Mark Sack, a social studies teacher at Cleveland Heights High School, first learned about the value of giving back from his parents, the late Francis and Sam Sack.
For the Sack family, the expression “tikkun olam” and the idea that everyone is responsible for each other weren’t ideals discussed over coffee, they were calls to action.
“It was even more than that,” Sack said. “Tikkun olam is a way of life. My parents raised four children. One is a psychiatrist, another a social worker, one is a nurse, and I’m a teacher and an attorney; all helping professions. Giving back to others, these were the values we were raised with and are the values Aviv, of blessed memory and I have tried to pass on to our children.”
Sack volunteers with the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, American Friends of Magen David Adom, Israel Bonds, Meals on Wheels and the JCC Maccabi youth sports committee. He said it’s easy hard to transition from his job teaching to his volunteer work.
“I talk regularly to my students about this,” he said. “I try to model behavior that I value, and giving back to the community and to others is a behavior I value. So, it’s not hard to transition to leave my job at school and ‘walk the walk’. It’s not about talking about doing good, it’s about actually engaging in the doing of it. I teach my classes about ‘observational learning’; some people put out there: ‘do as I say, not as I do.’ But I believe you must be clear with the messaging and with action that is consistent with that messaging! If one of your values is repairing the world, then you must truly walk the walk so others see how important repairing the world is.”
In fact, Sack said that due to his career as a classroom teacher, particularly in a diverse community such as Cleveland Heights, he felt he is uniquely positioned to give back to a number of different communities.
“As a teacher in Cleveland Heights, I’m in the classroom every day with a diverse population, exposing my students to good values, like speaking up against injustice,” Sack said. “I also have credibility in other worlds within our broader community and feel very fortunate to be in the position to use the respect that I’ve earned in other areas to promote the values of tikkun olam.”
He recalled a meaningful volunteering memory he had from June 2017, volunteering for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces when the Ohio chapter brought in the three paratroopers from David Rubinger’s iconic Six-Day War photograph to visit Cleveland. Sack and his late wife, Aviv, were asked to be the personal hosts for the paratroopers and their wives during their four day stay in Cleveland. Sack and his wife became very close with their special guests and helped create outside the itinerary opportunities for the paratroopers to meet young people and tell them about their experiences. For Sack this was particularly meaningful, as it was one of the last significant things he and his wife were able to do together for the community before Aviv passed away.
“The paratroopers and their wives felt the love and support the Cleveland Jewish community has for Israel,” Sack said. “We were their first stop in the States. They didn’t know what to expect, and they felt tremendous love and support here.”
Sack took a step back from volunteering the past year or so to care for Aviv, but is now starting to get back to where he was in giving back to the community.
“I look forward to getting full steam back into my meaningful volunteer work,” he said.
– Ed Carroll