Designed to inspire and unite Jewish teens in the Columbus area to engage in service learning, the Wexner Service Corps selects rising 10th and 11th grade students to participate in the Wexner Service Corps (WSC), beginning with a 5-day service trip, followed by year-round service in Columbus.  

I was lucky enough to travel again with the Wexner Service Corps to Philadelphia with a group of 40 other Jewish Columbus teens.  Eight of us were in the Senior Leadership Cohort  we had both participated in last year’s service trip and we also agreed to help the first year corps members on this summer’s trip.

The trip itself was extremely rewarding and eye opening.  I was surprised by the number of schools so close to the city that were in desperate need of help and how many low income neighborhoods were only blocks away from the traditionally wealthy ones.  These stark contrasts sparked a discussion about the moniker “City of Brotherly Love” and whether its ironic name holds any truth today.  After reading the story of Esau and Jacob, we commented on whether their “love” was similar to the bonds of love that the communities and citizens of Philadelphia have for each other.

Analyzing this theme continued throughout the week, especially in our work.  We helped repair a Jewish cemetery from the 1800’s and saw how the Jewish people of today are still supporting those of another era.  We worked at Broad Street Ministry, a food kitchen which also offers other resources, allowing its guests to see a doctor or register to vote.  This makes it easier for its citizens to find services, which is another form of brotherly love.  We also worked in low-income schools and helped organize clothes for a thrift shop.

The trip not only helped me understand poverty in Philadelphia, but also how Jewish values that we explored in the many texts we studied teach us to fix what we see wrong in the world.  These many skills will be utilized throughout the Columbus area in the upcoming year when the Wexner Service Corps works on similar service projects within our own city. 

Julia Cohn is a senior at Bexley High School, where she launched a new social justice club in which members spend each month focusing on a different social issue.