A normal day at Torah Academy of Milwaukee, located in Glendale, includes many acts of community service, or chessed, done for people in need. This can range from just simply smiling at someone who has had a hard day, to giving someone a hand with a heavy load. Our girls also volunteer a minimum of 30 hours per year tutoring, assisting in private homes, visiting the elderly, and helping the disabled, as well as many other community needs. Generally we try to keep these acts in the dark, out of respect for those we assist.
However, this year we have started a new program called the Chessed Initiative. It’s an annual day of service designed to give back to our community, and to the organizations with which our girls are affiliated. This year, our Chessed Initiative fell on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Several groups of TAM students traveled to five separate locations to perform jobs that needed to be done, or to visit the elderly and make their day a little bit brighter.
In each case, the students left the school building energized and returned with a feeling of fulfillment. Two groups organized and dusted at Anshe Sfard Kehillat Torah and Congregation Beth Jehudah. Another went to Ovation Jewish Home and Ovation Sarah Chudnow to participate in activities with the residents there. Yet another group helped out at the Mequon Jewish Preschool, assisting with children of varying ages.
TAM has received much positive feedback from these organizations. Congregation Beth Jehudah sent us an email thanking their lovely “dustbusters” and Anshe Sfard Kehillat Torah also expressed their gratitude for their volunteers. “They were bright, organized and upbeat and they delighted our shul volunteers who were there to guide them.”
This event was also very beneficial to our students, who enjoyed every moment of it. “Dustbuster” Yonina Skier, a junior at TAM, said, “It was really fun. Now I can walk into the shul on Shabbos, look at those clean chandeliers and think ‘I did that’.” A freshman, Devorah Baila Halpern also commented, “I thought it was really cool to have the opportunity to meet new people and make them happy.”
We have also started an in-school initiative as part of the overall program, to focus weekly on different areas in which we can improve our own relationships, spreading chessed to those nearest.
We look forward to continuing our Chessed Initiative next year and we hope it will be as successful and enjoyable as it was this year!
Nechama Fraidl Stein and Devorah Goldner are students at Torah Academy of Milwaukee.