The Muhlenberg Hillel chapter has a long and robust history of volunteerism with JFS, which has continued despite the pandemic. Last semester, students got together virtually to make cards to fill High Holiday goody bags. Later in the year, they hope to have a socially-distanced event at Tikvah House. And now, in lieu of live Shabbat services, they will film themselves leading a Shabbat service that was written especially for an older adult audience by Cantor Kevin Wartell before he retired from Temple Beth El in Allentown.
Sam Brown, a sophomore accounting and finance major, and Lindsey Kessler, a sophomore Jewish studies and pre-K-4th grade education major, are this year’s social action chairs for Muhlenberg Hillel. Both of them are hard at work on the new Shabbat video.
“I think it’s a really nice opportunity because we are able to have Shabbat services online every week through Hillel, so it’s nice for us to be able to film it so they can experience it,” said Kessler.
“Obviously it’s very important. We’re just trying to give back to the community in whatever ways we can. We know it’s going to bring a lot of joy to those we’re going to be showing the video to, and ultimately, that’s our goal,” Brown added.
This video will be added to the growing collection of holiday videos, which include Sukkot, Purim and Chanukah, used to support Jewish programming for older adults. A number of Lehigh Valley Jewish community members, including local rabbis, religious school students and volunteers, have been involved in brightening the holidays through prayer, song and even hamantaschen-baking demonstrations.
“The Muhlenberg students are a welcome addition to the community presenters,” says Chelsea Karp, volunteer coordinator for JFS. “For people living in long term-care residences, these videos are a connection to their Jewish heritage and their Jewish traditions, as well as a way to combat social isolation.”