by Tzachi Flat, Oshman Family JCC – Palo Alto, CA
In This week’s Torah portion, Yitro, Moses tells his stepfather Jethro the story of the Israelites escape from Egypt. Jethro is very pleased with the story and recites a prayer of gratitude, even though he was not with them in Egypt. Jethro notices Moses dealing with a great deal of the challenges in the group, and advises him to create a council that will help balance the work between the community. After the council is in place and the society is self-governing, Moses is able to go off to his own land.
As a JOFEE fellow I can relate to this Torah portion as there are a great many challenges and roadblocks on the path to humans maintaining a healthier, more sustainable planet. Taking on a task of this proportion would be extremely challenging for one person, or even a small group of people to tackle on their own. It is as if we as JOFEE fellows are the council, and our task is to create positive change while educating the community and inspiring them to take similar steps. I am reminded of the Pirkei Avot quote “Do not separate yourself from the community.” We are all collectively responsible for the community, and as a community grows, it becomes more and more important for the community to work together as a cohesive unit.
At the OFJCC we strive to build a strong, cohesive community focused on creating positive change in society. We are working to reduce waste by purchasing all compostable utensils throughout the organization, reducing water usage by installing aerators, planting gardens to help educate our youth and give back to those in need, working with the larger community to do service projects in many shapes and sizes (we had over 1000 participants this year in an array of projects during our annual Mitzvah Day). These steps help to ensure that we are behaving properly, while helping to provide others with the tools to do likewise.
The partnership and relationships developed from participating in the JOFEE fellowship have opened my eyes to the many opportunities to do good and improve our community that are all around us every day. Prior to being a part of this cohort this was not something that actively sat in the front of my mind. Additionally, the JOFEE fellowship has strengthened my connection to Judaism, spirituality, and my Jewish identity overall. I have also been blessed with a wonderful mentor who has helped to guide me in curriculum and professional development. To sum it all up, I would say: The only way we’re going to get it together, is together.
Tzachi Flat was born and raised in Palo Alto, California. As a child he spent many summers traveling to Israel. In 2006 he lived and worked at a scuba diving shop in Eilat. These experiences created a very strong connection to Israel for him. In his free time Tzachi love to play sports, hang out with friends, travel, build things, and do anything and everything active and outdoors. He has been involved with the JCC since he was 2 years old, and has worked for the Oshman Famil JCC in Palo Alto’s Youth And Teen department for the last 4 years. The experience he gained working at the JCC have helped him become a stronger, more confident person. He is very excited for the opportunity to meet new people, share memorable experiences, learn new things, and help educate others through the JOFEE fellowship.
Editor’s Note: Welcome to D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog! Most weeks throughout the year, you’ll be hearing from theJOFEE Fellows: reflections on their experiences, successful programs they’ve planned and implemented, gleanings from the field, and connections to the weekly Torah portion and what they’ve learned from their experiences with place in their host communities for the year. Views expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily represent Hazon. Be sure to check back weekly!