Community Service

Community Service

 

Overview:

Students at HHNE are encouraged, empowered and obligated to involve themselves in acts of kindness and service to others throughout the school community, the local Jewish community and the community and world at large. Community Service is an ethic and a way of being where we train ourselves to care about and be aware of the needs of others and then act from that knowledge. Strengthening that awareness and sense of ethical responsibility towards others requires both intellectual/inspirational learning and learning by doing!

 

Appropriate Activities:

Many kinds of activities can qualify as Community Service. HHNE builds into its yearly calendar large-scale events like Yom Tzedaka and the Unity Color Run. The Better Together Program (and related initiatives) gives motivated students the opportunity to learn Torah with and get to know local seniors on an ongoing basis throughout the year. Many students take on leadership roles within the school community that can also qualify as community service time. Finally, individual students are involved in various activities in their own home communities and various organizations working to make the world a better place in one way or another. A more comprehensive list of examples of appropriate activities is available upon request.

 

Obligation & Recording:

Students are obligated to fulfill a baseline obligation of 15 hours of community service per academic year. Students are responsible to track that time by filling out a Community Service Program Form [downloadable form here.] The form and relevant activities must be approved and signed by Rabbi Skoglund and then submitted to Brenda Cabelus in the main office for record.

A Deeper Explanation

Community Service is a basic human value which takes on special significance in the Jewish community. But what do we mean by community service? What counts and why?

One of our Guiding Principles at HHNE is the ancient teaching that “The World stands upon three matters: Torah, Avodah and Gemilut Hasadim (Avot).”

 

To explain, all healthy community is based upon these three ways of being.

  1. Torah can be understood as a shared appreciation for wisdom and knowledge and their role in putting us in touch with the true nature of the world around us, the All-Knowing Creator and the soul/spark of G-dliness within ourselves and each other (Torah). An important part of community service is to share, celebrate and promote knowledge and wisdom. In other words, to go out of your own comfort zone and seek to teach and be taught by others.
  1. Avodah can be understood as an ethic of individual responsibility to improve one’s own character and the general state of community and society. Avodah is a potent idea with many interpretations. It may refer to prayer, meditation and other aspects of “spiritual practice”. It may refer to volunteering to fill needed roles within the community. What all the interpretations share is the idea that there is a moral obligation to do the “work/service”. It is not simply a matter of personal preference. To highlight the seriousness of the matter, Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 93:4) codifies that one involved with a pressing communal need must stay focused upon it and is temporarily exempt from the obligation of (communal) prayer.
  1. Gemilut Hasadim, generally translated as ‘acts of kindness’, connotes a sort of way of being which is beyond the letter of the law. It means going above and beyond even that which is obligatory. Sometimes there are communal needs and individual needs which are beyond the scope of any one person’s moral obligation to fulfill, even in part. The Gomel Hesed, the doer of kindness, has developed this trait so strongly that even then there is an impulse to give, to extend oneself and to help and fill the need. A certain amount of charitable giving is obligatory, but hesed giving goes beyond that. Hesed is also part of the ideal attitude with which we approach each other and treat all our relationships.