College students all over the United States are on vacation, visiting friends and family and of course partying. What else is there to do?
Tikkun olam, of course.
When Yoni Steinberg, community development coordinator of the Hillel Jewish University Center, offered local college students and young professionals a choice of three alternative Spring Break trips, the response was enthusiastic.
Participants choose between a Jewish National Fund-sponsored trip to Israel, an American Jewish World Service sponsored trip to Guatemala or a Jewish farm school trip to California.
Racheli Schoenburg, 18, is participating in the Guatemala trip.
“I am really excited to get to learn about a different community and to help out there,” she said. “As a Jew, I feel an obligation to help people less fortunate than I. The trip offers a lot of opportunity for learning and discussion. I hope to expand my knowledge of Guatemalan culture and traditions.
“I have never been to Latin America before,” she continued. “I saw the trip advertised at Hillel and it seemed like a really great opportunity. I am always interested in community service and this just seemed like a great way to spend my spring break.”
Pam Eichenbaum, 22, saw the trip as an opportunity to do community development and service in an area where Israel needs such effort.
“As a community advocate in Oakland I work with the community development organization on efforts and initiatives to improve Oakland,” she said. “This is an opportunity for me to get involved in similar things in Israel. I want to continue my work in sustainable development, through city planning and the law and this is a great opportunity to explore these areas in more detail.”
“I want people in Pittsburgh to know that the opportunities available through this trip are also available here at home. Through community development corporations, neighborhood organizations, and other nonprofits American Jews can get involved in their own communities in the same way.”
Participants in the Israel trip spend their time working in communities in the Negev and a day in Jerusalem. The Guatemala travelers spend their time digging ditches for water lines, planting trees and crops and building schools and community centers. Those in California study cutting edge organic farming.
All three trips include daily Jewish studies.
(Dev Meyers can be reached at email@example.com.)