Brandeis at 75

75,000 Acts and Counting: Through Service Initiative, Alumni Work to ‘Repair the World’

By David Eisenberg
March 6, 2024

Group of people posing and smiling in a warehouse
Brandeisians and their families spent a day sorting, stocking, and organizing at The Ark food pantry. The Ark relies on the community to assist in collecting, donating, and organizing the pantry to help offset the cost of maintaining an all-Kosher pantry.

This past November, a dozen Brandeisians came together to support The Ark, a Chicago-area nonprofit dedicated to helping local Jews facing adversity.

Volunteers helped sort, stock, and organize The Ark’s pantry of food, household, and personal care items. They also brought goods, including kosher cereals, diapers, and other essentials. In all, alumni volunteers and their children sorted more than 1,000 pounds of goods. 

“We chose The Ark because they could accommodate volunteers of all ages,” says Arla Medvin Silverstein ’88, who co-organized the event. “We wanted this to be a family service project, where alumni could bring their kids."

More than a standalone event, this work was part of Brandeis’ Global Service Initiative, which calls for Brandeisians to perform a combined 75,000 acts of community service in honor of the university’s 75th anniversary. 

Through the initiative, alumni have been supporting all kinds of causes, including national park restoration efforts, volunteering at pet shelters, and leading beach cleanups. 

Now, with a few months still left in the 75th anniversary year, alumni have already met that 75,000-act goal. In fact, as of February, Brandeisians all across the country have committed more than 103,000 acts of community service.

Broken down further, that adds up to: 

The work at The Ark, however, also illustrates how for many Brandeisians, the initiative provided a good opportunity to give back specifically to Jewish organizations, communities, and causes.

For example, Leah Berkowitz ’03 and Rachel Loonin Steinerman ’94, P’26 organized alumni in Philadelphia to do volunteer work at The Jewish Relief Agency, which fights food insecurity, while 5,000 miles away, Mimi Lind ’88 organized support of the Jewish Community Services of Hawaii.

Medvin Silverstein adds community service is itself a Jewish value, so it’s no surprise that a lot of the volunteerism conducted in support of the service initiative has touched Jewish organizations and communities. 

“I strongly believe in Tikkun Olam – the Hebrew notion of repairing the world – and the importance of giving back,” she adds. “We hope to make this work at The Ark an annual event for the Chicago alumni association.”

Get Involved!  Brandeisians are still welcome and encouraged to pledge and log any act of community service and help the community exceed the 75,000-act figure by an even wider margin. The challenge formally ends when the 75th year concludes in June.