Growing up, I always appreciated the Jewish concept of chesed, or loving-kindness, one of the principal ideas behind giving back and giving to others.
Over the years I have participated in a variety of “chesed” projects — volunteering at a food pantry, visiting residents at a nursing home, or volunteering at Friendship Circle. It has been relatively easy to find ways to give back through my Jewish community here in New Jersey. However, we must look beyond the borders of our local Jewish community to find ways to help.
With the help of NCSY and The Frisch School, where I am a junior, I was able to participate in a chesed mission to Charleston, S.C. The main focus was to help those who are less fortunate and learn about the Jewish history of Charleston. The main activity was to support Habitat for Humanity. We helped build houses for those who cannot afford a home. Even though we weren’t building the main structure of the house, it was really meaningful to know that the small things I did would provide a home for a needy family.
Coming from my comfortable life in New Jersey, I never imagined I would have the opportunity to actually build a house for someone. Participating in a small way left a big impact on me.
It was very interesting to learn about the Jewish history of Charleston and experience a Shabbat in the Jewish community. We toured one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries and synagogues. I learned that Jews came to Charleston in the late 1600s, mainly from Spain, and many of the Jews in the city fought in the American wars. Spending Shabbat in Charleston was really special. The Jewish community is small, but they have so many activities to grow the community and get everyone involved.
I was inspired to help in this community and hopefully I was able to demonstrate not just an act of chesed, but set a true example.