Teens are Learning and Leading the Way Through JFCS and Its Community Partnerships…
All too often, we hear about how kids are plastered to their cell phones, sucked up into who or what is posting on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. We hear about addictions to video games and viral videos on YouTube often leaving little time for outdoor play or community activities. And, worrying about how they look in ‘selfies’ has become an obsession for many that has taken over a good part of the day.
But at JFCS, we are delighted to share that we see a different side of our local youth: a side that shows inspired community involvement and a dedication to making the world a better place. Organizations that allow teens to learn and lead have become commonplace. National programs like ‘Do Something’ which encourages young people to create their own vision for making a difference by providing them with resources and support have gotten tremendous traction in our country. The Jewish community has placed a significant emphasis on teen involvement in social justice. All evidence points to the fact that one of the most accessible entry points into Jewish life and experience is through social justice. It is fulfilling and fun, you can do it with your friends, and you don’t have to commit to one single project forever. Organizations including ‘J-Serve’, ‘Repair the World’ and the Union for Reform Judaism’s ‘Mitzvah Corps’ have become robust centers for Jewish teens to connect, network and to change the world. Indeed, a whole lot of kids feel that their station in life is not solely about what they post on the Internet, but rather about what they do with their precious spare time that makes a difference in their community.
At JFCS, we frequently engage with kids who want to put real ‘skin in the game’. It is amazing to field calls from local high school students who want to host food drives. It is heartwarming to receive inquiries from B’nai Mitzvah students who ask how they can visit homebound clients to offer camaraderie and to learn from their elders. And, it is equally inspiring to hear, from yet others, who seek to collect sorely needed items for disadvantaged children who don’t have backpacks and school supplies. During JFCS’s Thanksgiving Community Cooking Project, teens joined forces with their parents as we prepared 300+ meals to be delivered throughout the local community. This act of performing mitzvot, l’dor v’ dor (from generation to generation) provides teens with powerful memories that they will carry with them throughout their lifetimes.
JFCS, in partnership with local organizations, will be putting this mission into motion this year, and every year to come. Our vision is to impart lessons and experiences that will cultivate compassion, raise awareness of important social issues, and enable our youth to become confident leaders and change agents in our society.
We are very proud of the numerous initiatives that we have sponsored with all of our local synagogues. Local synagogues such as Temple Beth Sholom, Congregation Beth El, Congregation Mkor Shalom, and Temple Emanuel have become integral partners to the agency as we work to expand our outreach to improve the understanding of social justice in the world. This year, the agency is embarking on an exciting new initiative with Adath Emanu-El in offering a dynamic curriculum for Hebrew High School students that is built upon Jewish values and social justice. With the guidance of synagogue educators, students will learn about the values of hospitality, feeding the hungry, loving thy neighbor, and honoring our elders. The curriculum will use Jewish texts as a guideline and then provide hands on experiences that make these values come to life by allowing the teens to meet and engage with the people that they are learning about. When we invest in the health, wellness, support, and enrichment of our young, it is an investment in our future as younger generations act to spread hope and help to those who need it most.
Teens are truly one of our most valuable assets. They provide the kind of human capital that is unstoppable. They have energy, enthusiasm and tons of idealism, which allows them to become true ambassadors for the human cause and a pipeline toward a future of prosperity.
Please call 856-424-1333 to discover all the ways teens can help the community through our various programs and opportunities.