by Maya Gitnik ’25
Each year at The Leffell School, students must perform 40 hours of community service. This year, a new rule was introduced: students can only log up to 10 hours of community service at school events. The change was implemented to encourage students to be part of chesed work beyond the doors of TLS.
“The reasoning behind formalizing this is that ultimately we want our students to be doing chesed in the community, that’s what this is about,” Director of Student Life Josh Ull said. “We want our students to get out beyond our walls and realize there’s a world outside our small communities, our own communities, especially the TLS community, and help those in need.”
Senior and peer leader Avi Katzen has been part of a few iterations of the community service program at TLS, such as COVID-related changes direct versus indirect and varying hour requirements, and thinks this distinction between in and out of school service is important.
“There are different types of community service that people can do, and there are things that are internal to the school like helping out at open houses and helping clean out the Black Box or doing stage crew or something like that,” Katzen said. “And there’s other things you can do outside of school like volunteering at Hebrew school or helping kids with special needs or something like that so the school is trying to create a distinction between those two things.”
In previous years, the school used a system where community service hours could either be categorized as direct or indirect, and students needed a certain number of hours for each.
“Indirect hours are when you are not interacting with the people who you’re helping,” Katzen said, “So it would be packing bags at a pantry and directly interacting with the population that is in need; it’s just specifying a certain type of indirect service.”
The 10-hour limit is a new way of making sure students are able to find places they can do their service without making them feel uncomfortable due to COVID concerns. It allows students to perform service that benefits those in need and also encourages branching out into more of the community.
“Let’s say you go on a Midnight Run, and it’s a school club and the school is helping you get there but ultimately your chesed is benefitting Midnight Run,” Ull said. “This would be similar to if you went on the service trip as part of Yom Iyun, and it was through the school but not for school because it’s not benefitting TLS; it’s benefitting the park.”
Even though many students find this shift to be a reasonable requirement, there are certain groups of people who disagree. The peer leaders spent over 48 hours on a Shabbaton with freshmen, however, they will not receive community service credit for all of it. Some peer leaders were upset and felt that the work that they put in was not fully accounted for.
“The peer leaders were never given a set amount of hours that they are supposed to receive; they were told that they will receive some form of hours, but they were never told the exact amount so similar to our expectation they were given 10 hours,” Ull said. “If, for some reason, students feel that they are unable to reach the community service requirement, we will work with them on an individual basis to help.”
Some peer leaders were appreciative of this change including senior Sari Warkol.
“I think that it could be seen as a really good thing because it’s encouraging students to be involved with different organizations and bigger causes than TLS,” Warkol said. “Although it’s nice to help out our school and community, there are other communities that could probably benefit from our community service more.”
Though many have shared various opinions about this rule, it is here to stay.
“I think this [change] does nothing but benefit the world around us,” Ull said. “It only emphasizes the importance of the chesed we are trying to teach”