Adam Gaynor and Rabbi Brent Spodek have written an interesting piece in eJewishPhilanthropy on what makes Jewish service learning programs both ethically sound and Jewish. They write (in part):
...[S]ervice-learning experiences offer unparalleled opportunities for hands-on work, meaningful engagement with the complexities of the Jewish tradition, learning from peers, leaders and hosts, and discussion of what it means to live a Jewish life turned outward to the world. These experiences also carry some dangers: we risk investing dollars and years in resume burnishing, we risk harming the communities from which we seek to learn and, perhaps most dangerously, we turn the people we aspire to serve into simple props upon which the Jewish community can play out our fantasies and desires.
With that in mind, we submit that a high-quality Jewish learning program is one in which participants turn outward from themselves to seek, cherish and elevate the divine element present in every human being. It’s not Americans of Jewish extraction doing a service-learning program that makes it Jewish; it is the focus on needs other than our own.
You can read the entire piece here.