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Mitzvah Corps Classes

A eighth grade "Mitzvah Corps" curriculum includes weekly classes focusing on social issues, tikkun olam, and weekly volunteer placement in community service agencies.

Temple Anshe Sholom
215 Cline Avenue N.
Hamilton, ON CANADA L8S 4A1

Target Groups: Youth Mitzvah Projects/Bar and Bat Mitzvah Projects, Middle School

The Grade 8 Mitzvah Corps program has been in operation consistently for 4 years at Temple Anshe Sholom. The goals of this program are: to increase students' awareness of social problems and social justice issues in the local community, to help them understand and act upon their Jewish responsibility to take action for the welfare of others, to give students first-hand experience serving others on a face-to-face basis, and to build relationships with local Jewish and non-Jewish social service agencies.

Students attend weekly classes from September to December, are placed in volunteer positions weekly from January through March, and then in weekly classes again from April through June. During these latter classes, students create and present projects related to their experiences while on placement. Topics addressed in classes include: b'zelem elohim (in the image of God), Shelter and Homelessness, Love and Respect vs. Hatred and Racism, Protected Environment vs. Despoliation of the Earth, Good Health vs. Sickness and Aging/Us and our Elders, Food and Hunger, Peace and Conflict, Tzedekah, Community Responsibility (includes "al ta-amod"--do not stand idly by while your neighbour's blood is shed). Placements have included nursing homes, a soup kitchen, an agency supporting developmentally handicapped teens, an agency supporting families of children with cancer, an after-school homework club for inner-city children, and campaigning for the Million Quarter Project. The teacher maintains phone and email contact with the students and the agencies throughout the placement period, and does at least two site visits for each student.

The estimated budget for this is minimal: it includes covering the cost of the teacher's salary, and written materials. It is an ongoing program and has been enthusiastically embraced by our congregation and community. It was initiated by the Educator and Rabbi in response to a longstanding observation that an unacceptably high percentage of the religious school students dropped out of religious school after Bar/Bat Mitzvah. This program has been successful in dramatically stemming the drop-out rate. Each year since its inception, an evaluation form has been sent out to students at the end of the year, asking for their evaluation and their suggestions for improving the program. In addition, the teacher places a follow-up phone call to each agency to complete a verbal evaluation of the program and collect suggestions for improvement.