The Seventh Grade Retreat is a kickoff to our Tzedek Project. The students began the day taking part in an “NPO Design Thinking Challenge.” After learning about a multitude of non-profit organizations, their mission was to create the perfect non-profit organization, thinking about its main goal, who or what it would serve, and where it would be located. Students broke up into pairs interviewing one another about what non-profit they would like to create. Then they went about designing the non-profit for their partner through the design thinking process (understanding the problem their peer wishes to solve; stating the need the non-profit wished to meet through the eyes of its beneficiaries; ideating how to bring the NPO to life through programming and resources; and then presenting back to their partner, writing down their feedback).
From there we were off to the Tenderloin to meet with Rabbi Lezak of GLIDE Church. We studied some text examining the phrase “there are two cities of Jerusalem, a heavenly one and an earthly one, which are bound together.” Then we thought about what the difference would be between a heavenly San Francisco and an earthly San Francisco and how they are bound together. Then half of the grade served lunch at Glide and the other half of us went on the Tenderloin Walking Tour. It was the last Thursday of the month, Glide’s busiest day, and our students helped to serve over 600 meals. On the Tenderloin Walking Tour, we had the opportunity to see all of the resources that exist for those people who are experiencing homelessness. The seventh graders will have the opportunity next month to decide which local NPO they wish to advocate for and further research. Therefore, it was eye opening for them to see a handful of NPOs in action. We returned to Brandeis to dive deep into an ancient Jewish text that provides guidance on how to prioritize our giving. Students wrestled with questions such as, Is it more important to give locally or globally? Is it more important to help with short-term solutions or long-term solutions?
The SF Mime Troupe worked with our students to explore the power of performance art in social justice. Students discussed what made them angry in society today and what they were going to do about it. In groups they each created a tableau to present to their peers. From only five group poses, their peers were able to understand the message they were sharing. The evening ended with ice cream sundaes and a pajama dodgeball game in the gym. The next day we had the opportunity to return to Glide so that our students could switch roles from the previous day. Those who served lunch at Glide went on the Tenderloin Walking Tour and those who had gone on the walking tour served lunch at Glide. It was a fabulous retreat that left each of us feeling empowered and hopeful about the changes we can help bring to our community.
After the retreat one student reflected, “It helped put my life in perspective and made me realize I have a responsibility to help others.” Another commented, "Meeting people who are experiencing homelessness and poverty helped me connect with them and made me want to help more."