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National Volunteer Week

Currently, 63 million Americans volunteer about 8 billion hours of their time, talent, and effort to improve people’s lives and the natural world. April 23-29 marks National Volunteer Week.

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The Jewish Community Could Not Exist for a Day without its Volunteers

National Volunteer Week was first established by President Richard Nixon to recognize and celebrate the efforts of volunteers. As noted by Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of England: In medieval Europe, wherever you found a community of Jews you would also find a dense network of chevrot, “fellowships,” for every conceivable purpose: food and clothing for the poor, dowries for poor brides, medical attention for the sick, burial of the dead, support for the bereaved, assistance for the unemployed or incapacitated, and a system of education – schools and adult classes – unrivaled elsewhere. It was driven by the twin principles laid down by the pre-Christian sage Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who will be? But if I am only for myself, what am I?” It was, in essence, a voluntary welfare state, and it gave rise to habits of the heart that still mark Jewish communities today.

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