Jewish Club spreads kindness through Love in a Box

Students gathered around Rabbi Daniel Bortz, chuckling and bumping shoulders with each other as he removed items one by one out of a huge cardboard box for Jewish club’s Love in a Box event, Nov. 1.

Individual paper boxes were folded and filled with candy, inspirational quotes, emoji keychains, and stress balls, among other various goodies. The outsides were decorated with stamps, stickers and drawings before finally being deemed complete. These boxes were later given to random students as acts of kindness.

“[Love in a Box was created] to show the power of doing one good thing for another person as opposed to doing something huge,” Bortz said. “The power of one kind thing for someone else is easy and it can be very, very impactful.”

Bortz runs an organization outside of school called JTeen, which aims to connect Jewish teens with one another, offer community service opportunities and celebrate Jewish pride and culture. Through this, he has reached out to multiple schools in San Diego to start Love in a Box.

“It’s celebrating Jewish culture and a project to help people,” he said. “I love the excitement that everyone has to prepare something nice for someone else and basically the innate human desire to make other people happy. It’s fun and it’s easy to do good things for everyone.”

Vice President Shira Griffith (11) said the idea of putting these boxes together aligns with two important concepts in Judaism: “tikkun olam,” which means repairing the world and helping out, and “tzedakah,” which is similar to charity, but is interpreted differently from person to person.

“Part of Judaism is to help give back, and that’s what I consider to be one of the core values,” she said. “We try to do stuff like this to remind us that not everybody is in the same situation.”

Jewish Club and their events serve to unite Westview’s Jewish population in a place where they all share a commonality, according to Griffith.

“It’s nice for me to see other Jewish people on campus, to get to hang out with them and not feel like so much of an outsider,” she said. “Plus, it’s always nice to bring my friends in and let them see this part of my life and what’s involved, and it’s just a way to connect with everybody.”

Bortz said the Love in a Box event was a time for club members to enjoy each other’s company and do something inspirational together in addition to brightening someone’s day in the midst of a busy school week.

“I think when we focus only on our own problems and ourselves, it’s easy to get kind of down when we aren’t succeeding or when things aren’t going our way,” Bortz said. “When we think about others and get out of our own little world, it just makes our lives better and makes everyone else’s lives better.”

Griffith said in the face of all the things going wrong in the world, it’s important to remember there’s good as well.

“Throughout our lives, when there’s little things to make a single day a little better, it’s important to remind ourselves that good things can still happen,” she said. “For all we know, [someone’s] day could really be bad and us just giving them a box of trinkets will brighten their day and that’s a nice feeling to do that for someone.”

Now that the event has ended, the club and Bortz are focusing on their next project: expanding Love in a Box to the homeless downtown.

“I would love [for] Love in a Box to go beyond helping other people’s schools to make boxes that are for the homeless downtown that are more planned by the students where everyone brings something like toiletries, lotion, toothbrushes, and things that we don’t usually think about,” Bortz said. “We’re working on projects like this that we can do hands-on at club meetings to benefit people outside of school as well, but it’s still in the works.”

Though Bortz’s goal is focusing on others off-campus, both President Seth Siegel’s (12) and Griffith’s goals are on campus. Their goal for Jewish Club is to branch out. As the club is relatively small, they hope more students will be able to join and participate in their events.

Siegel said he wants to reach out to Jewish kids who aren’t aware of the club’s existence.

“[I want to] make it [Jewish club] a global place for Jewish people to come and talk to other Jewish kids since there aren’t a lot of us on campus,” he said.

Meanwhile, Griffith is focusing on trying to spread the word that you don’t have to be Jewish to join.

“Not everybody is Jewish,” she said. “I feel like some people are afraid to come because they think, ‘I have to be Jewish.’ You don’t have to be Jewish to be a member because it’s [the club is] not about that, it’s more about just making new friends.”