Service Learning FAQs
What kind of service work do participants do?
Bend the Arc’s service learning program responds to the needs of struggling communities. We develop lasting partnerships with organizations rooted in each neighborhood we visit and work alongside local residents, focusing our attention where they most need and want it.
Some examples of our community partners include:
The Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development - A local center in New Orleans, organized by a community church, works to rebuild the homes of its members. Alongside neighborhood residents, our groups work on homes in various stages of repair, from gutting and demolition to dry-walling, painting or fence repair.
LA Family Housing - A local organization that runs shelters and community centers that assist people trying to get back on their feet. Bend the Arc participants work directly with adults and children in the shelters and community centers, providing services like tutoring and day care, and helping repair the buildings themselves.
Our School at Blair Grocery - This urban garden and school in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward was created to support neighborhood residents and create a permanent source of organic produce by redeveloping the land. Work is being done on the school building, where students attend classes and receive a hands-on education that focuses on environmental sustainability.
What do participants learn?
Our service learning curriculum takes participants on a journey from understanding themselves as individuals to recognizing the connection between Judaism and social justice, to seeing their role as social justice leaders in their home communities.
Topics include: Why are we here? Creating sacred partnerships, Why is our society like this? Ways to make change, What can we do together? and Keeping ourselves going.
Who goes on Bend the Arc service learning trips?
What will I do other than a service project?
Bend the Arc’s service learning trips are about more than service work alone. You’ll be immersed in your host community as a means to learn with and about new people and places. You’ll spend your days working alongside members of the community, hearing stories of what life is like there, and gaining further understanding of what communities need to sustain themselves. You’ll meet with local leaders and organizers who’ll explain what’s being done to improve life for the community. You’ll eat at local establishments, buy local food, and learn how local injustices are related to those throughout the United States.
Which service partners might I work with?
What does a typical day look like?
Starting the day
Breakfast and lunch-making
Schedule review for the day
Morning kavannah (intention) to set the tone of the day. This could be a blessing, a prayer, a poem, or simply a thought for the group to consider during their work.
Getting down to work
Participate in a hands-on service project
Build a house, plant a garden, work with kids. Other examples can be found under “What kind of service work would I do?”
Hear stories from community partners about the successes and challenges they face
Possible reflection sessions over lunch
Reflect on the day’s work and experiences
Connect experiences to local and national issues
Explore contemporary and traditional Jewish sources
Hear from community organizers or other prominent members of the community
A calming evening
Group cooking experience or dinner out as a group
Planned evening activity or downtime
Who leads the trips?
Each trip is led by two Bend the Arc service learning program leaders. Program leaders attend a five-day training program led by Bend the Arc staff, prompting them to be fluent in our service learning curriculum. Service learning staff prepare program leaders for all aspects of the trip, from logistics about food and housing to details about itineraries and participants. Our program leaders represent a range of backgrounds, from graduate students and rabbinical students to teachers and social justice workers.
What is Shabbat like on a trip?
At Bend the Arc, Shabbat is a time for relaxation, rejuvenation, and reflection. We work with our partner organizations to create Shabbat experiences that allow for your group’s level of observance, all the while encouraging participants to step outside their normal practice and try something new. There are various options in most cities, including services at local synagogues or working as a group to create your own Shabbat experience.
Are the trips kosher?
The standards of kashrut on a particular trip vary, based on the standards set by the partner organizations or the participants. Bend the Arc offers a minimum standard of kashrut featuring either vegetarian food or kosher meat. Bend the Arc adapts to the needs of partners with stricter standards. For partners that do not keep kosher, not all food will have kosher symbols. Participants may buy food in a non-kosher restaurant or store, or eat food proffered by residents, unless a partner organization has stated otherwise.
Where would I stay?
Accommodations vary. Over the years, Bend the Arc has developed relationships within each city to accommodate our trip needs. In New Orleans, for example, college and teen groups usually stay at Marquette House, a full-service hostel located on the edge of the Garden District, while family groups stay at either Marquette House or a local hotel. In Los Angeles, trip participants often stay on the American Jewish University campus. In Baltimore, trips stay at one of a number of local hostels.
What is provided for me during the trip?
Program fees include accommodations, local transportation, meals, service project, educational programs, and all on-site activities. They do not include flights or travel expenses to and from host cities.