CHESED Social Action Program for Youth

Monthly social action activities for families with children grades K-3.

Community Contact Information:
Temple Adat Elohim
Thousand Oaks, CA


  • Cultivate a life-long love of social action from a young age
  • Expose young congregants and their families to varied areas of social action.
  • Serve as a springboard for volunteers to engage further in social action

CHESED introduces families with children to age-appropriate monthly social action activities such as serving meals at a shelter and visiting a senior’s center. The monthly events are run by volunteer parents and provide opportunities to integrate social action into the folds of family life.

Chesed was founded by a congregational family. While clergy often participate with their families, the program is completely lay-led. The volunteers have complete say in the annual schedule and events are led by a rotation of parents. Participants are therefore deeply invested in the program. Families are recruited through flyers and emails, which are sent to religious school parents. Events occur on a monthly basis, and enrolled families are able to participate according to their availability.

Project Implementation:
A typical "year" (8-9 months) looks like this:

September: Kickoff meeting
October: Sort food at the food pantry (underpriveleged)
November: Sing to the elderly at the local senior center (elderly)
December: Feed the homeless a meal at the congregation’s winter shelter (homelessness)
January: Planting trees with the Nat'l Park Service (environment/Tu B’Shevat)
February: Help fix up the California Wildlife Center animal hospital (animals, environment)
March: Fill backpacks to give away to lower income children (children)
April: Make "Giggle Bags" to give to children in local pediatric hospital wards (infirm)
June: Raise money and awareness for victims of genocide with the Jewish World Watch’s "Walk for Darfur" (genocide)

In addition to helping up to a dozen local agencies a year, we believe the greater impact is instilling a consistent, life-long commitment to social action. Some of the amazing results of this program include:
Volunteers created and continue to run a winter homeless shelter
Many families established relationships with local agencies and volunteer on an ongoing basis, not just through a one-time Chesed event
Several families converted the synagogue to a green entity (and we're not just talking changing lightbulbs … they oversaw our recent bathroom renovations and landscaping)
B’nai mitzvah students have been able to do their mitzvah projects with organizations and agencies that they have already built relationships with.
The congregation started a program for graduating Chesed children called "Rachamim." It is for youths ages 10-17 and so it has an "older" focus.

This program received a Fain Award in 2009.