A Social Justice Mission to the City of Angels

Two university students discuss what they learned -- about their culture and themselves -- on the CFJS mission.

Published: March 17th 2011
in News » Local

Daphne (back left) and Maddie (centre) and friends working in the garden.



A student delegation comprised of Canadian Federation of Jewish Students (CFJS), Hillel Canada and Hillel Montreal members recently returned from a Jewish Funds for Social Justice trip to Los Angeles. Two of the delegation participates were Maddie Axelrod, 21, and Daphne Jackson, also 21. Maddie is a fourth-year Math and Linguistics student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., who plans to attend law school next year. Daphne is in her third year at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., and studies Arts and Science and minors in Health Studies.


Here’s what the ladies had to say about their mission.


Sarah Bauder (SB): Now that you’re back from the social justice mission, could you tell us a bit about your experience?


Maddie Axelrod (MA): My time in L.A. was incredible. In addition to making friends with amazing and inspirational people from across the country, we got to experience some unforgettable things. From the eight hours we spent on our feet working in a soup kitchen, to the sunny days we worked in an urban garden, every day was filled with learning and doing.

Daphne Jackson (DJ):The CJFS/JFSJ trip to Los Angeles was a great opportunity to learn more about social justice from a Jewish perspective. On the trip we met and volunteered with grassroots organizations that addressed homelessness, community mobilization, labour rights and poverty. In the evenings, our JFSJ group leaders Chana Widawski and Karen Isaacs led learning sessions in which we reflected on the work we had done that day and discussed concepts of Tikun Olam (repairing the world) using Jewish sources such as the Mishna, commentators and contemporary Jewish writers. The trip was also a great opportunity to meet Jewish students from other campuses and explore the city of L.A.


SB: What was the most important aspect of the trip for you?


MA: At the end of our trip we all sat in a circle and shared one or two moments that really changed things for us. I'll share one of the moments that I shared then: Despite growing up in a richly Jewish environment in Toronto, I go to school in Kingston, where the Jewish community is much smaller and we don't have the same breadth of resources. When I heard that we'd be staying at the American Jewish University in L.A. I was shocked. It overwhelmed me to learn that there could be an entire university for Jewish students. On the day when we worked with Uri L'Tzedek, I was again blown away to see an entire street lined with kosher restaurants. Coming from Kingston, this felt completely alien to me.
But then we shared Shabbat with the students of AJU. We participated in a beautiful Kabbalat Shabbat service and we joined together in song and dance after a delicious dinner. One student pulled me aside and said, “This is the best Shabbat I've ever had at AJU." That's when it hit me. Despite their entire Jewish university, and despite the entire neighbourhood of kosher restaurants, it was the ragtag bunch of kids from Canada who provided the "best-ever" Shabbat at AJU. Shabbat isn't dependent on your environment; Shabbat comes from within your spirit.


DJ: I really enjoyed the opportunity to work directly with community organizers and volunteers from our partnering organizations. Working alongside members of the L.A. community allowed us to learn directly from them about the issues that are most challenging to the community, and identify common interests and beliefs between the members of our group and the organizers.


SB: Why did you become involved with Hillel?


MA: I knew that in a school like Queen's with a small Jewish community, I would have to work hard to maintain my Jewish identity. It wouldn't suffice to simply hang out with Jewish kids; I needed to seek out the community. Hillel provided a welcoming space for me to explore my identity, the community and the culture.


DJ: I became involved with the Jewish Students Association (Hillel) at McMaster to meet other Jewish students on campus and to attend programs that celebrate Jewish culture and history.




SB: How has your involvement with Hillel been beneficial?


Related articles: (Hillel, social justice mission, los angeles jew, cfjs, jewish students)

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