Michelle Kleinert, a Wexner Heritage alumna from Los Angeles,. 

“We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service relationship to humanity.”
–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King’s quote could have been written with Hollywood in mind.  Even with the best of intentions we get caught up in our own insular world.  This past fall, The William Morris Agency shut down for a day to put material profit aside and give every employee the chance to help him or herself by helping others.
Nearly 1000 strong, in 6 cities around the world, William Morris employees joined forces with 26 non-profit organizations for a day of tikkun olam, “Roll Up Your Sleeves Day.”

Employees had the choice of how they wanted to volunteer for the day.  Options involved helping deserving individuals, families and communities by engaging in activities that were diverse, impactful and in many cases, emotional.

Some examples: the 12 agents that went “Surfing with Soldiers,” an organization that combines the beauty and power of the ocean with the exhilaration of surfing to give physically and emotionally-scarred veterans a unique healing experience.

The 82 employees who worked side-by-side with deserving families to build houses with Habitat for Humanity in Pacoima and East LA.

The group of 18 that spent the day brainstorming with AIDS Research Alliance to create an effective Public Service Announcement to increase awareness of the ongoing AIDS epidemic.

The 56 who worked side by side with LA Mayor Antonio Villaragosa to help restore native vegetation in a local parkland with the Tree People and Million Trees LA organizations.

The London office staff who cooked and cleaned and painted at Centrepoint. In New York, they mentored grade school kids at the Bronx Charter School for the Arts. In Nashville, they restored and beautified a dilapidated playground. In Miami, they refurbished a school theatre.

The list goes on: building a gazebo for underprivileged children, painting a mural in a gang ravaged neighborhood, packing food at the Los Angeles Food Bank and playing sports with abused, neglected, and emotionally-disturbed kids at Vista Del Mar.  The impact of this day far exceeded the expectations of both the organizations with which we  partnered and our employees. As WMA  continues to incorporate social responsibility as part of its daily core work ethic, “Roll Up Your Sleeves Day”  will continue to be an annual event.

In this week’s Torah portion, G-d reveals himself to Moses and tells him to go to Pharaoh to ask him to free the Israelites; to “Let my people go!”   Pharaoh’s complete lack of empathy for his own people as well as the Jewish people leads to the ever worsening plagues inflicted upon Egypt.

This theme of compassion is one of the main lessons of Vaera and one of the basic tenets of Judaism.  It was also the idea behind our day of tikkun olam.   Being able to do our part, to help the sick, the downtrodden, the under-served, the less fortunate, was both a mitzvah and a privilege. 

Vaera means “And I appeared.”  And so we did.