Jewish teens share the meaning of tikkun olam by serving their communities

Marquette senior Sydney Ring reads from the Torah at her bat mitzvah at United Hebrew.  Photo courtesy of Sydney Ring


For Tali Gorodetsky, a junior at Marquette High School and a member of the Chabad congregation, service is one of life’s hallmarks. She spends weekends coordinating community service opportunities, working on retreats, and helping to clean up her community. Yet one memory sticks out in particular.

“About a year and a half ago, I worked with my chapter’s community service planner to create a project where we made bags of different toiletries that women need but aren’t always able to get,” Tali said. 

Tali, who serves as the gizborit, treasurer, and mazkirah, secretary, of her BBYO group, and her team contacted a women’s shelter in downtown St. Louis, and asked what the shelter needed to help those in need. She had each student in her BBYO group bring in the items on the list and together they packaged those items into plastic bags to give to the shelter.

“It felt amazing,” Tali said. “We are so fortunate as teens living in West County to be able to afford anything we need. Giving back to those who can’t, especially for something that women really do need, is so fulfilling.”

Tali said her primary motivation to participate in community service comes from the doctrine of tikkun olam. She sees it as a moral obligation she must always uphold.


Tikkun olam means to “repair the world” in Hebrew. In essence, it is defined as how one uses his or her connection to Israel to aid the world. Students throughout the St. Louis area practice tikkun olam in their lives to benefit those around them.

Tikkun olam, to me, is one of the most important values of Judaism,” Tali said. “It’s my way of remembering to always care for my Jewish brothers and sisters because it’s what I’m meant to do,  (and) also what I should do.”

Tali collaborates with her BBYO group to form community service projects, such as the woman’s shelter benefit, which aid a wide swath of people. 

“We plan multiple community service events with our chapter to help our community service focus,” she said. “Whether it be actually volunteering in a large-scale project or being friendly to anyone I meet, I’m constantly thinking about tikkun olam.”

Lily Rudman, a junior at Parkway Central High School, said tikkun olam is about making decisions that push the world to be better. Lily  strives to use it on a daily basis.

Tikkun olam in my eyes means to do everything possible to brighten up the world everyday,” Lily said. “Whether it’s making someone smile or picking up a piece of trash off the side of a road, everything you do leaves an impact on the world around you no matter how big or small it is.”

Lily said that desire for betterment forces her to consider every one of her actions. Each has the potential to shift the day’s mood.

“I think it’s important to be mindful of your actions and try to influence each other to make positive decisions during your everyday life,” Lily  said.

Sydney Ring, a senior at Marquette, believes tikkun olam provides her with an important connection to Israel. She is always grateful and vigilant in maintaining that bond.

“It means I’ll always have a home and community,” Ring said. “I have a place where I can be myself and not be judged. It’s where I belong.”

To push forth that connection, Ring participates in religious events throughout St. Louis. She said her faith provides her with a springboard to reach others in need.

“I go to temple during high holidays, I’ve been bat mitzvahed, and I observe the Jewish holidays with my friends and family,” Ring, who belongs to United Hebrew Congregation, said. “I perform mitzvot and try to generally be a good, kind person to others.

But for Ring, taking part in tikkun olam is not limited to relations with her family. In preparation for her bat mitzvah, Ring led book clubs for young children at Barnes and Noble each Saturday.

“Books and knowledge are very important to me,” Ring said. “I hope I inspired the kids to start reading. I feel like it strengthened my connection to my community and my Jewish faith.”

Tikkun olam has for many years been a guiding light for the Jewish people. What’s inspiring, perhaps even more so than its message, is that it facilitates actions which actively make the world a better place. When teenagers use their principles to instill a greater good in society, everyone is a winner.