Our Stories

Tikkun Olam: JPDS-NC in the Community

April 7, 2016 by Hannah Seidel (Faculty and Staff)

One of the core values that informs and inspires life at JPDS-NC is Tikkun Olam (Transforming the World). This year, members of our school community have cooked, cleaned, painted, danced, served, gleaned, organized, and supported a variety of causes. We are inspired by seeing our students embrace this value so wholeheartedly, and by the parents, alumni, faculty, and staff who have participated in volunteer efforts in the Washington, D.C. area and beyond.

JPDS-NC is currently participating in a Food Drive to support the Capital Area Food Bank, which distributes food donations to scores of local organizations serving needy individuals and families, including the Capital Kosher Pantry, the only kosher food pantry in the Greater Washington area. We are collecting unopened and nonperishable food items through April 20. You can drop of donations at the collection boxes in the lobby of each campus. This is a great way to clean out your pantry before Passover and help others at the same time!

On March 27, thirteen students from Pre-K to 6th grade and their parents volunteered through the Primary Parents Random Acts of Kindness (RAOK) Committee at A Wider Circle, a local anti-poverty group that redistributes goods to people in need, and also helps people furnish homes and search and prepare for jobs. The volunteers spent most of their time sorting toys and organizing kitchen items. The children got a sense of the difference that their volunteering can make, and learned more about the donation process including the work that it takes to make sure donated items will be useful and in good enough shape for another family to use.

In February, the RAOK Committee organized “Art from the Heart.” Partnering with Bikur Cholim of Greater Washington, students in Kindergarten to Grade 5 created vibrant works of art on the theme of “Birkat Habayit: Blessings of the Home.” The beautiful paintings were used to decorate spaces used by young patients and their families at Children’s National Medical Center and at Shady Grove Hospital. This creative and beautiful mitzvah project was also featured in an article in the Washington Jewish Week.

In January, the Moetzet HaTalmidim (Student Council) organized a school-wide collection drive to support U.S. troops. Everything from socks to toothpaste to batteries can help make a soldier’s time overseas a little easier. After coming up with the idea, the students publicized the drive to their classmates and families, collected donations, and sorted and inventoried the items before packing them to ship overseas through Operation Gratitude. The students are now working on organizing a similar drive to support troops in the Israeli Defense Force.

Also in January, the Chesed Committee hosted its second “Chesed Cooks!” event, now a recurring joint program with the Random Acts of Kindness Committee. Parents and children worked together to cook lasagna, chocolate chip cookies, and other comfort foods, filling our school freezer with emergency food for families who may be ill, sitting shiva, moving, or otherwise in need. The Chesed and RAOK Committees also partnered with the Design Lab, where kids used their creativity to design bright and beautiful labels, containers, and more. Read the article written by our student volunteer chefs about their experience performing this delicious mitzvah. And check out the photos from the first Chesed Cooks event in November!

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as a part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend of Service, the RAOK Committee organized more than twenty JPDS-NC students and their families to spend the day picking up litter and cleaning up an area of Rock Creek Park. Together with volunteers all over the city, our students and their families spent their day off hard at work to beautify the park and protect its flora and fauna from environmental damage.

On December 2, nearly 200 students, parents, grandparents, alumni, and staff gathered at the Rokdim B’Ahava (Dancing With Love) Dance-a-thon in support of Anne Frank House. The Gottesman Auditorium was filled with the joy and energy of the dancers – children and adults alike – who together raised more than $3000 to support homeless men and women in Washington, DC. Students, parents, alumni and staff volunteered to make the evening a success, from Sixth Grade students serving concessions, to the Mo’etzet Talmidim (Student Council) promoting the event, to students from all grades who submitted beautiful and heartfelt artwork for our T-shirt design competition, to parents, alumni and staff who shared their expertise and energy to benefit this cause. See our dance-a-thon photo album on Facebook to get a glimpse of the evening’s energy and excitement for yourself.

In the fall, the RAOK Committee coordinated the participation of JPDS-NC families in “Everything But the Turkey” at the DCJCC, a community-wide effort to prepare Thanksgiving meals for those in need. The RAOK Committee also invited parents and students to glean with Bread for the City, sorting and packing produce for their food pantry clients.

Earlier in the year, JPDS-NC families volunteered at the DC General Homeless Shelter, a former hospital that serves as Washington’s largest homeless shelter. JPDS-NC parents and children worked together to renovate play and learning spaces for the children, teens, and parents who live at the shelter. Our volunteers painted a new Parent Resource Room that will be used for parenting classes, meetings, and for distributing donated clothing and diapers. They also renovated a play space for elementary-aged children, and assembled furniture for a new teen and tween hangout and homework space. See photos of our volunteers in action.

We are so proud of our students and families who transform the world every day and make  Tikkun Olam not only a core value of our school, but a true hallmark of our community.

Head of School Naomi Reem joins in on the joyful dancing at the Dance-a-Thon.

Parents and children work together in the school kitchen to cook meals for JPDS-NC families as part of Chesed Cooks.

Students help paint a new play area for children at the DC General Homeless Shelter.

Students proudly display the artwork they created for Bikur Cholim of Greater Washington, which will go on display in spaces used by children and their families in local hospitals.

The Gottesman Auditorium is filled to the brim with students dancing to raise money for Anne Frank House.

The Moetzet Talmidim (Student Council) spearheaded a collection drive for U.S. troops overseas.