Every year, hundreds of young professionals in their 20s and 30s dance, raise a glass, and mingle at one of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s major Young Leadership fundraisers, Impact DC: An Evening of Philanthropy. This year’s glittering night of fun and philanthropy, held Oct. 18 at the National Union Building in Washington, D.C., was followed by something new, however: On the following Sunday, over 100 of the gala attendees participated in the Day of Impact, an opportunity for them to roll up their sleeves and be part of the change they helped fund at the gala.
“Millennials and those in Generation Z are a new generation of givers,” said Jackie Subar, Federation’s director of Young Leadership. According to the Greater Washington Jewish Community Demographic Study, funded by The Morningstar Foundation, 40 percent of Jewish adults reported engaging in a volunteer activity within the last month, and over 80 percent reported donating to a charitable cause within the last year.
“They do not want to just help their community financially. They want to be an active, hands-on part of the work through community service,” said Subar.
Participants in the Day of Impact could personalize their engagement by participating in any of six service projects, each one focused on one of Federation’s six areas of impact: Jewish Identity, Jewish Education, Vulnerable Populations, Inclusive Community, Emergency Response, and Israel & Overseas.
Volunteers at Covenant House in southeast DC worked in one of their emergency housing facilities and prepared winter emergency kits for homeless youth. In Rockville, Maryland, volunteers at Nourish Now packed meals for area families in need. Every month, 700 families pick up a five-day supply of food from Nourish Now (that’s 70,000 pounds of food, much of which is recovered food).
In Hyattsville, Maryland, volunteers worked to finish an accessibility ramp at the home of a 12-year-old girl with quadriplegia. The family desperately needed a new ramp as their old one was too flimsy and steep; health aides even declined to work for the family because of liability concerns with the old ramp. Over the summer, local teens had constructed it through Yachad’s Ramp it Up! Program, and the Day of Impact volunteers stained the wood, completed a lattice siding, and added in landscaping.
At University of Maryland, College Park, volunteers met with rising seniors beginning to think about life post college. In addition to discussing how to begin looking for jobs and make friends outside of the school structure, they talked with students about deepening their connection to the Greater Washington Jewish community and nurturing a Jewish identity in a new city after college.
At Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in DC, volunteers made two sets of matching Shabbat candles: one pair for themselves, and another for a Holocaust survivor in Budapest who will receive their candles when The Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy Mission heads there this year.
Finally, for parents looking for an activity that would accommodate younger children, there was a tikkun olam-themed Hebrew Story Hour at Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School in DC. Children between the ages of 3 and 6 learned what a mitzvah is (in this context, a good deed), and then got to participate in one by creating snack bags for Martha’s Table, an organization that works to increase access to healthy food, quality education programs, and other services supporting families in the District.
“Federation’s vision for our community is an open, connected, and vibrant Jewish community that cares for each other, fosters Jewish learning and journeys, embraces Jewish peoplehood and Israel, and acts as a force for good in the world,” said Subar.
Volunteers at the Day of Impact “walked away feeling like they had made a difference in the lives of others,” she added.
By Kami Troy
Kami Troy is the senior editor of Kol HaBirah.