"If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
And if not now, when?"
--Hillel the Elder, the leader of the Jewish Supreme Court in the Land of Israel
in the early part of the first century;from Pirkei Avot (Chapters of the Fathers) 1:14
Jews have been concerned with the welfare of others for a very long time. The I.L. Peretz Secular Jewish Community is affiliated with the Workmen’s Circle (Der Arbeter Ring in Yiddish), an organization formed in 1900 by a group of progressive-minded Jewish immigrants dedicated to community building and social justice.
Our community has always emphasized a commitment to Tikkun Olam, Hebrew for “repair the world”: we learn to care for our fellow community members, support the greater communities in which we live, help preserve our environment, and pursue social and economic justice.
Concern for others is probably the main theme of the schooling that students receive at the I.L. Peretz Jewish Community School. In fact, many of the parents and adult community members dedicate their professional lives to helping others, and devote thought and action to help create a shenere un bessere velt, Yiddish for “a more beautiful and better world.”All of our ceremonies and celebrations—whether Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Chanukah, Purim, Yom HaShoah, Tu B’Shevator Passover—are interwoven with the themes of social and economic justice, environmental preservation, and an overall consciousness of how we should be thinking about these issues in our daily lives.
Community discussions at our ceremonies and celebrations revolve around these themes, and encourage thinking about how we can do our small part to help to make an impact.
The following precept sums up what we try to convey at our school, and the teaching is included in many of our holiday ceremonies:
"It is not your responsibility to complete the task of perfecting the world,
but neither are you free to refrain from doing your part."
--Interpretation of the words of Rabbi Tarfon of Yavne, from the early second century;
from Pirkei Avot (Chapters of the Fathers) 2:16
As such, there is a strong emphasis on mitzvah activities for the children and families. Sing-alongs at a senior center, cooking meals for families at Ronald McDonald House, volunteer work with our County Parks Department, decorating a spring banner with children at a family shelter, tzedakah collection for Unicef, food and coat drives, jeans drives for the homeless, pet supply drives and a tour of an animal shelter—are just a few of our community-service activities. In addition, speakers are brought in to discuss environmental and social justice issues, such as clean water and the European emigration crisis, and our role in addressing these issues. The graduating class is also required to perform at least one mitzvah/community service project over the course of the year.
Please see Social Action Announcements for a description of our upcoming community projects.