Gali the sheep here-- just back from our big Tikkun Olam outing! Tikkun Olam, the Jewish teaching of repairing the world, is an essential part of our summer tochnit (program) here at Galil. For all of the fun & experiential learning we do over the summer, it matters to us to not just talk the talk, but to walk it too.
Today I had the privilege of joining our Bonimot and Bogrimot (post 8th-9th graders) for an incredibly meaningful and complex experience of both learning and giving back.
We started the day in Philadelphia's Fairmount neighborhood at the Eastern State Penitentiary. After closing its doors in the 1970's, the former prison became a museum dedicated to telling its own story as well as that of the injustices in America's incarceration system today. Our chanichimot (campers) followed the walking tour, soaking up the stories told on the cell block walls.
At the end of our tour we gathered in Eastern State's old synagogue to unpack our experience together. Each chanichol shared a one word reflection with the group about what they read and saw on the tour. They then had the ability to expand upon those thoughts and discuss with the larger group. The groups spoke about the contrast between the goals of prison rehabilitation, and the realities of how incarcerated people are treated. They spoke about racial disparities in today's prison population. And when told about local legislative action reforming the criminal justice system, they listened with open ears.
Our only regret about our time at Eastern State is that we didn't have enough of it. It broke the hearts of the tzevet chaperoning the tour to have to hurry everyone away from reading a plaque or taking in an old photograph-- we spend so much time aiming to prompt the curiosity of our community to learn and act. Perhaps we will return to Eastern State sometime this school year for a deeper dive.
And just like that we were back on the busses headed to meet up with the rest of machaneh (camp) at the Jewish Relief Agency (JRA). The JRA is a local agency that helps address food insecurity amongst some of Philadelphia's most vulnerable populations. Together we delivered 165 boxes of food to Philadelphia families that had been packaged earlier in the day by other groups of volunteers. It's so great to know that we were part of the fabric of care that provided essential support to families in need!
Now back at Machaneh, we look forward to a delicious chili dinner and a tochnit erev (evening program) Wish Night! In the start of second session, our madrichimot (counselors) collected wishes from every chanichol. Over the course of the night, each wish will be granted in a very fun, creative, and always silly way! This is a favorite activity for chanichimot and madrichimot alike! We can't wait to see what happens!
Gali the Sheep
Ps. What do sheep do for tikkun olam? They work hard to give baaaaaaaaack. They donate their wool. They repair the woooooooooold. They worry that with rising sea levels, there will be no more dry lamb.