Acts of Loving-Kindness

The foundations of Jewish service learning

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Whenever you face desperation, pain, poverty, or isolation, whenever you open yourself up to contact with these difficult experiences and meet individual people with hesed, you will be challenged to consider some of the basic ideas of your personal theology. How can God allow this to happen? Why do I (the volunteer) have the privilege of living, blessed in the world? All of these issues and so many others can and should be discussed within a Jewish context, using Jewish and non-Jewish sources, including Rabbinic, historical and modern concepts.

In addition to being a prominent Jewish value, service is one important answer to the individual's search for meaning and desire for true relationships in life. The Jewish American community has done a decent job of making tzedakah a central Jewish value--now it is time to embrace hesed. In doing so, we have the opportunity to bridge service and learning and to set a standard for excellent service programs.

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Rabbi Sara Paasche-Orlow was ordained at JTS, where she was a Wexner Graduate Fellow. She served as the National Program Director of Spark: Partnership for Service, is the American founder of the Bavli-Yerushalmi Project, and worked as a Program Officer/Educator at the Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation. She is currently the Rabbi/Director of Religious Services at Hebrew SeniorLife, a multi-faceted organization serving seniors in the Boston area.