Connecting Colorado’s Jewish Teens

Convention Reflections from Chicago

Leora     Hannah

By Leora G & Hannah P

As young Jewish women in the Colorado community, we have both grown to be avid members in local, regional, and nationwide groups, all coming together for one common purpose: to spread our Jewish morals and values to all stretches of the world. Being a minority, we see the significance in coming together to celebrate our Jewish identity in many aspects. After being in NFTY (the North American Federation for Temple Youth) for almost five years, our love for our religion has blossomed. As we have trekked through the journey of high school, we have learned about other minorities and standing up for our beliefs through the many events across our region, teaching us how to better our world with tikkun olam.

This past February, we attended a North American event for all of NFTY’s 19 regions called NFTY Convention. We travelled to the infamous windy city of Chicago to learn about social justice issues surrounding us and what we as teenagers can accomplish when we all join together. We were able to select social justice cohorts ranging from issues like mental health to LGBTQ rights, and got to collaborate with others interested in the topic to find ways to apply what we learned during the weekend and take it home. During the large plenary sessions, everyone gathered to listen to influential advocates for social justice and local leaders to hear words of wisdom and encouragement to guide us along the way and inspire us to do more.

I, Hannah, a member at Temple Emanuel and current President of our youth group, signed up for the environmentalism program. I chose this due to my lack of knowledge of how I can effectively make a change about this in my community. Activities ranges from how to discuss climate change with skeptics which allowed us to learn other points of view or even about how we can transfer what we learned and apply them to our home states. I came to the conclusion that in Colorado, we face a growing threat in the pine beetle epidemic. To fix this issue, my fellow Coloradans wish to begin to plant more trees, and get rid of the infested ones. During this weekend, I learned a lot about how I can start a chain to help fix our planet and with help from others with the same passion, our world will be even more beautiful.

I, Leora, am a member of Congregation Har Hashem in Boulder, where I currently serve as Social Action Vice President for the high school youth group. At NFTY Convention, I attended the economic justice cohort sessions because, as a compassionate lover of all things social action, I wanted to learn all I could about an issue that was newer to my repertoire. During our programs, we talked about access to different types of healthcare, education, food, housing, and other resources that can affect someone’s standard of living. We also talked about how lack of access to proper conditions for these things can lessen someone’s ability to be as successful, for they might have to work ten times harder to achieve the same results as someone more well-off in socioeconomic status. Coming from Boulder, I see the problems of homelessness my community faces, and felt inspired to learn more and find a way to seek a solution so that everyone in Boulder can be successful.

As the weekend came to an end, all 900 participants got the opportunity to travel around the greater Chicago area to learn even more about our community. We both chose the Keshet House and The Ronald McDonald House. There, we learned about communities separate from our own and how we can be part of their lives even for a few hours. While we learned a lot about how to bring back social justice to our communities, a large impact of the weekend was being able to meet hundreds of teens from across the nation, all passionate about change. This sense of greater kehilah allows us to further our Jewish identity and spread kindness and knowledge all around the globe. Our social action does not stop here, as we will continue to change not only or Colorado community but the world itself.

 


Jewish Teens join in Global Movement to Serve their Community

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Over 80 teens came out for this year’s J-Serve, the International Day of Jewish Teen Service in Denver. Teens focused on either advocacy or community service to help make a difference in their community. The entire day was planned by a committee of teens who are passionate about repairing the world including Ari Diamond, Joel Douglas, Margalit Goldberg, Julie Grossman, Miriam Weinraub, Tali Williamson and Alex Zinn.

The J-Serve teen committee planned a wide variety of projects this year impacting many different individuals. They:

  • Learned about food justice issues and advocacy
  • Created art pieces to be hung at Judi’s House
  • Made 654 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the homeless
  • Created cards for children from around the world undergoing heart surgery in Israel
  • Decorated bookmarks for new books being donated to children learning English through the Denver Public Library

This year’s committee wanted to impact a variety of populations and give teens the opportunity to delve deeper into advocacy. “Ekar Farms was happy to partner with us on this project. Margot Sands provided a wonderful program that gave teens a foundation in understanding food justice issues, as well as tools to advocate on this issue or any other they are passionate about,” said Karen Silverman, Executive Director of jHub.

Joel Douglas, one of the committee members, was also excited about creating art for a nonprofit. Along with Ian Solow-Neiderman, Regional Director of Rocky Mountain Region BBYO, they came up with a plan to decorate windows to hang as art pieces. “The project gave teens a different way to express themselves while reflecting on the experience of grieving children who visit Judi’s House,” said Solow-Neiderman.  Over spring break, they proudly presented the pieces to staff at Judi’s House. 

J-Serve is a yearly community wide program that provides teens with the opportunity to fulfill the Jewish values of gemilut chasidim, acts of loving kindness, tzedakah, just and charitable giving, and tikkum olam, the responsibility to repair the world. This year, J-Serve received generous support from the following organizations: B’nai Havurah and BBYO International.  J-Serve is organized locally by jHub, an association of 25 Jewish teen serving organizations and RMR-BBYO, the leading pluralistic teen movement. For more information, contact info@jhubco.org.

 


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