By Camille Chrysostom, for the Mitzpeh, @Mitzpeh

AB photo
Hillel Alternative Break participants at Mary Kate Winter’s home in Green- wood, Mississippi. The volunteers placed children’s artwork on a street corner to raise awareness of runaway and homeless youth issues. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Schneider.

Maryland Hillel’s Alternative Break (AB) program concluded its welcome back to school week by holding a day of service for AB students March 29.

The Alternative Break program at this university offers students a chance to spend their winter and spring breaks doing community service around the world. Students choose to join the program for a variety of reasons, but with Hillel, many Jewish students take their commitments to service a step further.

“The purpose of the service day was to continue volunteering here locally,” said Gabriel Metzger, one of the student leaders of Hillel’s AB program in Mississippi. Eleven students who attended an AB trip over spring break continued their service by volunteering  at A Wider Circle, an organization that provides goods and services to people in poverty.

The students organized necessary items such as houseware, clothes and furniture to be given to families in need.

Metzger, a sophomore enrolled in letters and sciences, said the service day encouraged students to keep their inspiration to volunteer alive even though the trips were over.

For many Jewish students, community service is about more than the act of volunteering. Amy Weiss, the Repair the World director of service learning initiatives at Hillel, said the AB program offers students the chance to look at service through the lens of Jewish identity.

“Hillel’s AB program allows students to pursue justice, learn about issues, and make a change all around the world,”  Weiss said. “In Jewish culture, we have a specific word for charity and justice.”

Hillel’s AB program is about more than service and is also a commitment to Jewish heritage and history, Weiss said.

Hillel began its welcome back weekend with a Global Justice Shabbat on Friday. The event set the tone for a weekend focused on promoting justice throughout the world.

“This was just a taste,” said Weiss of the welcome back weekend and Sunday’s service day. “The job of our program is to help take [students] to the next step.”

Through Hillel’s Alternative Break program students can continue explore opportunities to assist the global community even after their breaks are over.

Weiss said the real challenge begins once the students return.

“We’re really intentional in helping all participants take the next right step,” Weiss said.


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