Jodi is an Atlanta 05 Wexner Heritage alumna.  She is an urban planner who works at Jamestown Development and Construction on new urbanist development projects. She connects her volunteers and values through direct service work in the community and by serving on the boards of Limmud Atlanta+SE and Repair the World.  Jodi can be reached at

I’d venture to say that for most participants in a Wexner program, engaging in community service is second nature. It’s also likely that we connect our commitment to community service to our Jewish values, as we have been taught,  that as Jews we have an obligation to repair the world through our actions, the concept of tikkun olam.  We are aware that our religion and heritage requires that we do

things that promote the welfare of society as a whole. 

I have often wondered, however, whether my own pre-teen and teenage children will see the same connection between the growing number of community service programs that they participate in, starting as early as pre-school, and the Jewish life and values they are exposed to at home, through synagogue and at summer camp.  Last year, Repair the World, an organization whose Board I am honored to serve, released a study called Volunteering+Values that was the first comprehensive look at behaviors and attitudes toward community service among young Jewish adults and offered insight into this very question.

The good news is that Jewish millennials are volunteering in significant numbers in both short and long-term programs and believe their service can make a difference in the world and in the lives of others. With the proliferation of programs on campus and in the workplace, however, comes the challenge that the connection to Jewish values is no longer assumed or appreciated.

So how do we make that connection? There is no one way, but Repair the World has identified some very promising strategies. Some successful programs go to where the millenials are already volunteering in numbers. At Teach for America (TFA), a program called Reality Israel Experience takes TFA volunteers who identified as Jews, or have an affinity to Judaism, on a 10 trip to Israel that focuses on leadership, education and service.  At the University of Washington, students can enroll in a class to learn about social justice in the Jewish tradition, and then be paired with a local organization for 20-40 hours of fieldwork. The goal is to design the course so that it can be replicated on other campuses.

Other ideas?  We need more high-quality, authentic Jewish service learning experiences that match or exceed that of secular organizations for Jewish young adults who want to have a significant service experience. Repair the World works with partner organizations, such as American Jewish World Service, that offer these experiences and works to elevate the field by setting the highest standard for such programs.

My favorite idea for connecting volunteering and values?  If we really want to make service learning a defining feature of North American Jewish life, I’d love to see a year of service learning as a rite of passage for North American Jewish young adults. As Jon Rosenberg, Repair the World’s CEO  says, the organization’s goal is that “every Jewish young adult will have a normative year of service — it will be considered normal, as a gap year, summer, post-college, or semester to take a deep dive into service as a kind of rite of passage.  Jews will meet and say, ‘Where did you do your service?’