The events of the past week, highlighted by the inauguration of
President Obama, are of historic import. The symbolism and rhetoric of the week were
powerful statements of "responsibility and accountability." In this vein, the
new President, in word and deed, began to transform Martin Luther King Day into
a day of service. By doing so he reignited Americans' interest in public
service. Like the President and his family, many Americans celebrated the holiday this year by volunteering with various community service programs.
This issue of Constructs focuses on service learning,
particularly among young adult Jews. Contemporary
young adults are committed to issues of social justice and motivated to act on their beliefs through advocacy and volunteerism.
Leading Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish World Service and
the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, have pressed others to see
the potential of community service, both for addressing the most
pressing needs of the developing world and for engaging Jewish young adults. Our data about service learning programs can help decision makers better understand and develop such programs.
Below, we profile two reports that explore the interest of
young adult Jews in long-term volunteer opportunities and the link between
their Jewish identities and service. Although there is clear evidence of student
interest in Jewish long-term service options, even the most interested have important questions about the
goals, content, and structure of these experiences. Successful mobilization of
youth will require not only outreach, but also serious consideration of program
goals and organization.
As always, we welcome your comments and feedback.
Len Saxe, Director
Center for Modern Jewish