Helen Diller: It’s never too late, too early or too often to demonstrate the spirit of tikkun olam.
Barbara Rosenberg: First of all, the focus of tikkun olam is very direct and very specific, and it becomes a watchword by which these young people will hopefully continue to lead their lives.
Rabbi Leah Kroll: Tikkun olam means to repair the world. Every Jew has a responsibility to do his or her share, to bring some healing, some measure of healing to the world.
Barbara Rosenberg: The projects themselves were amazing and what intrigued me was the clarity of purpose.
Allison Hoffman: My name is Allison Hoffman and my project is YADA, which is the Youth Alliance for Darfur Action.
Amanda Haworth: Hi, my name’s Amanda Haworth, and I created a program at La Jolla High School to take a trip to the Museum of Tolerance for kids to learn about the Holocaust and to be more tolerant towards each other.
Erich Sorger: Hi, I’m Erich Sorger. I founded Dollars for Dwaynes, which is a program that takes reusable items and donates those thousands of dollars worth of reusable items to the National Council for Jewish Women Los Angeles Thrift Shops.
Shira Shane: My name is Shira Shane, and I am founder of TAG Teens Against Genocide. And TAG is a group of teens who are working to bring the end to the genocide in Darfur, Sudan.
Justin Sachs: My name is Justin Sachs, I’m the president of the Tikkun Project at Temple Shalom in San Diego, and I’m the founder and chairman of the Peak Performance Lifestyles Foundation, which is a non-profit organization that is developed youth, youth leadership programs, as well as community service projects across the country and across the world.
Helen Diller: The five Jewish teens cared, considered and thought, and what they did made a difference.
Amanda Haworth: When I was in ninth grade, I heard a lot of Jew jokes and a lot of people using the word Jew as an insult.
Justin Sachs: There was a group of about 10 to 12 kids that went to school with me; they were about three years older than me and were known by the community to be, to be Nazis.
Amanda Haworth: Well, some kids in my school, um, had heard of the Holocaust, but they didn’t know what it was. So, I figured the Holocaust Museum could teach them what the Holocaust was and also train them to be tolerant towards each other.
Going to the museum is probably one of the most amazing experiences. You just really get to see a lot of the different things that happen that you can’t really learn in a classroom. You’ll walk into this cement room, and it’ll close the doors, and you won’t really know what it is until you, they tell you to look up, and you’ll notice that it’s like a replica of a gas chamber. It’s almost kind of scary that you didn’t even know what you were really walking into until you’re already inside, and you can’t even get out.
Justin Sachs: Because it was very clear to me that their reason for approaching me the way that they did for saying the things that they did to me and threatening me the way that they did was because I was Jewish. And for me, I used that experience to really come from a place of wanting to make change.
Erich Sorger: Think about all the people that are going to Africa and going to these different places, trying to help people, trying to help, just people in need, but there’s people in our own backyard that need help.
Justin Sachs: And we decided that for the first, at least six months, we were just gonna do one project a month, but make sure that that project was out of this world. You know, many times there’s a lot of discrimination against the homeless population, against the people who are hungry. So taking an active step in helping them and worked to develop the thousand Sandwich-athon. And it’s just a process of about two to three hours making a thousand sandwiches.
Erich Sorger: I was driving to my cousin in Westwood, and I saw a huge couch, and essentially it’s even more visible in a college town cuz everyone’s moving out at the end of the year, I said, pull over. Pulled over to the side of the road and we took the couch, and we put it in the back of the van, and we took two chairs, and we put it in the back of our minivan, and we drove down to the NCJW, and I made my first donation. I didn’t have to donate it once every month, I could donate it daily, I could donate it weekly, and now I’ve been donating for four years. I think that I’ve gotten much more out of it than I would’ve of doing something else, and I’ve gotten a much more sense of appreciation and Jewish life.
Justin Sachs: And then the, the second event that everyone seems to love, we get about 40 kids together, and we all go down to Mexico to build homes for the homeless. It’s a three-day process of laying the initial concrete slab and building the walls. And then once we’ve laid the concrete, it has to sit overnight. So the next day, um, we go in, take the walls, put up the walls, and do the best we can to really get everything set up. It’s about, it’s a two to three bedroom house that we actually build for these people.
Shira Shane: The Jewish people are supposed to be a holy nation, and holy in Hebrew means kadosh. And the opposite of kadosh is chol, and which literally means sand, which is like divided. And because the Jewish people are the opposite of that, they’re united, and they’re holy. And that means that we need to be united like with the whole world.
Allison Hoffman: And I just wanted to get a lot of high school students involved because I knew that, you know, at my school we had a program, a stand program, which is like a national movement for the Darfur awareness. And we all got together and decided that we’re gonna do something, and we needed an event to kind of bring people in. And so we decided to have this concert. We’ve raised over $6,000, just had local bands play at Kiki’s Candy Shop.
We’ve also done a vigil. And the primary goal that wasn’t really to raise money, but to raise awareness. So we took whiteboards, and people would write like, my name is Allison Hoffman, and I believe in peace because in the end it’s these other people are being murdered. And I think that for someone just to know and just to sit there and to watch it happen is I think that’s almost impossible.
Shira Shane: Whenever I meet someone who doesn’t know about like the Holocaust, I get so offended and so insulted, and I think about that person. I’m just, what kind of education do you have to not know what happened to my people? And then I thought, well, what if I met like someone from Sudan and they looked at me, and they’re just like, you don’t know about my genocide. What kind of education do you have? And how hypocritical?
I started this like little campaign at my school. Um, it was supposed to be just like Sudan Wake. And so we went, and we educated, middle schools, local middle schools around Jewish middle schools. I started getting all these phone calls from other high schools who people were interested in doing Sudan campaigns.
And so I started getting this idea, well, we should probably all do something together then, because what’s the point of each high school separately doing something? So I started TAG, which is Teens Against Genocide, and we decided to hold a rally in front of the federal building. I think that people can see how easy it is to get involved and how easy it is to find, to find things that you’re passionate about because that’s what’s really really important.
Rabbi Leah Kroll: When I look at the five of them as a whole, I think of the greatest leader of the Jewish people, Moshe Rabbeinu, Moses, and coming upon this bush that burned and burned and burned, but was never consumed. But Moses was the first one who stopped and looked. What intrigued me about the five of them is they took something that could have been very ordinary, and they stopped, and they looked at it in a brand new way. And what that brought out was an incredible sense of leadership.
Justin Sachs: A lot of people in today’s world have said that the youth today are really the leaders of tomorrow. And I think that in a lot of ways, the truth is that the youth of today are the leaders of today and of tomorrow.
Allison Hoffman: Well, I think it’s really important that teenagers take action in tikkun olam because we’re the next generation, and in the end, I feel like teenagers just have so much more life and energy, and they just haven’t been brought down by all the terrible things in life yet that they’re just so optimistic and ready to go out there and take action.
Erich Sorger: If everybody did one thing, one thing to help their community. It doesn’t have to be a dozen things, just everyone spent 10 minutes in their day and said these 10 minutes every day are going to be devoted to helping the community. I think the entire world would be a much better place.