Inspiring Service for the High Holidays

I was a Repair the World: Philadelphia fellow in the program’s inaugural year (2013-2014) before starting law school at Washington University in St. Louis last fall. During my time with Repair, my service was more focused on education and youth issues, but some of my favorite volunteer experiences outside of my daily responsibilities were related to food justice. When this opportunity came up, not only was I excited to volunteer with a food justice organization, and I was intrigued by the opportunity to make my high holiday experience more meaningful.

We volunteered with Gateway Greening to help beautify the Webster Rock Hill Ministries Community Garden. Webster Rock Hill Ministries is an organization that provides emergency social services to those in need, and Gateway Greening provides resources to community and youth educational gardens across the greater St. Louis metropolitan area. The group cleared litter, weeds, and fallen leaves, then spread wood chips and delineated walking paths throughout the garden. Webster-Rock Hill Ministries relies on its garden in its mission to build community. Recently, the garden was redesigned, and the work we did helped lay the foundation for what will be a beautiful, newly redesigned spring bloom. We also helped make the garden a more welcoming place with the addition of clearly laid out walking paths throughout.

The most inspiring part of the campaign was the discussion we had while on a lunch break during the garden beautification. Marilyn, the garden leader for Webster-Rock Hill Ministries, gave the group some more insight about the food distribution services the Ministries provides. The group then listened to a story on food waste and dumpster diving from The Moth Radio while engaging with some Jewish wisdom.

The discussion we had put the teachings of the text in conversation with Webster-Rock Hill Ministries and the notions on food waste brought up in The Moth piece. We thought broadly about waste, grocery stores, food donations, and government regulation of the food industry. Relating it all back to the high holiday period, we discussed what it means to choose to fast versus what it means to have to fast, why we fast, and the reflection period fasting affords us during the holidays.

Matthew Renick is a law student in St. Louis and is an alumnus of the Repair the World Fellowship.