By Joe Malinger, UMC Staff
Growing up in NFTY-GER, it’s hard to not come across Urban Mitzvah Corps (UMC) in some fashion. When I was a participant in NFTY-GER, UMC was present at the end of every event in the form of shout-outs, as well as being the focal point of Winter Kallah. Everyone always would rave about their amazing experiences at UMC, about how their summer in New Brunswick was one of the most impactful summers of their lives. I never was able to attend UMC when I was in high school; I spent my summers at URJ Camp Harlam or URJ Kutz Camp and there was never enough time for me to attend everything I wanted to do. That’s why this summer I made the decision to come to UMC, not as a participant, but as a staff member.
Working at UMC is a duality in which I am able to return to the NFTY region that I grew up in while also getting to help plan, facilitate, and experience a program that I always regretted never attending as a participant. It’s a pleasure to work, laugh, engage, and even occasionally struggle with UMC’s participants as we try our best to make this month the most it can be. Here I’m able to see the next generation of Reform Jewish social activists come into their own.
We’re commanded in Deuteronomy, “Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof,” which translates to “Justice, justice you shall pursue.” Here at UMC, I have the privilege to see 22 teens fulfill that commandment on an almost daily basis. Whether it be working with a retirement community, children in need, or to feed the hungry, these young leaders are pursuing their own justice and coming into their own personal identities. The future of Reform Social Action is bright, so long as UMC stays in the foreground.