As poverty rates rise, City Harvest is struggling to attract funding for its growing kosher program.
Ion Shubernetskiy’s shirt is graying. His hair is thin; his blue sneakers are bargain-bin flimsy. But the 77-year-old Moldovan, a former factory worker, is comfortable cutting corners when it comes to his personal appearance.
“Hey, I buy what I can afford. I don’t go into Manhattan,” he jokes in Russian, through a translator. What he won’t sacrifice is his kashrut, or kosher diet. Keeping kosher under Communism was difficult and dangerous. He won’t stop now, although he lives on public assistance.
The concept of “tikkun olam” — repairing the world — is a central tenet of Judaism. It is also, not infrequently, an excuse for critics like your humble servant to shoehorn texts and art that are not obviously Jewish into the pages of a Jewish newspaper. But there are times when the connection between Jewish identity, social justice work and the arts is so palpable that to ignore it would be more foolish than to proclaim it.
We had the opportunity to speak with current and former AVODAH fellows about their experience and why they decided to participate in this important inititive. AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps strengthens the Jewish community's fight against the causes and effects of poverty in the United States.
The Orthodox Jewish community in the United States for the last few decades has been experiencing a move toward higher ritual observance, as demonstrated by Samuel Heilman’s study, “Sliding to the Right,” and, in many communities, prioritizes ritual observance and religious conformity over spiritual leadership, natural morality, and common sense ethics. Instead of committing time and effort to addressing local poverty, many devote resources to the search for the perfectly-shaped etrog.
JTeen leadership missions allows parents and kids to bond while doing tikkun olam.
‘We don’t really do vacations,” joked Pam Wexler, a Westchester mom of two. “I turn them all into service.” The shared experiences helping others are “much more powerful and meaningful and life-changing than a quote-unquote vacation,” she said.
Five years ago, while serving as chair of Westchester’s women’s campaign for the UJA-Federation of New York, Wexler organized a mission to Cuba. After a second trip to Cuba (this time with her husband) three years ago, Wexler vowed that the next time, she’d bring along her kids.