MLK Day: Why Volunteering Matters to HBHA


HBHA students flash a smile as they bag apples at Harvesters. Photo by Aviva Clauer

Aviva Clauer, Photo Editor

Last week, students and teachers all over the nation took a day off of school in remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. For over a decade, families at Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy (HBHA) have gathered to use that day off for more than just sleeping in; they use it for volunteering, and this year was no exception.


In the afternoon, nearly 30 community members including students, parents, and even faculty and administrators met at Harvesters, a Kansas City food bank, to assist in combating the crisis of hunger.


According to Tamara Schuster, an HBHA parent and Director of Admissions, the school has been coming to Harvesters for the holiday since 2010. She explained that she finds a lot of value in the tradition. “There are lots of service projects and mitzvah projects that our students do, but we rarely have something that parents and students can do together,” she says. “This is an awesome opportunity – when many parents and students are off of school – to come do something that shows…all the Jewish values that we teach.”


Every year at Harvesters, the HBHA group is randomly given a particular task to work on. This year, they were given the job of sorting and bagging apples. Seventh grader Eitan Gerson, who came to Harvesters with his mom, says that although the job involved apples that were “wet, gooey, green, and slimy,” in the end “it was pretty fun.”


For Evan Schlozman, a fifth grader who came to Harvesters with his grandma, it excited him to know that by being there he could “help people that don’t have the money for food.”


Harvesters was not the only location of the HBHA community’s service last Monday, though. Around 5 HBHA students participated in CTeen of Kansas City’s “Bagel & Paint” event at Village Shalom, spending their afternoons with senior residents.


Sophomore Rayli Kopelman was among those who attended. “Sherri Jacobs, who’s an art therapist, came and talked to us about what we’re doing,” she explains, “and our task was to make paintings on canvases with…a special word or something that means something to you.” The event gave Kopelman an opportunity to spend quality time with a Village Shalom resident while enjoying crafts, food, and even music. “We just painted and talked to each other and I got to know her [the resident]. She told us about her life,” Kopelman says.


The impact HBHA has on the local community is truly noteworthy. Although, one question remains unanswered. Why does the HBHA community volunteer on MLK Day in particular?


Kopelman said that volunteering for individuals who were around during the Civil Rights Movement made her experience more impactful. “I think that interacting [with Village Shalom residents] brought everybody back to reality a little bit, instead of just forgetting what the whole day was about,” she explains.


Schuster says, “I think that in Martin Luther King’s honor and memory, to do something that is service to our community and to people we may not know is a terrific way of observing the holiday.”


Schuster further directed my attention to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”


It’s pretty evident that these words have registered in the HBHA community. With much pride for the school’s work until now, we look forward to seeing how HBHA will continue to serve the greater Kansas City community in the future, whether it be for next MLK Day or, surely, before then.


Caption: HBHA students, parents, staff, alumni, and other community members partake in a day of service at Harvesters and Village Shalom.