On April 15, 2018 approximately 300 Jewish teens from throughout Greater MetroWest converged on the Alex Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus in Whippany, NJ to participate in J-SERVE, the yearly day of Jewish teen service. This community event was planned through JTEEN of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest and through the J-SERVE Committee, comprising of approximately 50 ambassadors of different Jewish organizations who have come together since October to plan and develop J-SERVE 2018. The fourteen 1 ½ hour hands-on service projects at the event were all lead by members of the Committee, who were also in charge of facilitating Jewish learning and reflections. Service topics ranged from providing emergency aid packages for Syrian refugees, painting Shabbat items for Jewish seniors with JESPY house members, creating family trees for Holocaust Survivors, crafting patriotic items for Israeli lone soldiers, and so much more.
Unlike ever before, the service expo that began the day was an interactive mix of service, education, and Jewish community involvement that truly embodied the spirit of J-SERVE. Representatives from 25 organizations provided activities ranging from Krav Maga demonstrations, guided tours of the Holocaust Council’s exhibit, basketball “Hoops” for charity, CPR training, and trials of technological tools for people with disabilities, just to name a few. The capstone speeches of J-SERVE drove the ultimate mission of J-SERVE home: Jewish learning and community involvement does not have to wait, it can begin today. The speeches from Jessie Kransdorf, a member of the JTEEN Justice League highlighted how she was able to turn a debilitating injury that prevented her from pursuing dance into an opportunity to channel her energy towards helping others and enhancing her Jewish identity. She went on to introduce Mandi and Harris Jaffe, twin survivors of the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, originally from Livingston NJ. The twins flew back to New Jersey to deliver impassioned speeches on the importance on common sense gun legislation. The audience was left with the message of how to utilize Jewish values and personal drive to accomplish great feats, regardless of age.
J-SERVE 2018 was sponsored by Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest’s JTEEN division, BBYO, Good Deed’s Day, and Sababa Beach Away. Preliminary amateur photos from the event can be found at https://photos.app.goo.gl/OYC0f6tgEQTpac2q2. The official guide from the event, which lists all of the partners, projects and J-SERVE committee members from J-SERVE 2018, is in the PDF file below. If you have questions about J-SERVE or are interested in having a Jewish organization sign on to J-SERVE 2019, contact Michael Strom, Coordinator of Jewish Service Learning for Jewish Federation of GMW, at 973-929-2963 or email@example.com. J-SERVE 2019 will take place on April 7, 2019.
J-SERVE 2017, the annual day of Jewish teen service, was held in our region on April 2, 2017
Community Wide Event: This was by far the largest J-SERVE performed in our region, with well over 300 teens participating. Over 40 teens served on the J-SERVE committee as AMBASSADORS of Jewish teen programs, organizations, synagogues and day schools all over Greater MetroWest, meeting regularly since November as to help plan, lead, and recruit for J-SERVE.
Comprehensive Day of Service: The day included FOURTEEN hands-on service projects on a diverse array of topics (with speakers or organization representatives at each project), a service opportunities expo with 20 organizations, very successful donation drives, 2 inspiring teen speakers, 19 teen-lead focused Jewish learning groups, and 19 teen-lead “reflection mix-up” groups. For our professional photographer's pictures, click here: set 1, set 2.
Highlighting Teen Leaders: Other than the exceptional teens on the J-SERVE committee, a number of teens who have formed non-profits or lead social initiatives were featured. Donations were collected to aid the efforts of Kayla Legatt, Emma Rothman and Jessie Kransdorf; speeches were presented. by Sammi Glennon, anti-bullying non-profit leader, and Julie Averbach, sibling support comic creator.
Diverse Service Opportunities: The 14 service opportunities met a diverse range of community and international needs. These were divided into 6 themes.
The “Hospitality” theme included a service project creating ready-to-play games and activities for kids at Homeless Solutions in Morristown, creating Seder plates for impoverished Jewish seniors with help from a dozen adults with special needs from JESPY house, and creating care packages for Israeli “Lone Soldiers” (soldiers in Israel from America).
The “Healing” theme included a project supporting spinal cord injury patients at Kessler rehab and a project with United Hatsallah (a first response group) creating medic bags for responders in Israel (this project also included a CPR training course).
The “Against Violence” theme included an anti-bullying training led by Sammi Glennon followed by the creation of “Survival Bags” comprising symbolic items for kids/teens facing bullying, along with the “In Her Shoes” program by Rachel Coalition, a domestic violence educational simulation followed by a packing project to benefit kids at courthouses waiting during domestic abuse litigation.
The “Inclusion” theme involved two projects with CPNJ; “Buddy-It-Up” involved sports and activities to form personal connections with adults with disabilities, and the “Rooting for Heroism” project involved creating motivational signs for children competing in the Weelin’ and Walkin’ race.
The “Intergenerational Service” theme involved projects where teens and Seniors could work together and learn from each other. These projects included creating family trees for Holocaust survivors, creating Passover Seder items with Seniors at Lester Senior Housing, and creating potted plants and birdhouses (also at Lester).
The “Social Justice” theme involved contemporary issues, each including significant learning regarding the topic at hand. The projects involved creating first aid kits for Syrian refugees (with notes that said “Peace” in English, Hebrew and Arabic) as well as creating “Survival Kits” along with volunteers from Newark Conservancy for former inmates at prisons to combat recidivism.
All service projects included speakers or organizational representatives to explain the mission of the service partner and additional information about the social justice concerns that the partner addresses.
Just the beginning – For more information about ongoing Jewish Service Learning opportunities for teens in our community, contact Michael Strom at 973-929-2963 or firstname.lastname@example.org