13,000 teens participate in Jewish Youth Service
WASHINGTON, DC—Approximately 13,000 Jewish teens in more than 90 communities across 20 countries are participating in a day of community service and improvement projects this spring as part of J-Serve, the International Day of Jewish Youth Service, anchored on the official date—Sunday, April 2, 2017. With events kicking off as early as March and running through May, thousands of Jewish teens in grades six through twelve worldwide have organized a variety of J-Serve projects focused on meaningful social issues such as literacy, homelessness and poverty, food justice, refugees, Holocaust education, health and wellness, inclusion, domestic abuse and the environment, among others.
2017 marks the thirteenth year that Jewish youth are turning out in force for J-Serve to encourage community building and connections across religious and societal lines. Amidst an overall trend of declining teen involvement in organized religious life, J- Serve has continued to experience consistent growth since its beginning in 2005, witnessing a 150 percent increase in community participation, a 240 percent increase in teen engagement and an 850 percent increase in countries involved.
New for 2017, project coordinators were encouraged to invite local elected officials to attend and serve side-by-side with their teens as part of J-Serve. Many programs proved successful in this effort, with local project attendees including Mayor Brad Cohen of East Brunswick, NJ, Mayor David Martin of Stamford, CT, and State Representative Laura Fine of Illinois, among others.
From record-breaking crowds of 500+ teens in Vaughan, Ontario, participating in an all-day service extravaganza across twelve youth-designed projects tackling a wide variety of social issues, to smaller groups like the 65 teens gathered in Denver, Colorado, to create cards for sick children and make sandwiches for the local homeless community, BBYO members, community partners and supporters have come together for J-Serve across four continents to give back to their communities while embodying the Jewish values of gemilut chasadeim (acts of loving kindness), tzedakah and tikkun olam.
BBYO’s International Teen Vice Presidents of Jewish Heritage, Nicci Mowszowski (Denver, CO) and Jed Golman (Dallas, TX), stewarded BBYO’s participation in J-Serve this year. “J-Serve inspires Jewish teens to take action and to be pioneers of compassion and service, and has proven to make a huge difference on the ground—not only in the community, but on the participants,” said Mowszowski. “I love watching the aggregate impact that we as Jewish teens are able to create in just one weekend,” Golman added. “The teens involved truly enjoy the work they are doing, and it leads them to do more service at other times.”
J-Serve 2017 is the Jewish service component of Youth Service America’s annual Global Youth Service Day in partnership with Good Deeds Day, and is a collaboration of BBYO and Repair the World. J-Serve is generously underwritten by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and the is supported by partner agencies Foundation for Jewish Camp, JCCA, Jewish Federations, Jewish Student Union, Jewish Teen Funders Network, NCSY, NFTY, Rock the Vote, USY and Young Judaea.
“J-Serve reflects the dedication and passion that so many Jewish teens across the world have for making the world a better place,” said Lynn Schusterman, founder and co-chair of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. “I feel proud to know that the next generation is ready and willing to step up and be the change they wish to see in the world through J-Serve.”
As a core movement priority of the Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA, high school fraternity) and the B’nai B’rith Girls (BBG, high school sorority), BBYO members engage in meaningful service opportunities rooted in Jewish tradition throughout the year. Aligned closely with initiatives like J-Serve, members identify causes that inspire them and develop their own campaigns to affect positive change in their local and global communities. Combined, these efforts are empowering a generation of young Jewish leaders who are self-aware and motivated to become agents of change in their communities.