“In working, the AJSS’ers have saved our Chapel from continued deterioration, acted as friends and role modes to our children and worked hard to insulate, caulk and paint many cottages and buildings. Far more than the dollar value of their labor, the spirit, desire, courtesy, and catalytic impact of those young people has almost immeasurable value. I know our entire community has learned from, grown with, admired and enjoyed these young people. They represent the best in human, religious, and all other qualities which are so essential to the make-up of mature, caring citizens who will always serve this country and others’ needs with energy, empathy, and purpose.”
Hinckley Home-School-Farm, Hinckley ME, 1981
Long before community service gained the national attention that it has today, AJSS was formed as an innovative organization focused on meaningful service and youth leadership. In 1950, years before the creation of Habitat for Humanity, AmeriCorps, and AJWS, AJSS led the charge in community immersion-based volunteer service.
AJSS was inspired by three Rabbis who were leaders in the Civil Rights era and other social justice issues. These Rabbis wanted to create an organization that would see Judaism translated into action in a way that would help repair the world. Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld, Rabbi Isidor Hoffman and Rabbi Ferdinand Isserman turned to a young lawyer in New York, Henry Kohn, to help them transform these ideas into the American Jewish Society for Service. AJSS has inspired countless Jewish youth to use their Jewish values to make the world a better place. Today, the vision of the founders continues through AJSS’s programs for teens to experience tikkun olam (repairing the world), to immerse themselves in communities very different from their own, and to make a difference in the lives of others.
The first AJSS project helped to build a single-family home for a disabled African-American veteran in a deteriorated neighborhood in Indianapolis. Since then, we have conducted over 140 projects in 47 states as well as Canada and Israel.
“The AJSS group has] created interest and goodwill; as well as setting a good example by sowing seeds of understanding and brotherhood which is sorely lacking today among peoples of different racial background living in this wonderful country of ours….We express to your organization or deep gratitude and appreciation for the helping hand through these fine young people…”
Omaha Tribal Council, Macy, NE 1964