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Hillel, City Year Join Forces for Community Service

by Danielle Berrin

January 6, 2010 | 12:58 am

Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life has formally partnered with City Year, the national service corps organization, to promote civic engagement among young Jewish adults. The move, which affects Jewish students from more than 25 college campuses, represents a rare large-scale partnership between a Jewish and secular organization.

Hillel will work with City Year to place 200 students in community service positions in at-risk communities throughout Miami, Los Angeles and New York for one week. Every year, City Year places nearly 2,000 adults, ages 17 to 24, in full-time service positions in at-risk public schools where they serve as mentors, tutors and role models.

The partnership program is modeled after Hillel’s Alternative Break experience, which provides students with organized service options during their winter and spring vacations. The first “Urban” Alternative Break launched in Los Angeles on Jan. 3, combining 25 hours of hands-on service, a 10-hour education component and culminating with a Shabbat experience.

The partnership program is designed to expose young Jews to service opportunities in major cities with hopes that they will re-engage in their own communities. But all too often, these short breaks do not amount to prolonged service involvement — a fact well known by Hillel professionals, who say they will provide follow-up programming and counsel to improve the odds of long-term commitment. This will include a “Bringing it Back to Campus” workshop.

In a press release, Hillel President Wayne L. Firestone spoke to the virtue of performing social justice work in all communities and not exclusively Jewish ones: “This exciting partnership advances our efforts toward helping students find a balance in being distinctively Jewish and universally human through the pursuit of tzedek, social justice,” Firestone said.

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