By Laura Seymour
This summer, we will explore tikkun olam, a mitzvah of action. The Hebrew word tikkun means to “fix” or “heal” something that is broken; olam means “world.” When we do tikkun olam, we are doing acts that will benefit our society from our school to the entire planet earth.
This mitzvah is about making the world a better place and believing that we can and should make a difference in the world.
Mitzvah hero of today’s world: Abraham Joshua Heschel
Rabbi Heschel was born in Poland and came to the United Stated in 1940 to escape the Nazis. He became a professor and through his teaching, Rabbi Heschel influenced a generation of rabbis and educators.
Rabbi Heschel wrote an important book titled “The Prophets,” and it was from his study of the biblical prophets that he knew he had to become involved in social issues.
He was one of the first to protest against the Vietnam War and joined Martin Luther King Jr. in protesting against the lack of civil rights for African Americans in the United States. Heschel marched with King in Selma, Ala., in 1965 and declared, “When I marched in Selma, my feet were praying.”
Rabbi Heschel was passionate in his desire to do his part to heal the world. He stated in response to the Vietnam War, “We must continue to remind ourselves that in a free society, all are involved in what some are doing. Some are guilty, all are responsible.”
In our ancestors’ footsteps: Rose Schneiderman (1882-1972)
Rose Schneiderman was a young immigrant girl at a time when there were very few jobs for immigrants and especially for women.
Most immigrant women worked in sweatshops, which were hot, overcrowded rooms filled with sewing machines at which the women worked 12-14 hours a day.
Schneiderman believed women could improve their working conditions if they worked together. She co-founded the first union of female workers and was the first woman in a leadership position.
Although she was only 4½ feet tall, Schneiderman was a powerful woman. She fought for the rights of working women throughout her life, and when she died in 1972, The New York Times wrote that she “did more to upgrade the dignity and living standards of working women than any other woman.”
The information for this summer’s weekly themes comes from “Jewish Heroes Jewish Values — Living Mitzvot in Today’s World” by Barry L. Schwartz published by Behrman House Inc. in 1996.
Family talk time
- It has been said that we cannot change the world until we change ourselves. What can you do to change the way you behave to make a difference in the world?
- Read the newspaper throughout the week and cut out articles the family can talk about at the dinner table. This week, look for articles on people who have tried to “fix the world.”
- Family brainstorm: Pick a problem in your school, community or even a world problem. Remember, brainstorming means every idea should be put out on the table — even a 3-year-old may have a great solution. First, look at all possible solutions, then decide what your family can do to help.
Laura Seymour is director of camping and youth services at the Aaron Family JCC.