New student-led committee will approve chesed hours

Town Hall votes to reduce requirement from 100 hours to 80, but only 15 hours can be in-school. Action comes after complaints that this year’s chesed trips were mostly bonding and gave more hours than people worked.


Neima Fax

TRAVEL: Zev Kupferman and Maital Hiller read stories at the Pardes Jewish Day School in Phoenix on the junior chesed trip. Students received 25 hours of chesed credit.

A proposal to reform the school’s chesed, or community service, policy was approved 55 to 45 percent at the last Town Hall of the year May 29.

Among the changes the proposal will bring is the institution of a new three- to five-person Chesed Committee to encourage schoolwide community service.

In addition, school chesed trips for sophomores and juniors will award much less than the current 25 hours, and Just Community chesed — volunteer work performed in or around school — will be capped at 15 hours. Students will also need 80, not 100 chesed hours to graduate.

The proposal, made by juniors Ari Schlacht and Nicholas Fields and sophomore Jordan Simon, was introduced in the beginning of Town Hall by Agenda Chair David Edwards. It only applies to students who graduate after 2021. 

“The goal of this proposal is to ensure that the Chesed experience for students is one in which chesed is consistently done throughout their high school career,” stated the proposal, which was posted on Schoology after the vote, “and where they must commit to an organization to strengthen their relationship with chesed.”

At 4:40 p.m., the results of the vote were posted on Schoology, along with the official text of what had been approved.

It was the second Just Community proposal to have passed in as many weeks. A week earlier, a proposal to amend the school’s voting system passed, replacing the instant runoff system with a ranked-choice voting to be used in future spring Just Community elections.

A day after the chesed proposal was approved, David said on Schoology that the administration had planned to change the school’s policy for chesed trips anyway, but that the proposal gave students to have a say.

“The chesed proposal was a way for students to help create the new policy for next year instead of just handing it over to the administration,” David wrote.

This past April, juniors received 25 hours of community service credit for attending their grade-wide to Phoenix, where they worked for about five hours playing board games with senior citizens, packing food for at a kosher food pantry, and reading and decorating water bottles for the homeless with preschool children at the Pardes Jewish Day School. Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal criticized the hour count during a press conference with Boiling Point editors on May 12.

“If I were weighing in on it I would say no there’s way – that’s crazy,” said Rabbi Segal.

Dean of Student Life Dr. Jonny Ravanshenas said that while he believes chesed should be done altruistically, sometimes people need an incentive to become interested in it.

“In general, I’m not a big fan of chesed hours because chesed should be 24 hours a day,” said  Dr. Ravanshenas. “I understand why they do it. Sometimes people need to be nudged. Chesed sometimes requires coming out of your comfort zone, so sometimes people need to be set up.

The rest of the trip was spent on recreational inter-grade activities including playing mini-golf and going to an Arizona Coyotes game.

“I think it’s worth it,” said Rabbi Segal during the April press conference. “I think taking students away as a class to bond, it’s worth it.”

Rabbi Segal said that if it the trip’s only purpose was chesed, the amount on the trip would not be enough as it is.

“If you look at it as a bonding trip with some chesed on it, which I think it’s both of these then it’s fine,” he said.