Guest blogger Bethany Berger, a student leader and Tzedek (social justice) intern at American University Hillel, shares the story of the Thanksgiving coin drive she helped to create for local non-profit DC Central Kitchen.
College students may not have a reputation for being the most generous people. One might believe that they are more likely to be known for eating ramen noodles and looking under couches for quarters to do their laundry. However, this week, students at American University (AU) proved this stereotype wrong.
American University Hillel decided to table in the student center for a few hours and collect change from students to raise money for DC Central Kitchen. Our initial goal was to raise $45, which would amount to about 30 pounds of turkey. But on the first day, we quickly surpassed that. Students were emptying their pockets and their wallets, donating all of their change. One generous student even slipped us a twenty!
At AU, one organization or another is always asking for donations to their cause, so much so that I thought for sure students would have a little bit of donors' fatigue. However, the spirit of Thanksgiving must have been infectious, as we raised $150 in less than 6 hours. That's 100 pounds of turkey that will feed around 130 people! This fundraiser has been one of the most successful programs I have worked on as a part of my tzedek internship with AU Hillel. It was astounding how willing students were to help, either by donating their time to make buttons and posters, sitting at the table, or emptying their change purses.
Tzedek work is something that is extremely important to me and my coin drive partner, Sela Grabiner. We have been trying to engage Jewish students at AU through social justice work all semester. We made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the Jewish Student Association, and drove them to DC Central Kitchen. This allowed us to start our relationship with the Kitchen, and we were happy to learn that there were other ways to help their incredible organization. We also have been talking about social justice issues while we bake challah for Challah for Hunger, and recently, we helped with the Thanksgiving party at the International Rescue Committee.
Through my internship with AU Hillel, I have been lucky enough to run successful programming on and off campus, with Jews and non-Jews. Being able to give back to the DC community while meeting other Jewish students who are passionate about social justice work has been an incredibly meaningful and empowering experience for me. I am truly thankful for all of the support Hillel and the AU community has given me and I look forward to continuing to give back in the future.
Bethany Berger is a junior at American University, originally from Reading, PA. She is an International Studies major focusing on International Development in Africa, with an Art History minor. This semester, Bethany is the Tzedek intern at American University Hillel, and the Challah for Hunger Chair on the Jewish Student Association's executive board. Bethany is also serving as the president of SOFAS (the Student Organization for African Studies). Next semester, she will study abroad in Senegal.