I just returned home from spending a month as a participant in URJ Urban Mitzvah Corps, a social justice program. We lived in a sorority house on the College Avenue campus at Rutgers University. UMC has formed close relationships with local organizations in the New Brunswick community through volunteer work. All of the participants were able to choose two 2-week worksites in areas of focus such as engaging in food and economic justice, at-risk youth, and the elderly. Our evening programs were focused on strengthening the community and learning about core Jewish values, with both social and educational programs.
I started off the summer working at PlaySAFE, a fully subsidized camp in New Brunswick for underprivileged children. I worked at Buccleuch Park and played sports all day with the kids. At the camp, I volunteered as a counselor and was able to see firsthand the struggles in our community. It warmed my heart to put a smile on these kids’ faces and I enjoyed every minute with them. I played lots of games with them, made sure they were quiet when they needed to be, and mediated arguments between them. While playing sports, pushing them on the swing, or just talking with them, I was able to form connections that included them giving me nicknames, running through the sprinkler, and creating art together.
I then worked at Regency, a Jewish nursing home, for the second rotation. At Regency, I incorporated strategies from working with children with new strategies for the residents there. I formed new connections and bonds with the residents and was able to learn valuable life lessons throughout our time there. While working at Regency, I was able to put my life into perspective compared to the residents there. I obtained tons of work experience wheeling the residents around, talking to them, and playing games with them.
Overall, this was the most impactful and amazing summer of my life. I created lifelong friendships and bonds with the other participants and with the people I encountered at my two job sites. I learned valuable lessons of independence, responsibility, and work ethic while helping others and while having people there to support me when I needed it.
-Andrew Steiner, 11th grader
Past President of TEWTY (2018-2019) and Social Action Chair (2017-2018)
NFTY-GER Social Action Chair (2019-present)