As the chair of a Hillel sponsored initiative, Read By the River, and an active contributor to Hillel, I have recently been invited to several Repair the World dinners and events. The one that impacted me the most was our dinner on tzedakah with Don Abramson. Don is a former chair of the American Jewish World Service. He engaged us in conversation about tzedakah and philanthropy.
Don gave us different scenarios to discuss to see what type of decision we would make in that situation. The scenario that stood out to me the most was a true story that happened at Don’s summer camp as a counselor. One of his campers (Joey) had a difficult summer. It was the last few days of camp and the campers were playing a big softball game, the most important game of the summer. The score was tied, it was full count, and the bases were loaded. Joey was at the plate, and in this situation he could either be the hero, or the goat. The pitch comes in, and the ball looks 51% like a strike, and 49% a ball. If you are the counselor umpiring, do you call this pitch a strike or a ball?
At first I quickly answered the question and said of course you call the pitch a ball, you want Joey to go home happy for the summer and that remaining image could bring him back the next summer. However, as I thought about the situation more, I started to lean towards calling the pitch a strike. The discussion became a conversation about where you draw the line. The pitch most likely was a strike, so do you challenge the integrity of the game, by calling it a ball just for Joey, or do you call it a strike to have continued trust in the rest of the campers. You also need to think about how the 17 other campers will feel after the call. However, in the situation, you don’t have this amount of time to weigh the pros and cons of the outcome. It is an instinct call, and this type of scenario can change the complete outlook of a camper on their time at camp for that summer.
This idea of one event changing the outlook of a child, is exactly what we are trying to create with Read by the River. At this 1,000 person annual event, myself, Hillel, and other Tufts students promote reading to Medford and Somerville elementary school students. With our literacy based booths and carnival themed event we try to show these children that reading is fun. When they think of reading, we want them to envision all of the possibilities and how they can use their imagination. With events and programs like Read By the River, and Repair the World dinners we are increasing awareness about social justice on step at a time.