|Hands-on building 'tiny houses'|
Jookender’s mission similarly draws from Jewish ethics and values to teach and demonstrate Jewish values and offer programs that help others find their way to the broader Jewish community. Like Tivnu, Jookender is relentlessly inclusive.
Explaining Tivnu’s mission, Steve says, “We act from the conviction that housing is a human right and a human need. Access to housing is a cornerstone for a stable life and it’s linked to issues such as food security, environmental justice, and the overall health of neighborhoods and communities.”
|Building "Tikkun Olam"|
"From the survey results, we know that the teens on this tour were less familiar with issues related to homelessness, so they learned more. They became open to issues related to homelessness and developed some empathy and respect for people who are experiencing homelessness."
Jookender group enjoys a rare relaxing moment- “I learned a lot of interesting new things about homelessness. I didn’t know the different ways that people could become homeless including being sick and having to pay all their money to get better. I also learned about how Portland treats homeless people and the different laws Oregon has for them.”
- - “I talked with a lot of people who are houseless. I was also presented with the term houseless by a houseless female whose nails I painted as part of the night strike. I really enjoyed the people and the little community we made. I enjoyed painting and building the tiny houses.”
- - “I enjoyed this experience but I think it should have lasted longer. The people from Tivnu were very kind. The work we did was interesting and engaging.”
- - “I now understand how fortunate I am to live in a home and now I want to help others.”
Jookender delegation members overwhelmingly expressed their desire to continue helping communities locally, nationally, and internationally—a yearning Sasha is positioning Jookender to fulfill. Sasha sees the success of the pilot program as a launching pad for increased engagement by American teens with underserved or underprivileged communities in Israel. “We know there are communities in Israel who could benefit from our ready, willing, and motivated teen workforce; in addition to offering help to local organizations, we’re seeking to partner with Russian community organizations in Israel.”
Overcoming Cultural Barriers to Philanthropy & Education in RSJ Communities
Gap Years are atypical among the RSJ community because of the lingering fears among parents that a missed year could set a child back irreversibly. Sasha attributes the higher focus on completing education to memories of the USSR’s 5% quota for Jews to go to University.
“Our kids growing up now thankfully don’t have that sense of urgency, but the parents are afraid that if their kids take a gap year they won’t be as motivated to go to University and therefore, in the parents’ minds, they’ll be less likely to succeed.”
Sasha's own Gap Year heavily influences the value she places on these formative--and transformative--experiences. “I went to Israel and the experience affected me profoundly. Not only did I become more independent, but I also learned a lot about Israeli culture, history, and lifestyles. For certain kids, Gap Years can be transformational.”
The Tivnu-Jookender pilot program was especially effective because it overcame some of the older generations’ reticence about non-traditional education, she explained. “Parents who grew up thinking that the best education is in an actual classroom saw the impact of out-of-classroom education on their kids. They see how it’s increased their kids’ interest in education—especially Jewish education. We want our kids to be more involved in their communities and to experience different ways to help those communities. This is the kind of counterculture thinking Jookender brings to our programming.”
Because the philanthropic culture is new to the RSJ community, Sasha says organizations like Jookender face two challenges: The first is helping Russian speaking Jews understand the importance of philanthropy; the second is instilling a “culture of philanthropy” among a demographic for whom charitable giving remains unfamiliar. “The older generation recognizes that we have some old-fashioned ideas about community engagement, philanthropy, and even education. We don’t want to pass those ideas to our kids.”