The Covenant Grants

Student Delegates Program Expansion

Organization: Civic Spirit, New York, NY

Grant Year: 2023

Project Director: Hillary Gardenswartz

Type of Grant: Ignition

Grant Amount: $20,000 (1 year)


Curriculum Development and Training
Social Justice

Civic Spirit – To expand the Student Delegates Program to additional day schools and to provide cohorts of educators across the country with the tools and support to facilitate programming in student clubs based on the intersection of Jewish values and civic engagement.

Can you offer an example of how a Jewish value intersects with civic engagement?

“You are not obligated to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it” (Avot 2:21). This teaching from Ethics of Our Fathers emphasizes the importance of the role we each play in positively impacting our communities. There is a sense of obligation that is embedded in how Jews show up for others in their community, and that one’s actions deeply affect the other members in one’s community. Being civically engaged recognizes that same sense of obligation to others—that one is part of a larger community and therefore one’s voice not only matters, but is necessary in order for progress and change. Showing up in the civic realm—whether that’s attending a community board meeting, voting, paying taxes, participating in a park clean up—matters.

What sorts of activities do students participate in, in their school clubs?

Students choose the issue(s) on which they want to focus, and the type of work they want to do around the issue that will affect change in their community. That may mean learning about the issue of ending gun violence and then organizing a Wear Orange Day for their school community. Or, it may mean meeting with the people who draft policy in their state for how Holocaust education is taught so they can better understand the complexity and challenges around that process.

How, if at all, will the upcoming election affect the curriculum for clubs?

Each Civic Spirit Club sets their own curriculum, depending on the interests of their Club Members and the projects they choose. That said, the upcoming election is animating the conversations we are having about leadership, politics, and national and international issues through the lens of November 2024, so there is little doubt that these topics will show up in our Clubs. Civic Spirit Clubs provide a safe and healthy way to delve into these issues, some of which bring up sensitive questions for students, and also give Club Advisors the opportunity to teach not only how to dialogue and listen to different views, but also practical skills on how to put students’ interests into action.