We continue our summer blog series with a reflection from Fiana Herscovici, one of this year’s Peer Leadership Fellows in Metrowest. Fiana has been a staple for Metrowest Service projects this year. Fiana is a rising senior at Framingham High School and will be continuing her work with JTI in the coming year.
My sophomore year was defined by my Jewish extracurriculars. Throughout the year I had attended numerous NFTY events, fallen in love with my Diller Cohort, and had become an integral part of Temple Beth Am’s Youth Group, BATY, as their Religious and Cultural Vice President. As my sophomore year came to a close, I realized that all I wanted was to expose other teens to the opportunities I had had the ability to experience.
When the Director of Education of my temple, Rabbi Marcie Kamerow, told me about the Jewish Teen Initiative, I knew that I had found the platform that would allow me to shout from the rooftops how incredible Jewish youth groups are. I applied to be a Peer Leadership Fellow, and in the fall of this past year, the real work began. At the first meeting, I got to know the other amazing teens I would be working with and it was invigorating to be in a space so full of appreciation and passion for Jewish learning and programming. We learned that we would take on the task of data collectors in charge of gathering answers from individualized networks of Jewish teens that would help the MetroWest area gage what teens were looking for in programs and organizations. With these answers, a database would be created allowing both affiliated and unaffiliated teens to discover events in their area where they could hang out with friends, volunteer, play video games, whatever they liked to do, in a Jewish setting. But before any of this could happen, the twenty Peer Leadership Fellows formed our own network of teens that we would feel comfortable calling and asking questions throughout the year. I began brainstorming by listing the organizations that I participated in and the areas of my life where I had engaged with Jewish teens.
As I wrote down these areas, my mind flooded with memories of my first NFTY Summer Institute, my last week in Israel surrounded by 500 Diller teens and hundreds of languages and cultures, planning sessions with BATY Board that had helped recreate Levi Leap, and much much more. I began thinking about the people that had made these memories so potent, and the names of my current best friends, then strangers, began to surround these areas. I realized with a sort of awe that it was because of my time in Jewish programs, my experiences in Jewish spaces, that my life had been infused with the most uplifting and long-lasting friendships. I ended up with a network of twenty-five Jewish teens including those I had known since the eighth grade and those I had only met a few months ago. Throughout my year as a Peer Leader, not only did I gain valuable data from my network on what they wanted to see in Jewish programs in the MetroWest, but I also got to forge and strengthen connections with teens across the Boston area.
A couple of weeks ago, I sat down with JTI Associate Director Brett Lubarsky in a Columbian coffee shop in Framingham. Upon my arrival, he took out his laptop, typed in the web address, www.JewishBostonTeens.com, and what popped up was the fruit of the labors of JTI Fellows, Brett, and countless others. The site is a gleaming database that compiles all the events occurring in the MetroWest area and it even allows the user to search for events based on their interests, location, and more. In a couple of months, it will be open for public use. In a couple of months, every Jewish teen in the Boston area will be able to access the countless opportunities and events that have created, shaped, and breathed into life my Jewish identity.