February 25, 2020

After the Fires, I Got a Lesson in Repairing the World

The great poet Robert Frost wrote, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” I am proud to say that my school, de Toledo High School, has been home to so many this past week. Fires damaged and devastated many homes and several Jewish communities throughout the Calabasas, Thousand Oaks and the Malibu area. Although in recent days, so many communities were shattered or even destroyed, I saw how the Jewish community came together as one — like a family.

The combined efforts, unity and hard work by students and staff from my high school as well as the Jewish Federation, Hillel 818, Temple Aliyah, Temple Or Ami, Ilan Ramon School, PJ Library and C Teen have made it possible for there to be a day camp for children and a gathering place for families at de Toledo High School for as long as needed. 

There have been more than 50 volunteers on campus ready to give back to the Jewish community of greater Los Angeles. Within us all is the drive to restore the kehillah together. Ranging from middle school students to rabbis and other clergy, the efforts from all volunteers have been remarkable. “I am here because I was taught the importance of giving back when I am fortunate enough to do so,” said 17-year-old Juliette from Oak Park High School. She went on to describe the “human drive my Jewish and non-Jewish friends have to help.” 

“The community has mobilized so quickly, so many people are stepping forward, we have more volunteers than we could have imagined. It is beautiful,” Rabbi Ben Goldstein of Temple Aliyah said. Smiles and laughs are prominent around campus today. Students smile as they walk past young toddlers playing in the grass; a friendly game of basketball in the gym has players from all ages, happy and engaged. 

“From the moment we realized we were displaced, de Toledo High School opened its doors to our community as well as to others,” Rabbi Paul Kipnes of Congregation Or Ami said. “Their answers to our requests were not just ‘yes,’ but ‘what else do you need?’ The space, resources  and comfort that de Toledo High School is providing is the true definition of community.”

“The community has mobilized so quickly, so many people are stepping forward, we have more volunteers than we could have imagined.” — Rabbi Ben Goldstein

The relationships we have formed help those who were affected by the fires but also heals those who were able to reach out and help. “It has been our honor and privilege to open our campus to the various impacted organizations,” said Mark H. Shpall, Head of School at de Toledo High School. “The ability of de Toledo High School to open its arms wide allows us to put our mission statement of ‘raising the next generation of Jewish leaders’ into practice. As leaders, our students are engaged in meaningful acts of giving to those affected. In addition, the tremendous outpouring of resources, love and tangible support from the Jewish community for the affected synagogues, camps and day schools has been awe-inspiring.” 

For my entire life, I’ve been taught the value of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), and in a time of great brokenness, the Los Angeles Jewish community has shown me the power in repairing together. We built a home together because that is who we are as a Jewish community.

Ariela Zweiback is a student at de Toledo High School.