Do you prefer texting to phone calls, think in hashtags and Instagram filters, and decide what to order for lunch based on how it will look posted on Facebook? If so, you may be a Millennial (those born between 1982-2004). Stereotypes aside, you may be surprised to learn that most studies agree that Millennials genuinely want to make a difference in the world. Etz Chaim’s revolutionary new approach to Jewish young professional engagement, the Social Service Fellowship, gives Jewish Young Professionals the chance to give back. Developed in partnerships with the Jewish Caring Network, the Social Service Fellowship combines Jewish study about chesed/kindness with hands-on volunteer opportunities. The Fellowship’s groundbreaking pilot program engaged over a dozen YPs to volunteer through the JCN.
On their inaugural event, participants delivered care packages to dozens of JCN recipients following Megillah reading on Purim night. Since then, the fellows have been participated in regular learning sessions and have been volunteering monthly to help out at the homes of children with chronic illnesses. Many participants expressed how much they gained from the experience of helping others. “I felt like I was literally a member of the family I was assigned to help,” one participant said. “I honestly think I got back more than I gave!”
At the recent JCN 5K, one of our fellows helped a 26 year old blind and mentally impaired man reach the finish line. Although the fellow had been training hard for the race and felt he had a fair chance to win had he run on his own, the experience of helping someone disadvantaged was far more rewarding. If he had come in first place, he would have won alone. This way, they were both winners!
The five month fellowship culminated with a graduation ceremony on July 16th. The ceremony was a great success, bringing together several dozens of fellows and community members to share their experiences and talk about the impact that the fellowship made on them. “Each week, I knew I was making a difference,” one fellow shared. “This was only the beginning for us in terms of lending a helping hand to the Jewish community – a community that has given us so much. We have Etz Chaim to thank for sparking our desire to give back!”