September 2018 – KoREH MOVING FORWARD

I was sitting in a small, 2-bedroom apartment in Wayland, MA while my host took a quick phone call. This was about 14 years ago, and I was a young community organizer doing 1-1 meetings and trying to train leaders in how to fight for the things that matter most to them. I was finishing up a conversation with a young woman who was active in one of my organization’s member churches, and I was trying to convince her to be a part of a leadership team that would help mobilize people to take action on a variety of issues.

As she came back and got her things together to go pick her daughter up from school, she paused and said, “Listen, it’s not that I don’t want to help, or that I don’t want things to get better. But who am I to demand them from anyone? Why would they listen to me?”

And I answered by relaying something one of my mentors had said to me thousands of time: “Being a leader is not always about being the most important or influential person in the world. Being a leader means having people who will follow you, who will dedicate themselves to a cause because they have a relationship with you.”

And she said, “I guess it would just be nice to be of service.” Two months later, she was leading a team of 200 people going to talk to the mayor of Boston about signing on and supporting what would later become Massachusetts’ landmark series of healthcare laws.

Working with her, I learned how powerful serving others can be. It can change a person’s perspective on life and give them ideas they would have never had otherwise. It can help them develop teamwork and leadership skills, as well as discover more about who they are and what they want to do in the world. And most of all, helping others nourishes our souls and helps us be the kind of people we would most like to be.

Because of that, and due to so much of your feedback, our Kol Rinah Engaged, Active Teen Education (KREATE) program will be largely devoted to service learning this year. We have been busy building relationships with a variety of non-profits, both within the St. Louis Jewish community and in the wider world, so that our 8th, 9th, and 10th grade students can have the life-changing experiences that acts of service can provide. More than this, we want our teens to be a part of something larger than themselves, where they can discover more about who they are while at the same time building memorable connections with their friends. And since many of our local schools and honor societies require service hours anyway, it seems like a natural fit for many of our teenage students.

If you are ending middle school or beginning high school, I want to invite you to join in with this exciting new learning cohort. I promise that you will make incredible, life-long bonds, learn an incredible amount about the world around you, and make a difference in our community. I hope to see you all there!