Archives for February 2016

TAKUM – A Jewish Service Learning Program

TAKUM (Tikkun u’Mishpat/Restoring Justice) is an international service learning initiative linking Jewish learning with social activism by facilitating open discussion of Jewish text and humanitarian crisis.  TAKUM’s goal is to bring Jewish study to the streets in ways that urge thoughtful action on behalf of vulnerable others. TAKUM Fellows, in addition to learning, provide weekly volunteer hours to combat the declining respect for human rights Israel society has witnessed for far too long. 

This year, TAKUM’s third, 26 Jerusalem TAKUM Fellows are focusing their learning and service on aiding Israel’s refugees and asylum seekers and victims of prostitution and human trafficking, urgent concerns requiring our collective action. Cohort I includes university students and recent graduates with minimal activist experience.  Cohort II includes more established, experienced young professionals deeply involved in fields of social change. An additional 20 Fellows participating in a London-based, TAKUM-initiated cohort will focus on related human rights issues. 

Below are the reflections of two current Fellows learning and volunteering in Jerusalem:

Weekly learning with my TAKUM colleagues is like finding sane and safe haven — critical time to think deeply in the midst of life’s craziness.  Most of us are busy students and young activists, pre-occupied with our own lives. Coming to the beit midrash strengthens and inspires us toward action through weekly vibrant and open-hearted discussions.

In our first unit we focused on the subject of aniyei irkha, the poor within our midst. Delving into Biblical and Talmudic texts, and learning from contemporary thinkers, we discussed who is the ani/  the impoverished, and how we as a community relate to them. We studied Emmanuel Levinas (a 20th-century French Jewish philosopher who suggests ethics and respect for the other are “the first philosophy”); considered the concept and reality of Jerusalem as sacred and earthly city; and met with seasoned and visionary social activists.

We just finished a second unit which focuses on gender issues, particularly those which relate to women, virginity, prostitution and rape. In addition to dissecting traditional Jewish teachings, we studied modern feminist theory and considered data regarding the trafficking of women into and within Israel. We debated the role and limits of the judicial system in combating sexual assault versus the impact of education and educators on these issues.

Why is TAKUM learning important to my studies and humanity? The beit midrash consists of an intimate cohort of diverse and creative people willing to engage in brave, value-based conversations regarding Jewish culture and tradition, deeply relevant for our times.

Frima works and volunteers in Israel’s third sector

TAKUM: Tikun and Mishpat, repairing and securing justice – These are constructs and realities which resonate deeply. Our TAKUM cohort aspires to identify messages regarding justice and just action embedded in Jewish tradition and classical texts. We are committed individually and as a collective to revive their different meanings. As a law student at the Hebrew University, I feel my studies would be incomplete had I not joined the TAKUM community. The learning invites each of us to contribute to group discussions which consider the relevance of ancient texts to our lives.

However, there are difficult moments. The Torah does not only discuss social justice and aiding the poor. Many times, the text speaks to us in a language we do not want to hear; it proposes notions and values we do not want to accept. But actually, those are the moments of discomfort that create opportunities to really get to the heart of the matter.

Learning is not enough, and in TAKUM we act and volunteer. I chose to devote my time giving legal aid to refugees who are summoned to Holot (a forced detention facility). Here, as in the beit midrash, I hear the voices of our traditions: “And a stranger you shall not oppress, for you know the heart of a stranger, seeing you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23, 9)

Evyatar studies law and cognitive science at Hebrew University.

TAKUM is a joint initiative of ATZUM – Justice Works and Yeshivat Talpiot. It is funded by the Kathryn Ames Foundation, Elizabeth Scheuer, Peter Joseph and other donors wishing to remain anonymous. To support TAKUM, please CLICK.