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You repair yourself when you repair the world

This phrase has guided most of my life.

The familiar concept of Tikkun Olam; to most of us, it means making sure we pick up trash and donate our extra change to a worthy cause. Sometimes we go further, maybe collecting clothes or animal supplies for our Bar or Bat Mitzvah project.

My synagogue, Temple Beth Am in Parsippany, NJ, always made sure that giving of myself was part of my Jewish experience through Mitzvah days or social action projects.

When I joined NFTY as a freshman in high school, I was opened to a world of programming that asked me to think about topics like homelessness, gender identity and war.

As a sophomore in high school, I spent my summer at Urban Mitzvah Corps in New Brunswick, NJ. I spent the summer working as a camp counselor for underprivileged inner city children and then as a counselor for mentally and physically disabled adults.

As an adult, I joined Teach for America, figuring I might be able to do some good and repair myself — a confused post grad — by helping to repair a broken education system.

TFA brought me to a small town in rural Northeast Louisiana and I fell in love with a career I never thought I would have. I also fell in love with showing my 8-year-old students how giving of yourself can bring more joy than taking ever will.

After my third year of teaching and living in town of less than 500 people, I was feeling isolated from my Jewish community.

I did a Google search.

“Jewish summer opportunities in the South.”

And wouldn’t you know? Camp Jacobs. Only 1.5 hours from my house.

I applied and spent last summer as the Maskilim Unit Head. And I fell in love all over again, this time with this beautiful place and community. There was certainly not a day that passed that I didn’t genuinely laugh, love and feel challenged by the beauty that is a Maskilimer being their truest, most authentic selves.

This summer, I will be helping lead a Social Justice program at Jacobs.

The world we live in isn’t always so simple. The world is full of scary and awful things. Our children are constantly bombarded by the injustice and terror in the world. They hear it on the news and from their friends. They experience it too — bullying is ever present in their lives.

So, Jacobs is the place to escape it, right?

It could be — but it could also be the place they find a spark within themselves to reach out and build connections to make the world a better place. Jacobs can be the place where they discover a passion inside themselves to build the world they want to live in.

We will be doing a few new things at Jacobs this summer — from Social Action based trips and volunteer opportunities, a fully committed recycling program and Chugim and Peulot based in social action projects and social justice ideas. We hope to foster those tough conversations about grapple with the big questions. We hope Jacobs can be the place for those future changemakers.

Taylor Pettit

Social Justice Director