Tikkun Olam - Repairing the World - is a deeply rooted concept in Judaism that refers to a commitment to perfect and improve the world through our own behavior, attitudes and actions.
Tikkun means to repair or improve. Olam means the entire world. In Jewish teachings, any activity that improves the world, bringing it closer to the harmonious state for which it was created is considered Tikkun Olam. It implies that while the world is innately good, the Creator purposely left room for us to improve upon it.
In the last few decades, and especially in Reform and Reconstructionist circles, it has taken on the mantle of social justice. Bar and Bat Mitzvah kids dedicate Mitzvah projects to climate change, raising funds for Israel or non profit organizations. And because recent studies show that social justice ranks high among the priorities of Jewish Gen X-ers and Millenials, community leaders are capitalizing on the concept’s appeal to keep their younger constituents plugged in. It is also equally important to aging Baby Boomers, perhaps aligning with their hippie ideals of years ago. Tikkun Olam has become a buzzword for social action, it has become a part of the current vernacular. I was amazed to find a Pinterest board, items on Etsy and Amazon and even a Sesame Street song about it.
Tikkun Olam is a phrase found in the Mishnah, a body of classical rabbinic teachings. While the most modern and broadly understood notion of tikkun olam is that of "repairing the world" through human actions. More simply, it is important for Jews to participate in repairing the world by participating in tzedakah (justice and righteousness) and g'milut hasadim (acts of loving kindness). Without their stake in the improvement of their environment, injustice and evil will continue to exist.