A Journey of Tikkun Olam

By Lynn Sedway, 2013 Judith Chapman Memorial Award recipient

Tikkun olam, Hebrew for “repairing the world,” has been a guiding precept for me.  It has taken many forms in both my work as a volunteer and as a professional, each enriching my life greatly.

In retrospect, my journey of tikkun olam did not involve a conscious plan.  I liken it to the Hebrew saying describing our people at Mt. Sinai as we accepted the Torah – na’aseh v’nishma, meaning “we will do, and [then] we will understand”.  So it was almost instinctive for me that I took on various activities and only later appreciated and understood their importance, as well as my own motivation that impelled my own program of tikkun olam.

Like so many others, the trajectory of my journey has come from just saying yes to one cause, and then another.

Throughout my career, I have been pleased to give guidance and create connections for young women and men who have sought my advice in selecting an educational, volunteer, or career path.    In recent years, I have been able to extend my mentorship in greater depth within the Jewish community.  I strongly believe that the act of guiding others is critically important in order to pass the torch to our next generation, l’dor v’dor, and  I value the resulting friendships I have made with my mentees.

There have been multitudes of “yes’s” that have been change agents in my life.

Participating on a New Israel Fund-sponsored trip to Israel with Rabbi Larry Raphael and seeing Israel through the eyes of my own Rabbi was very meaningful and life changing! I realized how much Judaism meant to me, and at the same time how ignorant I had been about my religion and its history.

Upon my return from Israel, I enrolled in adult learning classes at Sherith Israel and decided to become an adult bat mitzvah, as well as go through an adult confirmation.  I also became more active at the synagogue where I feel one grows as Jews, both young and old.  One key ” yes” for me, was the decision to serve on Congregation Sherith Israel’s Strategic Plan Committee and its Social Action subcommittee , which resulted in a deeper connection to Judaism. I joined the Synagogue’s Board of Trustees and served as president.  During my tenure, we successfully completed the first phase of the capital campaign to meet the city’s seismic requirements. Today, I remain active and dedicated to Sherith Israel.

My ancestors came from very different backgrounds but nonetheless were dedicated to important causes.

My maternal Jewish ancestors arrived in the New World in 1760, when the family patriarch became keeper of the Port of Charleston during the Revolutionary War.  I researched members of my family and  learned that he was a founder and the first rabbi of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, a reform congregation in Charleston, SC.  My paternal grandparents arrived at Ellis Island in the early 1900s, and my grandfather served as vice-president of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HAIS). I know that he worked incredibly hard and effectively to bring innumerable Jews from Eastern Europe to this country.

I am proud to be part of this community.

I also credit my family for many of my achievements. My husband, Paul, is very committed to tikkun olam in his, and our lives, and I am proud to note a commitment to improving the lives of others in the careers and lives of our grown children, Mark, Carolyn, and Jan.

Lynn Sedway will receive the Judith Chapman Memorial Women’s Leadership Award at the Power of One on Wednesday, May 1, 2013.


Categories: Leadership, Videos


March 22, 2013


The Federation