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By Zach Fleisher, July 14, 2010

Last spring B’nai Brith Manitoba Region invited Gray Academy of Jewish Education grade 12 students to reflect upon the value and significance of their personal community service experiences in essay form. This was Zach Fleisher's submission.

Many people who pass through or live their lives in Winnipeg often characterize it as cold, lifeless city that often falls short of the task of supporting a vibrant Jewish community. While this community is clearly unique in its history and spirit, I would be hard pressed to find a community in North America with a Jewish population this size that shows the level of dedication that is found in Winnipeg. However, this level of vitality is not found because of the academics, scholars and professionals that we bring into Winnipeg. While they may be important, the true heart of our community lies in the efforts of the volunteers and community activists.  These people find ways to improve our community by donating their time, efforts and money in order to improve our Jewish community. Because of this, I am privileged and honoured to be considered to be among the ranks of those who have volunteered or participated in community service. 

In the past two years, I have taken a much larger role in the everyday life of the community. There are several aspects that I believe I have helped the Jewish community in. First, I have been pall bearing at several funerals over the past two years in a partnership with the pall bearing program at the Gray Academy of Jewish Education. As well, I have been very involved with BBYO (B'nai Brith Youth Organization), which has taught me countless lessons in group dynamics, organization and community relations. I count my time in BBYO as the best years of my life so far because it has allowed me to meet so many other Jewish teens around Winnipeg, in a safe and Jewish environment. It has also given me leadership skills that will impact me in a positive manner for the rest of my adult life.

The most important aspect of my community involvement has definitely been my involvement with my synagogue, Congregation Shaarey Zedek. Over the past two years, I feel as if I my role in the synagogue has increased exponentially regarding my efforts to help revive youth programming at the synagogue. I have actively helped revive the Post B'nai Mitzvah Class, which meets weekly to discuss issues in contemporary Judaism, while watching film and media clips portraying Jews in the modern world. I have completely restarted the synagogues Junior Congregation, and it now creates a place for young people to go on Shabbat morning services. At the same time, I have been vigorously attending services on a regular basis, while the majority of the young Jewish population refrains from doing.  During this same period of time, I have helped create and co-ordinate the Alternative High Holiday Service at Shaarey Zedek Synagogue, which was attended by over 110 people. The response to this service was unlike I have ever seen from the community, it was almost unanimously loved by all who attended. In the end, I feel as if my record and history of community service, involvement and activism has benefited not only the community, but has also helped me develop and prosper as a human being.   

Community service is a value that is not to be underestimated. It is quite apparent that it is because of strong community service that a community survives and continues to prosper in everyday life. However, I see a disturbing trend within our community, whereas young people are less in involved in communal institutions and they are also much less interested in the general activity and well being of our community. When these younger people are less interested, we become more assimilated as a community, which leads to higher rates of intermarriage and general disinterest in our traditions and history across our community. Therefore, I see it as a priority in my life to not only to continue to serve the community, but to teach and help to spread the knowledge and experience that I have gained while helping the community. While I see my past work within the Jewish community to be extremely gratifying, I think of my future impact on today and tomorrow’s young people as a much bigger and more important aspect of my life and continued residence in the fine community of Winnipeg, Manitoba. 

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