Good Neighbors: Communal Involvement as a Requisite for Responsible Living

Good Neighbors: Communal Involvement as a Requisite for Responsible Living

When Midreshet Lindenbaum’s ‘Matat’ branch was founded in the Galilean city of Carmiel in 2016, it was with the expressed purpose of combining women’s Torah learning with volunteer involvement as integral components to each young woman’s journey of personal growth and Jewish development.

Matat students volunteeringYoung women studying at Matat volunteer locally twice a week, once as a group with their peers, and once in individual placements based on each one’s interests, skills and talents.

As a result, the school has developed a strong reputation throughout Carmiel for its community involvement and community agencies and local educational institutions often turn to Matat to assist people in need or to infuse Torah into their programs.  At the same time, the midrasha regularly reaches out to new organizations to deepen their community involvement and impact.

Today, COVID-19 restrictions have increased certain needs. Since beginning the school year several weeks ago, Matat has worked with the Carmiel social services department to distribute packaged items to people in need. In recent weeks, students also distributed food packages to Holocaust Survivors and activity kits to families who have children with special needs.  Each Matat student is also matched with a family in need of tutoring support for their children – families with limited financial means who are unable to pay for private tutoring, new immigrants, or others whose children are struggling.

Volunteerism as Integral to Personal Growth

Yeshivat Metivta, Matat’s “brother” school which was founded a year later, shares this same mission, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, the school continues to strive toward finding meaningful ways to contribute to the surrounding community of approximately 50,000 residents – 40% of whom are immigrants from 75 different countries.

After working to build relationships with neighborhoods in Carmiel and with the local Social Services department, Metivta has also become an important address for people seeking volunteers who can provide support to individuals and families in need. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a particular need for food delivery to families in isolation, people who have lost jobs and are in financial distress and elderly who have been reluctant to leave their homes and shop for themselves due to fear of getting sick.   The social services department knows they can count on Metivta to help deliver crucial items to people in their homes – filling the need to get food, medicines and other crucial supplies to those who need them, but just as important, showing community members that people care about them and providing human connection at a time when so many are isolated.

Metivta has also become an important address for infusing Torah into the community, whether through participating in programs in local schools, learning with local residents, or helping families infuse joy into their son’s bar mitzvah celebrations.

Recently, the parents of 13-year-old Omri approached the yeshiva to request assistance preparing their son, who has special needs, for his bar mitzvah.  First, Rabbi Tzvi Yitzchak Goldstein, a teacher at Metivta, enthusiastically agreed to work closely with Omri over the course of several months. And when COVID-19 restrictions prevented Omri’s relatives from coming to celebrate the special day with him, the Metivta students saved the day by joining in the service, singing and dancing, and making sure the day would be a joyful and memorable one for Omri and his family.

“Thank you for the learning, and even more so for the joy and the love of Torah that you modeled for my son Omri as he stood before the Torah and celebrated his bar mitzvah,” wrote Elisha, Omri’s father. “You made the day truly special for Omri and for all of us.”

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