Yes, AJWS worked its magic on me… and now I’m a woman obsessed. I went to Senegal in 2009 as a member of the AJWS Rabbinical Students’ Delegation to help build latrines in two villages (though I was more of the “dancing with the locals” type of volunteer then the “lifting heavy things” type of volunteer), and to discuss social action with a dynamic group of fellow students. It was an amazing experience and it inevitably inspired me to become a “social action rabbi.” I never thought I would be one of “those,” but the trip helped teach me that a rabbi, by definition, should be a “social action rabbi”- an unbelievably powerful message and one that has become an integral part of my identity.
I left Senegal (to go on my honeymoon, but that’s another story) more fully devoted to making tikkun olam a bigger part of my life as a rabbi, but most importantly, as a JEW. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I had always been an avid volunteer….from high school (Camp Jenny!) all the way through HUC (HUC-JIR Soup Kitchen!) but now I was driven to work towards social action in a whole new way…..and yet…..
is it just me or this mission to work towards tikkun olam a bit… daunting? Yes, it is not ours to complete the task, etc, etc… but when there are SO many worthy organizations and causes, it’s tough to even know where to start.
Having this personal connection to AJWS has helped empower me to jump in and incorporate the values of tikkun olam into my rabbinic role. Because of my experience with AJWS, I have tried to support this organization not only through tzedakah but also, most importantly, through education and through encouraging advocacy in my community, Knesseth Israel in Gloversville, NY. This weekend, we join hundreds of congregations and organizations across the country who are participating in Global Hunger Shabbat (GHS).
AJWS makes participating in this effort both easy and accessible because the provided resources are incredibly high quality and user-friendly. Tonight, my community’s services will incorporate this prayer, this text study, an election-themed sermon, and this food aid fact sheet. Last year, I’m not sure I was able to help my congregants feel connected to the issue of global hunger during GHS in the way I hoped. This year, we established an on-going food drive, began a local volunteer effort with a church soup kitchen, and on Yom Kippur I gave a Hunger Games – themed tikkun olam sermon. Together this change in focus has helped our community to more personally embrace our mission as “social action Jews,” so I’m praying that this year the message of GHS will truly resonate with everyone present. Thank you, GHS, for helping me be the “social action rabbi” I never thought I could be- and for making it so…easy!
Rose Kowel Durbin is the rabbi of KIS in Gloversville, NY (like us on facebook!!!). She lives in Glens Falls, where her husband Matthew is the rabbi of Temple Beth El, and her daughter (18 month old Eliana Rae) makes “cat” a 10 syllable exclamation. Rose is obsessed with THE VOICE (and AJWS, obviously).