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Through Community Service, 300 Area Teens To 'Repair the World' This Weekend

"Tikkun Olam" is a Hebrew phrase meaning “repairing the world,” and that’s what 300 teenagers from Allegheny, Beaver and Butler County plan to do during the ninth annual J-Serve Pittsburgh Sunday.

The teens will participate in 25 different community service projects in Squirrel Hill.

Lisa Sobel-Berlow, J-Serve Coordinator, said they want to encourage community building and connections across religious and societal lines.

“We have Becca’s Closet, which is based at Allderdice, Charles Morris, which is part of the Jewish Association on Aging, we also have Global Links where they’ll be packing medical supplies [for “resource poor” communities throughout Latin America and the Caribbean],” Sobel-Berlow said.

Becca’s Closet donates dresses for military balls, homecomings and proms to girls with financial need while Charles Morris is a nursing and rehabilitation center.

“One of the sort of pillars of the Jewish community is this idea of “tikkun olam,” of repairing the world,” Sobel-Berlow said. “And for our teens this is one of the only opportunities that they have to come together as a community of teens…and improving the community that they are in.”

The teens fundraised and secured grants for the organization, and they are only $400 away from their goal of $13,000.

Each year, J-Serve Pittsburgh picks a new theme, and the teens chose “Everyday Jewish Heroes” for the upcoming service day.

“We sort of talked about what does that mean, how does that connect to J-Serve and what we’re doing,” Sobel-Berlow said. “And we sort of talked about wanting to take that idea of being a hero and taking it off of a pedestal and making it more about doing good in small ways and large ways every single day.”

Sobel-Berlow said J-Serve is more than doing community service, it is about connecting to their Jewish values.

“So that making sure that J-Serve isn’t just a one day event for these teens but that they can make the connection between doing community service … and their everyday lives that they lead,” Sobel-Berlow said.

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.