Mitzvah heroes who have made a difference

This summer we study mitzvot through “mitzvah heroes.” Each week we remember that “we are standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before us.”
Our value this week is tikkun olam, the mitzvah of healing the world. Tikkun olam is 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 performing 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 we can, and should, make a difference in the world.
Mitzvah hero of today’s world —
Abraham Joshua Heschel
Heschel, a renowned rabbi, was born in Poland and came to the United States in 1940 to escape the Nazis. He became a professor and through his teachings, influenced a generation of other rabbis and educators.
Heschel wrote an important book titled “The Prophets,” and it was from his study of the biblical prophets that he became 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 blacks in the United States.
Heschel marched with King in Selma, Alabama, in 1965 and declared: “When I marched in Selma, my feet were praying.” 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, especially for immigrant women. Most immigrant women worked in “sweatshops,” hot, overcrowded rooms filled with sewing machines that they worked at for 12 to 14 hours a day.
Schneiderman believed that women could improve their working conditions if they worked together. She co-founded the first union of female workers, and became the first woman in a leadership position.
Although she was only 4½ feet tall, Rose Schneiderman was powerful. 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.”
Finish these statements:
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel fulfilled the mitzvah of tikkun olam by:
Rose Schneiderman fulfilled the mitzvah of tikkun olam by:
I can fulfill this mitzvah by:
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, that will 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 about people who have tried to “fix the world.”
•Family Brainstorm: Pick a problem in your school, community or even the world, and discuss possible solutions to the problem. Remember brainstorming means that every idea should be put out on the table — even a three-year-old might have a great solution. Examine all possible solutions, then decide what your family can do to help.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services learning at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

Leave a Reply