“To me, Urban Mitzvah Corps is an experience that should become a way of life.”
“To me, Urban Mitzvah Corps is tying a string between the past, present and future generations, while paving the way for others.”
“To me, Urban Mitzvah Corps is training for life.”
“To me, Urban Mitzvah Corps is where my love for and commitment to social justice began.”
These are just a few of the answers Urban Mitzvah Corps participants and alumni gave to the prompt “To me, Urban Mitzvah Corps is…” during UMC’s first ever Alumni Day. While many others’ responses included themes of home, belonging, family, and community, the above answers stuck out because they’re about legacy. They suggest that not only does the impact of this program last far beyond the summer, but in fact, the impact is greatest once the experience is actually over.
In this week’s parsha, Pinchas (Numbers 25:10 -30:1), Moses, knowing that it’s his time to step down from leadership, asks God to appoint his successor. God chooses Joshua, who God says is an inspired man, or literally translated from the Hebrew, “a man who has spirit in him.” Such a passing down of leadership prompts a question about legacy. Moses, this great man who led the Israelites out of Egypt, deserves a great legacy. Just as UMC participants and alumni think about their own legacy, and the legacy of this program that has been in existence for 47 years, was Moses thinking about his own legacy as he passed his role down to Joshua? Was he thinking about all the great things that would be a part of the future of the Jewish people?
This week, we visited the New Jersey Sharing Network and learned from them, in partnership with UMC’s charity for this year, Hearts 4 Emma, about organ and tissue donation. Emma, a Mitzvah Corps alum and former NFTY-GER SAVP, shared with us her experience of receiving a heart transplant at the age of 12, and Ross, this summer’s UMC Program Director, shared his experience of receiving a kidney transplant. After hearing Emma and Ross’s powerful stories, it became clear to us the important role organ donation can play in saving lives and ultimately, leaving a legacy. We heard about families who lost a loved one prematurely, but who were able to find comfort in knowing that a piece of that person lived on in someone else, allowing that person to live a longer, fuller life. Walking away from this presentation, it was inspiring to hear many of the participants talk about how excited they were to get their drivers’ licenses and make sure that the organ donor box is checked. Hearing about the physical legacy that others left behind, many of us walked away thinking about what we want our legacy to be.
As we move into our final week of this 4 week journey, we take comfort in knowing that just like Moses, and just like the alumni we met on Sunday, we will have leaders come after us who will make sure our legacy and the legacy of this program lives on. We will continue to have opportunities in our lives to create a positive legacy for ourselves and others, by supporting organ donation, and by hearing the stories of those who have passed on and given the gift of life to someone else.
As many of our participants and alumni have acknowledged, UMC does not end when the program does. This is just the beginning.
Ross, Ariel, and Libby
Urban Mitzvah Corps 2017 Program Staff