Hillel students in Kharkov, Ukraine tie ribbons in pledge of good deeds.
What do an Israeli ambassador, Ukraine's Minister of Culture and the mother of a sick child have in common? All recently attended events organized by Hillels around the world as part of the international Day of Good Deeds.
This tradition, started by the Israeli nonprofit Ruach Tova
in 2007, seeks to engage the international Jewish community in service. The Day of Good Deeds was celebrated on May 16 this year, and Hillels in Israel and Ukraine were part of the nearly 60,000 volunteers that participated across the globe.
"Hillel's participation in the Day of Good Deeds is an important statement about our commitment to Jewish values worldwide," said Hillel Associate Vice President Aaron Goldberg. "We're thrilled that Hillel organized such innovative projects in the field to support this great cause."
One such project took place at the Hillel at Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel. On March 12, IDC Hillel organized a Shabbat dinner attended by 170 students to benefit Hillel's long-time partner, Save a Child's Heart, an organization that funds life-saving heart surgeries for African children in Israel. A mother of one of these children spoke at the event, expressing her gratitude for providing her son with health care she could not have dreamt about in her native Congo.
This dinner was part of Hillel IDC's broader tzedek focus, which includes projects ranging from providing microloans to African women to mentoring Darfur refugees to working with local children with special needs.
"Our goal is for each student to volunteer at least one day each year," said Ran Yosef, a program director at IDC Hillel. "We strive to show them that community service is both a distinctively Jewish and universally human value."
Ukrainian Hillels in Kiev and Kharkov also took part in the Day of Good Deeds for the first time, hosting events that attracted media attention and local celebrities. In both communities, the Hillels asked students to pledge a good deed by tying a ribbon to a string that will be delivered to Jerusalem's holy sites.
"If you pause and look around you," said Kharkov Hillel Director Yulia Pototskaya in an interview with a local TV station, "you will find a person in your life that needs your help and kindness."
On March 15, Kiev Hillel held an event that combined the ribbon tying with a panel discussion on the importance of volunteering and giving back to the community. The panel included a variety of prominent figures, including Israel's Ambassador to Ukraine, a local singer and Ukraine's Minister of Culture and Tourism. Media coverage of the event appealed to Ukrainian citizens to volunteer on March 16 and help make a difference in their community.
"This day reminds me of my obligation to be kind to others," said Kharkov Hillel student Alla Cherkashina. "Kindness is a very important value that we need more in our lives these days."Learn More
Read: "Kiev Hillel Sponsors Good Deeds Day
Watch: News coverage of Kharkov Hillel event
(in Ukranian and Russian)
Listen: Radio interview with Hillel IDC's Ran Yosef