However, I’ve learned prayer is not restricted to a particular action. If anything, its implications are limitless. B’nai Jeshurun helped me learn to pray in a way that is meaningful and inspiring to me. There are opportunities everywhere, and B’nai Jeshurun promotes all different experiences. We pray when we teach, we pray when we learn, we pray in services, we pray through our actions (we pray with our feet!), and we pray when we help others.
I have taken three service-learning trips through the BJ teen program. I have traveled to New Orleans twice and to the Dominican Republic for the first time this past February. Through these experiences, I have found my voice in prayer. Though the trips may sometimes be brief, the impact is long-lasting and life-altering. Jewish service challenges mental as well as physical standards.
When I came home from the D.R., I was deeply moved and decided I wanted to pursue more Jewish service learning. I signed up for a volunteer summer program through American Jewish Society for Service (AJSS) that sent me with 15 other teens to Springfield, Ill., to do a multitude of community service. We worked with the Illinois State Community Garden, Salvation Army, United Way, United Cerebral Palsy, domestic-violence shelters, Boys and Girls Club, Habitat for Humanity, food pantries, homeless shelters, and church organizations. At the end of the summer, to show their appreciation, the mayor proclaimed a day in Springfield dedicated to AJSS. B’nai Jeshurun, AJSS, and Jewish learning have helped me in developing my own Jewish identity.
I have learned that there is much more to Judaism than the rigid definition of prayer. Judaism and service learning allow me to explore and define my own wide interpretation of the kind of Jew I want to be. The values and lessons instilled at B’nai Jeshurun reach far beyond the synagogue walls. This summer, they had the opportunity to reach the small town of Springfield. It is my hope that B’nai Jeshurun’s programs continue to have impact on those who choose to be influenced. I’ve learned about myself, what it means to be Jewish, the change I can be a part of, and a way to make prayer a meaningful action.