HUC-JIR Associate Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies, Sarah Bunin Benor, Ph.D., taught a service-learning course this semester in the USC Louchheim School called "Identity, Community, and Service: Jews and Other Americans." This course was developed through Dr. Benor's participation in the Jewish Studies Service Learning working group, funded by Repair the World. "Community Engagement Learning" is an emerging trend in Higher Education.
The students completed about 27 hours each of community service at the following non-profit organizations: Chai Lifeline: tutoring and helping with art therapy for siblings of chronically ill children, Chabad of USC: coordinating student visits to local nursing homes, Chabad of USC: coordinating a large campus-wide Chanukah celebration with Hillel (and other campus organizations), American Jewish World Service: connecting with alumni of service learning trips to plan for the future, and mapping organizational relationships, and the USC Shoah Foundation: helping with the iWitness system and writing a curriculum to use video-taped Holocaust testimony in a Jewish day school.
The students used their experiences working at these organizations as the basis for classroom discussions about the tensions in Jewish life between universalism and particularism. Special attention was paid to the ways Jewish organizations in Los Angeles address the challenge of serving Jews and tackling issues of inequality and injustice within the broader society. Most of the students reported they found the experience of volunteering personally meaningful and supervisors at the organizations were grateful for the additional person-hours.
Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's first institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu