A Good Start to Giving Back
Tikkun olam (repairing the world) is an age-old Jewish value that teaches responsibility for the world around us. Our students learn this principle and live it during their years at PJA by participating in such activities as:
- Planting native trees in a local park
- Reclaiming a nearby wetland from neglect and litter
- Becoming more green and energy efficient as a school and community
- Packaging foods to feed indigent Oregonians
- Raising funds for destitute Jews in the Former Soviet Union
- Sending care packages to Israeli soldiers
Each class at PJA is involved in tikkun olam (repairing the world) through projects throughout the year. In 8th grade, however, it is put into action through each student's Capstone project. The 8th grade Capstone Project
is a multifaceted, interdisciplinary project which addresses our PJA middot (values)
and tikkun olam
, integrates the curriculum of the Jewish Studies program, and addresses the fundamental skills of the research process and academic writing as taught by the Humanities department.Service learning and social action is a big piece of the Capstone project. This speech was given at Graduation this June 13th, 2013 by our 6th grade Humanities Teacher and PJA Social Action committe director, Elana Cohn-Rozansky and highlights the students work and PJA's committment to Community Service.
Tonight I am honored to share with all of you a little bit about these graduates’ Capstone experiences, particularly the service projects they envisioned, organized, and implemented during their 8th grade year.
In architecture, a capstone is an integral part of a building. The term fits so well with the Capstone experience here at PJA because Capstone represents the coming together of so many pieces, building blocks if you will, of a PJA education. From their earliest days at this school, our students have spent time learning about Kavod, respect, and Hesed, acts of kindness. They have explored the concepts of tzedakah, justice, and tikkun olam, repairing the world. They have looked to our heritage and to our community to find those people who have made a difference. It is on the shoulders of these individuals, individuals like Noam Stampfer, that each of these graduates stands. They have seized opportunities to not just learn but to act on behalf of others.
So in September when these then-8th-graders came to school, they had all the pieces in place for the next stage of their learning. This involved identifying their passions and talents, connecting these interests with needs they saw within the community, and then finding the agencies that are working to fill these needs. They also learned about the three categories of service: direct service, indirect service, and advocacy.
Among this group, there were those students who served people directly; they touched the lives of the ill, the disabled, the hungry, and the homeless in our community (Sophie, Caitlyn, Hannah G, Bettine). There were those who turned to their passions for animals and worked on their behalf (Vivian, Molly, Audria). There were those who focused on being mentors to young people in after-school programs (Eleanor, Zach, Hunter). And there were those who provided Indirect Service by using their talents to support, either financially or through the gift of time, the agencies they admired (Moriah, Rachael, Gabi). There were those who motivated others to give and ran successful donation drives (Michael, Hannah M, Jonah). And while all of these graduates educated others about their projects, one chose to become an Advocate for healthy living (Estee).
These students embody what we teach here at PJA. Through their projects, and their research papers, and their Drashot, they have demonstrated their commitment to learn for themselves and work for the world.
Tonight I am excited to announce that through the wonderful generosity of the Noam Stampfer family, a special fund has been established that will help both future and former Capstone students (that would be you) better the world by providing seed money to make a service project a reality. So, graduates, when the moment comes in high school when you see a need you cannot ignore and you realize a grant would make the difference between the project happening or not, come back to us at PJA. We want to hear from you, we want to be inspired by you, and we want to help you continue your good work in our community and beyond. That is what the Noam Stampfer Gimulut Hasidim fund will be for.
So, I have to be honest. The Capstone term does fall a little bit short. In architecture, a capstone is not only an integral part of a building but it is also the final piece to be placed. Your commitment to learn and to act will never end. So as one of our graduates so beautifully put it: Capstone is forever!
Mazal Tov, graduates and Kol HaKavod!
Students at Portland Jewish Academy collected a donation of 654 pounds of food to help fight hunger in our community through the Oregon Food Bank, a collective, community-minded task that made us feel PJA PROUD.
And our 8th Grade students collected art supplies and stuffed animals to give to the children at the Sheba Medical Center, helping to put some much needed smiles on faces.