Summertime Social Justice

Before school's back, use some staycation time for tikkun olam

Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh

(“All Israel is responsible for one another”- Shavuot 39a).

We live in busy times. We’re busy people with work, school, errands, responsibilities, and on and on and on. Anything not deliberately marked in the calendar can get missed, even volunteer gigs that we love and really are committed to; we’re just that busy. Moreover, there are a plethora of reasons why we become numb to the world around us—not just that we’re busy, but also that we’re overwhelmed, too much news because it is too depressing, and so on.

But summer is a perfect time to pause, breathe, and make the world around you a better place. The warm weather and school breaks can provide perfect opportunities to teach your children about core Jewish values in real time in the real world. Here’s a simple list of fun, easy, and meaningful ways for you or your family to get out and engage with their community during your “summer staycation”—anytime this month and next that you have a little downtime and are staying at home and able to help out!

  • Nature Clean-up: Make your community a more welcoming and beautiful place by picking up trash from a nature trail, creek, or park. Along the way, you can learn about local ecology and conservation efforts and get some sunshine, too!
  • Animal Shelter: Providing resources, time, and a friendly attitude can make all the difference for those cuddly critters in need.
  • Interfaith Dialogue Shabbat Dinner: Invite friends and community members from different backgrounds to bring a taste of their cultures and faiths in the form of food, conversation, and ritual.
  • Food Pantry or Homeless Shelter: Whether you’re providing a meal, a safe space, medical care, or an extra pair of hands to help out, bring the whole family and start a conversation with your young ones about humility, privilege, and economic injustice.
  • Bingo at the Nursing Home: Sometimes those in need don’t require food and shelter, but rather a pleasant conversation and a kind smile. Reach out to a local nursing home and see what sort of activities their residents enjoy, then bring a group in to brighten up their day.
  • Lemonade Stand: This one is an oldie but a goodie. Research local charities with your family and choose a recipient whose work is important to you.
  • Write to Local Government: Make your voice heard and teach children about civic duty. Pick an upcoming piece of legislation or current event to focus on.
  • Attitude of Gratitude: With so many issues to address, sometimes we forget to thank those who got us where we are. This is a perfect time to write thank-you notes to organizations that are doing great work. Let them know that you value their contributions.
  • Paint Stones for a Jewish Cemetery: The Jewish custom of leaving stones at loved ones’ graves provides a unique opportunity to teach children about life cycle events and how we honor those who have passed on.
  • Garden for a Cause: Start a flower garden at your synagogue as part of The Daffodil Project in remembrance of the 1.5 million children killed in the Holocaust.
  • Donate: Now is a great time to clean out your bookshelf and closet in anticipation of the coming school year and pass those items along to:
    • Shelters and crisis centers
    • Little Free Libraries
    • Prison Book Collectives
    • United Way
    • Big Brother Big Sister Foundation

What ways are you able to warm up people’s lives and hearts in the warm summer months? Share your ideas for making a difference this summer in the comments below!

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