by Sara Sideman, JCC Camps at Medford Associate Director
I have always found MLK Day to be one of the most meaningful days of the year for volunteer work. As someone who has spent more than 10 years working with teenagers in JCCs, I have run many days of service and volunteer work. I have signed off on many hours of required school community service, and I have even had the honor of leading five mission trips to build homes in New Orleans over MLK weekend.
Every year that I lead a program on MLK Day for teens, I go back to the same article and quotes for introducing our program. It talks of the relationship between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel was a Polish-born American rabbi and one of the greatest Jewish theologians of the 20th century. In addition to his impact on Jewish ideology and education, Heschel was also an active member of the civil rights movement. In fact, there are amazing photos of Heschel and MLK Jr. walking arm in arm as they marched on Selma. Both men taught passionately about the need to fight for human rights, and their words speak to me every year.
Consider, for example, Heschel’s words: “The opposite of good is not evil, the opposite of good is indifference,” a conviction that he translated into a political commitment: “In a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.” King writes, “To accept passively an unjust system is to cooperate with that system.” Not to act communicates “to the oppressor that his (sic) actions are morally right.”
Each year, we bring together teens, on the premise of these words- we fight indifference with action and a sense of responsibility. This year, we were incredibly proud of the 125 teens who participated in our MLK Day of Service! This day was a partnership between the Katz JCC, JCC Camps At Medford, and South Jersey Region. We collected over 250 non-perishable food items, packed over 200 Weekend Snack Bags for children on subsidized lunch programs, made more than 30 fleece blankets, put together more than 350 utensil packets, and created 127 dried soup jars. The sense of accomplishment the teens felt after taking action to help others is what MLK Day is all about.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “We cannot walk alone” during his famous “I Have a Dream Speech”. With that in mind, we will continue to walk together with our JCC youth and plan for many more days of service.
To see photos from this year’s incredibly successful MLK Day ON of Service, see the gallery below and visit our JCC Camps at Medford facebook page.