Arya Marvazy is a member of Cohort IV of Yeshiva University’s Certificate Program in Experiential Jewish Education. This piece was originally written as part of a series by Cohort IV discussing the Jewish values they aspire to impart through their work in experiential Jewish education.
When I consider the values I hope to instill within and throughout my work, few greater come to mind than the core Jewish values of hesed and gemilut hasidim. While these are translated in a variety of ways, I adhere most often to definitions of “loving-kindness” and “acts of loving kindness”, respectively. In considering Hillel’s mission of enriching the lives of Jewish students, so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world, I consider these values to be at the core of this aspiration. Without them, we relinquish the capacity to build, shape, and grow Jewish communities, and we undoubtedly lose the opportunity to engage with and impact a larger global community.
It is most often with kindness that we at all begin to engage and come to know others. While curiosity or sheer necessity may very well inspire relationship building, the first active step often encompasses a gesture of warmth, civility, and genuine interest that is translated as kindness from one to the other. It is written that hesed is in one way beautifully exemplified when one offers hospitality to strangers, as does Abraham at the posts of his tent in the desert. In much the same way, it is my goal to help Hillel professionals and student leadership understand that building a pluralistic and flourishing Jewish community requires that each individual within it acts with hesed at the core of their engagement, leadership, and the programs and opportunities they create. This I believe creates the type of welcoming, warm, genuine, and diverse communities that we hope to build internationally as a movement.
In Pirkei Avot ("Ethics of Our Fathers"), Simeon the righteous says that the world rests on three things: On Torah, on avodah ("service", worship), and gemilut hasidim--acts of loving kindness. As a Jewish educator charged with the cultivation of pluralistic Jewish identity, I can only hope to model and engender these values at the core of Hillel’s work.
Arya Marvazy is the Regional Manager of the Israel Action Program, HINENU, at Hillel International.