Social Action Month Aims To Boost Student Activism

By Jacob Savage

Published August 26, 2005, issue of August 26, 2005.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The month of Heshvan — the second month of the Jewish calendar — is traditionally known as “Bitter Heshvan”; the High Holy Days are over, and gloom sets in as the leaves fall from the trees. A new initiative, however, aims to take some of the bitterness out of Heshvan by transforming it into Jewish Social Action Month.

The initiative does not focus on specific projects, but is a more broadly framed opoprtunity for Jews to get involved in community activism of their choosing. Students will play a key role during Heshvan — which begins in early November — thanks to a number of major organizations that will participate.

Jewish Social Action Month is an outgrowth of Kol Dor, an organization dedicated to bringing together a new, younger generation of Jewish leadership. The idea was proposed in the spring at a Kol Dor retreat in Israel’s Negev Desert — by Jewish Family & Life CEO Yossi Abramowitz and Aryeh Green, adviser to former Israeli Cabinet member Natan Sharansky — as a way to increase awareness of the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, or healing the world.

Soon the rest of the Kol Dor conference endorsed the initiative, and Abramowitz since has tried to get community organizations on board. “It’s a new, 21st-century grass-roots model,” he explained. “It’s not top down; it’s open to all groups to implement it.”

Abramowitz, who publishes magazines for Jewish youth, hopes to use his own publications to publicize Jewish Social Action Month. With a mostly teenage readership, JVibe will devote its Heshvan issue to tikkun olam. Designed for slightly younger children, BabagaNewz — sent to more than 1,400 schools and 40,000 students — will focus on social action and on good works.

Kol Dor member Adina Danzig, executive director of Hillel at Stanford, discussed the initiative with Avraham Infeld, president of Hillel. Infeld was excited about the project, and Hillel soon lent its support to the proposal, as well. Within the next month, Hillel will spread the word to its local chapters through various newsletters. “Hillel is endorsing Jewish Social Action Month through the national office as a tool for local Hillels,” Danzig said. “This initiative has the potential to help create a connection to Judaism regardless of religious or political affiliation.”

Several other prominent organizations have endorsed the new, caring face of Heshvan: The Office of the Prime Minister of Israel, the World Union of Jewish Students, and the Jewish Education Service of North America are among those that have expressed varying levels of support. The Jewish Coalition for Service has said it will set up a phone line where people can pledge hours of their time to do good work. Efforts are under way to get the denominational movements involved, as well.

In the hope of making this an annual tradition, both Judaism.com and the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute will feature Jewish Social Action Month in their 2006 calendars.

It remains to be seen just how widely Jewish Social Action Month will be observed. Because school is out and students are away for the summer, there are almost no concrete, on-the-ground plans yet for Heshvan, and the initiative’s organizers are still unsure of what its impact will be. But they are optimistic.

“I hope Jewish Social Action Month eventually becomes part of people’s consciousness around the world,” Danzig said. “I’d like it to be a regular part of the Jewish calendar.”






Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.