that I decided to continue through the fall semester, as well. Serve the Moment is everything that, to me, Judaism is. We sing Jewish music, meet Jewish people, learn about Jewish rituals, all while learning about the oppressive structure of capitalism and housing crises and immigration and injustice through a Jewish lens. Tikkun Olam is the framework through which I believe I have always lived my life, but I am now even more fiercely committed to that ideal: leaving the world better than how I entered.
Being able to work with Raise Your Hand was an absolutely incredible and personally meaningful experience (shoutout to Jianan and the whole team). I learned an immeasurable amount about education injustice in Chicago and beyond. I gained an inside look into community organizing and what goes into successfully pushing for certain policies to be implemented and building people power. Raise Your Hands is also on the frontlines of pandemic-specific advocacy regarding the reopening of schools, protections for teachers, and parent advocacy. Being able to take part in service is important and meaningful. But being able to do so this year, as part of larger COVID-19 responses, was even more so.
But what’s so great about Serve the Moment is that that work was complemented by a Jewish-specific analysis of that injustice with my Chicago cohort and the larger group. I could approach secular issues as my fully Jewish self, and use my Judaism as an asset in my service and organizing. Moving forward, I plan to continue organizing and service in general as a whole person committed to Tikkun Olam, my Judaism, and also injustice in the world at large. I credit Serve the Moment with helping me understand that the two are not in conflict with one another.
The world is a really scary and horrible place, but I receive my hope and energy to continue fighting from programs like Serve the Moment. I’m really thankful that it exists and that there are so many people around the country who are interested in this kind of work: its impact should not be minimized.
Madison Hahamy is currently on a gap year from Yale University, where she is reporting for the New Haven Independent, interning for Lilith Magazine, and writing for the Yale Daily News. She is a proud Bukharian Jew and lover of her brother’s service dog, Viego. Madison served through Repair the World’s Serve the Moment initiative as one of 34 Service Corps Members who have served in Chicago since summer 2020.