Many Jewish high school and college students, living at home this summer, wonder what they can do when other plans are changed, canceled or put on temporary hold because of COVID-19.
Juliana Margolis, a rising senior at The Paideia School, is one such student seeking ways to occupy her time. “Because I can’t leave the house this summer, I’m looking for ways to volunteer to keep me involved in my community.”
A variety of volunteer opportunities are available in Atlanta’s Jewish community to augment a student’s interests and abilities while providing a fun experience.
Repair the World
The website of Repair the World asks: “Stuck at home? Bored? Restless? Anxious?
Now is the time to be a good neighbor.” Lily Brent, executive director of Repair the World Atlanta, said to motivate young people to volunteer, perhaps parents “don’t trust their abilities enough. They need to know that they have the power to make changes. Tell them ’You can make a real difference for families who need food. This is your moment.’”
Young adults, for instance, “can fill the void of volunteers created when senior citizens, who previously served as volunteers, had to stay home in quarantine.”
College students can partner with Atlanta families needing emergency groceries, Brent said. Volunteers, who follow CDC guidelines, can pack and deliver meals with Open Hand, or help out on the farm for Truly Living Well.
Because of the current emergency food vulnerability situation in Atlanta, Brent told the AJT “our partnership with Concrete Jungle now services 800 people (250-plus families) each week.” Given a list of groceries for an assigned family, CJ volunteers deliver their purchases, averaging $50, in a no-contact drop. “As unemployment is rising and the crisis continues, in addition to the 267 families currently being served, we could add 50 families a week with more volunteers,” Brent said.
For more information about Repair the World Atlanta and its volunteer opportunities, visit www.werepair.org/Atlanta.
Kosher Food Pantry
Jewish Family & Career Services’ Kosher Food Pantry meets food-related challenges. “The JF&CS food pantry has grown tenfold since the pandemic started, and demand continues to increase,” said Deena Goldberg Takata, JF&CS volunteer services manager. College students help accept food and supplies donations on Tuesdays and Thursdays at JF&CS offices in Dunwoody. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are reserved for client pickup and delivery.
Takata said she would be delighted for any student, including high schoolers, to organize a food drive to support the food pantry. Students can collect food and essential supplies such as cleaning and paper products in their neighborhood or through friend groups. She told the AJT that she had a wonderful student who was passionate about food insecurity and collected food donations from all her classmates and their families and brought the food to JF&CS. “That food fed multiple families and was greatly appreciated,” Takata said.
Because JF&CS serves people from many religious and ethnic backgrounds, both kosher and non-kosher food is accepted; however, kosher food is stored separately. On JF&CS donation days, non-food items are also accepted.
”A list of needed items can be found on the JF&CS website, www.jfcsatl.org.
Takata told the AJT, based on CDC guidelines, the JF&CS Food Pantry follows strict safety protocols for those working in the pantry or delivering food.
But students can also volunteer at home, Takata said. All they need are some art supplies found at home to create greeting cards for JF&CS older adult clients, food pantry recipients and residents of one of JF&CS’ partners, Jewish HomeLife communities. Cards can say: “Thinking of you,” “Have a happy day,” “We’re all in this together,” or other short positive messages with the student’s first name only as the signature. “Bright, colorful cards help those isolated and alone feel connected,’ Takata said.
For students who like to sew, JF&CS needs more face masks for JF&CS Food Pantry staff and for staff and residents of Jewish HomeLife. JF&CS will provide instructions for how to make the masks and they can be dropped off on donation days. Anyone interested in supporting JF&CS Food Pantry efforts can contact Deena Takata, email@example.com.
Oral History Project
College students can also use their iPad, computer or phone while home to volunteer with an oral history project created by The Breman Museum, Repair the World, and AgeWell Atlanta. While following health guidelines, volunteers can interview selected people in metro Atlanta’s Jewish community to hear their stories about life during the COVID-19 pandemic. To volunteer for the program, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leslie Gordon, executive director of The Breman Museum, told the AJT, “What we record is what future generations will remember l’dor v’dor.”
Rabbi Daniel Dorsch of Congregation Etz Chaim in Marietta is a member of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s Southeast region teen engagement committee. He told the AJT that in today’s age, there is often “a disconnect between active volunteering and the Jewish value motivating that action.” As one example, when a student is stocking pantry shelves in a food bank, it’s important not to separate that act from understanding how the action is grounded in tzedakah (righteousness), Dorsch said. “Additional concepts often associated with volunteer work include the Hebrew words tikkun olam (repair the world), but also mitzvot, translated as doing God’s commandments.”
For more information about volunteer opportunities, consult these community resources:
You can find other ideas for community service on the Atlanta Jewish Connector, www.atlantajewishconnector.com.