Approximately 150 students from Golda Och Academy in West Orange fanned out to 11 different locations throughout the area for the ninth annual All High School Community Service Day, Jan. 14. From bagging items at food banks to working in schools for children with disabilities, the GOA students were immersed in activities benefiting the community.
“In continuing our mission of tikun olam (repairing the world), it’s integral to have these opportunities to go into the community and grow, learn, share, and interact with people in need, “ said Jordan Herskowitz, GOA’s director of student life.
In undertaking their service projects, said Adam Shapiro, associate head of school and upper school principal, “our students learn that tikun olam and derech eretz — the code of proper behavior that binds people together — are at the core of what we stand for as a school, and that each student can effect change.”
Community Service Day, he said, “serves as a springboard to our students doing more — volunteering after school and on the weekends — in an effort to better the world around them.”
In their hands-on service, the students interacted with children (Harambee Community Development Initiative in East Orange and Rise Academy Elementary School in Newark), worked with youth and adults with disabilities (Cerebral Palsy of New Jersey in Livingston, The Children’s Institute in Verona, Jespy House in South Orange), and worked at food pantries and homeless outreach centers (Bridges Outreach in Summit, Community Food Bank in Hillside, and Interfaith Food Pantry in Orange). Participants also visited with seniors at the Canterbury Village assisted living facility in West Orange.
Sophomore Emily Blum said that at the food bank “we had an assembly line of boxes and were packing the goods and sorting it. Everyone was working together and helping other people as a community.”
Ninth-grader Rachel Bonder said she was nervous at first but then was happy she had the opportunity to volunteer at the Cerebral Palsy School of NJ. In the classroom, she helped children clap along to a song. “Even though the kids couldn’t communicate, it was amazing to see how they did things and how helpful the volunteers who work there are,” said Bonder. “They were so nurturing and caring.”
Students Ben Soudry and Alex Rothschild, who volunteer weekly at CPNJ, chose to go there for Community Service Day to work on their ongoing project. In response to a request from the CPNJ volunteer coordinator and therapist, the two students, member of GOA’s robotics club, are designing and constructing a way for one of the CPNJ students to play Xbox using head movements on his wheelchair.
GOA junior Jordan Broder, who participated in his third CSD, said, “It is so important to give back to our community, and it feels good to give back with our friends, taking time out of our busy day.”
Volunteering, he added, “encourages many people to continue doing community service outside of the program because of the feeling it gives us.”