When Ariel Shore was five years old, her family began a tradition that would shape Ariel for her entire life: Along with five other families in Lower Merion, they rotated hosting Shabbat dinners, round robin-style. “It was one night a week when our families came together for brachot, good food and lots of laughter,” Ariel says. Those nights taught Ariel the importance of Jewish values — the power of community and the joy in caring for those around you.
Today, 23 years later, their Shabbat tradition is still going strong. But as Ariel has grown older, her idea of a Jewish community has expanded. By the time she graduated from Ithaca College and returned to Philadelphia, she began to see all of the broader Jewish community as her community. She knew she had a lot of care to give, and that there were so many people who deserved it. “Helping the local Jewish community live and thrive is so important to me,” Ariel says. So when she heard about the opportunity to serve as a house captain at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Rebuild 2018, Ariel happily signed up.
Every year at Rebuild, close to 100 volunteers from NextGen, Jewish Federation Real Estate and Habitat for Humanity of Philadelphia join together to help older adults in Northeast Philadelphia with household tasks that they might not otherwise be able to accomplish. Volunteers change lightbulbs, clean windows, paint, flip mattresses and perform minor repairs. For her part, Ariel and her team replaced the cracked sidewalk in front of the house of Sylvia Genoy, a Holocaust survivor. “The day is not just about fixing and repairing and calling it a day,” Ariel says. “We’re coming together to provide a sense of comfort and peace of mind for someone who has been through so much.”
In a few weeks, Ariel will jump into action again, this time serving as co-chair of Cook for a Friend, a fun and impactful evening in which NextGen volunteers cook nourishing kosher food for homebound older adults in our Greater Philadelphia Jewish communities. For Ariel, volunteerism comes down to one simple motivator: compassion. “When you take a step back and become aware of those in vulnerable situations across Philadelphia, what is really stopping you from giving back? You always can make time for what is important to you,” Ariel says. We should all aspire to be as compassionate as Ariel.
When you are compassionate, you allow the sight of suffering to break your heart and compel you to take action.