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Archive for : volunteer

Study on Jewish Young Adults Finds Service Not Related to Jewish Identity

Jewish young adults overwhelmingly demonstrate an abiding commitment to volunteerism, with a particular interest in efforts to eradicate poverty and illiteracy and preserve the environment. At the same time, their service tends to be infrequent and motivated by a desire to make a difference in their local communities. And although their commitment to volunteerism increases with their degree of religious involvement, most do not connect their volunteering to their Jewish identity nor do they consider Israel to be a major focus of their service endeavors.

These are the major findings of the first-ever comprehensive study of contemporary Jewish young adults and their attitudes and behaviors towards community service. The study – Volunteering + Values: A Repair the World Report on Jewish Young Adults – was commissioned by Repair the World and was conducted as a collaborative effort between the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University and Gerstein | Agne Strategic Communications.

The survey examined a diverse sample of young Jewish adults between the ages of 18 and 35, drawn from the Taglit-Birthright Israel applicant pool of more than 300,000 individuals and the Knowledge Networks online research panel. The Taglit pool is the largest extant list of American Jewish young adults and includes program participants and non-participants from virtually the entire spectrum of Jewish backgrounds and denominational identities. The Knowledge Networks panel is a representative sample of the U.S. population using probability-based sampling techniques.

Jon Rosenberg, CEO of Repair the World, explained that, until now, little was known about the full extent of the sample group’s service commitment. That was the goal of this study, “to develop a portrait of what motivates Jewish young adults to volunteer, the varieties of service in which they participate, and how they construe the connections of their involvement in volunteering to Jewish values and identity.”

Of significant interest to our readers:

Young Jewish adults do not know about volunteer opportunities in the Jewish community.
A substantial number of respondents, 23%, indicated that their lack of familiarity with volunteer opportunities available through the Jewish community was a major reason why they did not volunteer with Jewish organizations. There is also the perception among this cohort that Jewish organizations do not address the causes that most resonate with them, and that the focus of Jewish organizations is too parochial and narrow, serving only the needs of the Jewish community.

Other key findings of the study are:

  • The majority of contemporary Jewish young adults engage in volunteer work, with volunteer rates ranging from 63% to 86% depending on denomination/identity. Over three-quarters, 78%, also engage in some form of civic activity, such as participating in the political process, publicly expressing their opinions, or financially supporting causes. Motivation tends to be rooted in a desire to make a difference in the lives of others and working on issues that have personal meaning with the volunteer.
  • Most volunteering is an infrequent and episodic activity. Almost one-third of respondents have made volunteering an integral part of their lives and engage in a service activity at least once a month. But, only 21% have participated, at some point in their lives, in an intensive program of one to 12 weeks, such as an alternative college spring break (“Alternative Break”) or immersive summer experience. More than 50% of respondents said that in a typical week they don’t volunteer.
  • Much of the volunteer work is local, as cited by nearly 80% of respondents, and focuses on efforts to ameliorate disparities in economic resources and educational opportunity. Indeed, as it relates to the focus of respondents’ primary volunteer work, the three most cited are material assistance to the needy, health care/medical research, and education/literacy. Conversely, only 1% of respondents cited Israel/Middle East Peace as the primary focus of their volunteer work.
  • The most commonly cited volunteer activities included teaching and mentoring, as well as collecting, sorting and distributing goods such as food and clothing, event planning, and providing manual labor for building construction and revitalization or repairs.
  • Gender is a significant predictor of volunteerism, with 78% of females, compared to 63% of males, volunteering within the past 12 months.
  • Religious involvement also influences volunteer habits. Jewish young adults with the highest levels of Jewish religious involvement, including but not restricted to Orthodox young adults, are the most likely to engage in volunteering, to do so regularly, and to volunteer under Jewish auspices.
  • Volunteering is the result of social learning that originates in the home and is reinforced by peers. Social networks, such as family and friends, play a prominent role in volunteer recruitment, as cited by nearly 25% of respondents. Parental involvement also tends to be a motivating factor; Jewish young adults who recalled their parents engaged in community service were themselves more likely to be regular volunteers.
  • Only a small portion of Jewish young adults, 10%, indicated that their primary volunteer commitment was organized by Jewish organizations. Moreover, only 18% said that they prefer to volunteer with Jewish organizations or synagogues over other non-profit organizations. And the vast majority, 78%, said it doesn’t matter if the organization with which they are engaged in service is Jewish or non-Jewish.
  • Universal values rather than Jewish-based values and identity drive volunteerism. For many young Jewish adults, volunteering is an activity partitioned off from their Jewish identity in much the same way that their Jewish identity is separate from many aspects of their current lives. Overall, only 27% of respondents agreed that they consider their volunteer actions to be based on Jewish values and only 10% strongly endorsed this statement.

