Jewish Family Services, Camp Shalom & PJ Library teach Tikkun Olam

“The time is always right to do what is right,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In our world, we often hear people speak about “waiting until the time is right.” Whether they are referring to relocating or purchasing a new vehicle, or something as simple as planting a garden, waiting on time seems to be a common thing. Sometimes waiting is necessary. After all, if we planted a vegetable garden in the dead of winter, the results would be dismal. However it is always the right time to be an ambassador for social justice and do what is right.

On Martin Luther King Day, some of us marched in memory of the great civil rights leader. Some attended vigils to remember the sacrifices he and other civil rights movement heroes made. Some participated in a day of service to strengthen our community. Jewish Family Services decided to pass on some of the wonderful teachings of Dr. King by partnering with PJ Library and Winter Camp Shalom for a special program with the camp children.

The program started with an overview of Dr. King, and the meaning of Martin Luther King Day. Afterwards Rachel Gilbert, our PJ Library Coordinator, read the empowering PJ Library story Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Melissa Sweet. This true story is about a young Ukrainian immigrant, Clara, who worked in a shirtwaist factory and fought against and inspired others to fight against the deplorable and dangerous working conditions. This was the perfect story to ignite a conversation about being an everyday hero and to do what is right even when it is not easy.

Following the reading, I facilitated a conversation focusing on the story’s heroine Clara, tikkun olam (repairing the world) and social justice. The campers did an incredible job capturing Clara’s personality. They described her as prepared, considerate, brave, helpful, resilient, and a leader. Together, we linked Clara’s traits to the definition of a hero – a person of courage or ability, admired for brave deeds and noble qualities. From there, the campers were asked to list injustices in the world and what can we do to make things better.

At the end of our program, the campers created their own social justice league and transformed themselves into superheroes. Each camper created a superhero in their own likeness (with special powers, of course). The campers stood up for fairness, better health care and respect. They stood against bullying, pollution, animal abuse, and hunger.

It was rewarding to speak of the amazing advances in our world thanks to Dr. King’s bravery and determination, and convey it in a way that the campers could understand. We at Jewish Family Services look forward to more programs with PJ Library and Camp Shalom.

If you would like more information about JFS youth initiatives and resources, please contact Tara Feiner, JFS Director at (937) 401-1546 or tfeiner@jfgd.net.

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