Brotherhood and a shared interest in community service brought together 25 Alpha Epsilon Pi brothers from around the country to Los Angeles for Spring Break this past March. Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life and City Year partnered together to pilot a new opportunity for Jewish student committed to helping communities in need. City Year, an organization that specializes in providing year-long service opportunities, and Hillel, an organization that provides meaningful Jewish experiences for young adults around the world, complemented each other’s strengths to provide the first trip of its kind.
While many undergraduate students set their sights on tropical and exotic locations, the participants of this trip decided to try something different. For five days, the brothers worked with different organizations that provide services to a variety of groups in need throughout Los Angeles. One participant, Scott Streigold, shared that “we were able to make a great impact on the lives of many people. It’s amazing what 25 people, who for the most part have never met each other, can get accomplished.”
The participants worked with four different work partners. At the Watts Labor Community Action Committee, the group spent time creating murals, painting workshop rooms and building benches and storage units. Benches and tables were built, walls were painted and children were tutored at the Salvation Army Red Shield Youth and Community Center. During their time working at the Los Angeles Mission, participants helped to prepare and serve meals as well as paint various spaces. Lastly, the group served meals at the Midnight Mission, one of the oldest and continuously operating human services organizations in the region.
Tikkun olam, or repairing the world, was a common theme throughout the reflections of this year’s participants. They had the opportunity to go a step beyond learning and put the idea into practice. Landa Arkady, of AEPi at Temple University expressed that “It was a great way to spend a spring break, not only bonding with my fraternity brothers but also helping those in need as well. This trip had a huge impact on my view of the world, and I can see how truly blessed I am to have everything and everyone that is in my life.”
The impact of this trip goes far deeper than the work that they performed or the people that they met. The AEPi brothers will share a stronger bond created by an amazing week of service and learning in Los Angeles.
The 25 students who experienced this year’s pilot City Year Alternative Break laid the foundation for a continued partnership between Hillel and City year that will continue during the winter and spring breaks of 2009-2010. Expanding to three additional cities, groups from over 30 campuses across the U.S. will have an opportunity to commit their breaks to providing service to the communities of Los Angeles, Miami, New York and Seattle. Thanks to the generosity of the newly formed Repair The World organization, hundreds of new students will have the opportunity to lend a hand and impact lives of the people in the communities they will serve.