“This survey provides important guidance for effectively engaging Jewish young adults in more sustained and effective modes of volunteering,” Rosenberg explained. “It also provides a baseline for change within the Jewish service community. Our challenge – as an organization and as the community at-large – is to bridge the gap between service and Jewish identity, and help young Jewish adults see their engagement through the prism of Jewish tradition, values, and identity.”

Video: Hillel Students Serve in Russia

This past May, a group of 170 Hillel students and their families volunteered to help clean up Jewish cemeteries across Russia – in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, and Khabarov. Together they restored headstones, swept up leaves and debris and painted fences. It was a meaningful act of service, particularly considering that many of the cemeteries across the former Soviet Union – both Jewish and not – are poorly maintained.

Check out the video of their day, made by one of the student participants:

See more on eJewishPhilanthropy and Hillel’s website.

Repair Interview: Sheva Tauby of iVolunteer

Loneliness is a plague that affects many elderly residents in New York and throughout America – and for Holocaust survivors, the feeling of being alone in old age can be particularly acute. That’s why Sheva Tauby and her husband Rabbi Tzvi Tauby launched iVolunteer – an organization that pairs young volunteers with Holocaust survivors for weekly home visits – in 2007.

In just a few years, iVolunteer has already made a significant impact on both the lives of volunteers as well as survivors. The volunteers spend time talking with the survivors – hearing their stories, and also simply providing companionship. They also help the survivors with everyday tasks, from shopping to gaining new skills on the computer. These inter-generational interactions provide comfort and often result in close and meaningful friendships. Last week, Sheva took some time to share more about the program and how people can get involved.
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9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance

Last year, President Barack Obama amended the Patriot Day proclamation to make September 11th a nationally recognized day of service and remembrance. In the proclamation he wrote:

As we pay tribute to loved ones, friends, fellow citizens, and all who died, we reaffirm our commitment to the ideas and ideals that united Americans in the aftermath of the attacks… I call upon all Americans to join in service and honor the lives we lost, the heroes who responded in our hour of need, and the brave men and women in uniform who continue to protect our country at home and abroad…

Originated by the family members of those who lost loved ones on 9/11, the National Day of Service and Remembrance is an opportunity to salute the heroes of 9/11, recapture the spirit of unity and compassion that inspired our Nation following the attacks, and rededicate ourselves to sustained service to our communities.

In honor of the 9/11 day of service, people in towns and cities across the country are planning acts of service – large and small – to strengthen their communities and build stronger bonds with the issues and people they care about. The range of service projects being posted on includes everything from reading to kids in an after school program, to organizing food drives, donating blood, spending a day visiting elderly people in the hospital, and giving funds to cancer research organizations.

Find out how you can help to make 9/11 more than “just another day” by doing an act of service or adopting a local charity here.

Read President Obama’s full proclamation here.

American Jewish Society for Service’s Teens Serve Communities Across America

The American Jewish Society for Service (AJSS) is an organization that links social conscience to Jewish consciousness, engaging teenagers in acts of tikkun olam (repairing the world) one house, one park, one community center at a time. Their summer program inspires teens to put their Jewish values into action by providing service to communities in need across the United States.

Established in 1951 (they celebrated their 60th summer of service this year!), AJSS was a pioneer of Jewish teen service long before it was en vogue. This summer, 48 Jewish high schoolers traveled into the heartland of America to volunteer with the AJSS in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity and many local food banks, shelters and other community service organizations. The teens worked for and alongside community members in Kansas City, Kansas, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Avery County, North Carolina.

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Home Front Hearts: Advocating on Behalf of Military Families

Home Front Hearts, an organization that launched in 2008 and is supported by Repair the World and the Bronfman Youth Fellowship in Israel’s Alumni Venture Fund, provides resources for military families and helps to educate the larger community about the issues they face.

Below, founder Randi Cairns, an alumna of BYFI and a military spouse and mom, shares more about the organization’s work, how volunteers can get involved, and the importance of serving those who serve our country.

What was your inspiration for starting Home Front Hearts?
Well, I have over 20 years of experience in the non-profit sector and a big chunk of that has been advocacy-based work. If there is a population to be served, I’ve probably done it – so I’ve become pretty adept at case management work and finding resources. As a military family, however, we were struggling to find the resources we needed and I realized that if I’m savvy in this world and struggling, than the average military family was likely having a hard time getting their needs met.
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Service Opportunities to Help Clean Up the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

Any way you look at it, the current status in the Gulf of Mexico is bleak. Since the April 20th explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig, an estimated 25,000-30,000 barrels of oil have gushed (and despite efforts to cap the rupture, continue to gush) into the watershed each day.

The travesty has taken staggering tolls on the ecosystem and wildlife, as well as human communities all along the coast. And the situation could potentially be exacerbated by the fast-approaching hurricane season, which could wreak further havoc on the already battered shoreline.

Since the spill, local and national conservation organizations have been flooded with volunteer responses – many of these organizations have actually stopped collecting new volunteer information. But there are still opportunities to get involved – either through volunteering, or donating to help in the cleanup efforts. Below the jump: find ways you can help.
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