Following L’Taken in DC 2019

Following L’Taken in DC 2019

#JewishBostonTeens are spending the weekend with Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism & other Jewish teens from all over the country at #racltaken Social Justice Seminar in Washington, DC! Follow our adventures throughout the weekend:

Day 4: Jewish Voices for Justice
After our inspiring group of #JewishBostonTeens wrapped-up their time at Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism #racltaken by lobbying their elected officials and raising their voices for criminal justice
reform, disability rights & awareness, economic justice and gun violence prevention. Everyone is home
safely, and hopefully en route to getting some much needed sleep after all of our DC adventures!

And, now that we’re back home in Boston, we remember that our tradition teaches us that it is not up to us to complete the work (or repairing the world), but neither shall we desist from it.

photoA heartfelt todah rabah (many thanks) to everyone for a very special and awesome weekend. We’ll be in touch in the next few days on Facebook and Instagram with follow-up info and photos, but for now we are still smiling from all of the laughs and fun times our group had this weekend!

Good night, and thank you again!

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

Day 3: Storytelling for Action

We started day #3 connecting as a group over breakfast, which was followed by a “storytelling for action” workshop and time for our group to check-in, debrief yesterday’s experiences a bit more and create cards to share some love with local Muslim friends and Islamic organizations. Our teens then attended workshops to learn more about different issues and bills, in addition to advocacy skills related to their various interest areas.

Our afternoon brought us to the Smithsonian Museums (and food trucks) on the National Mall, with our group touring the National Museum of Natural History, as well as spending some time hanging out on the Mall. We then headed for dinner at Pentagon Row, and headed back to the hotel for issue briefings to help us turn our interests and passions into action.

photoTonight was all about preparing for tomorrow, with our teens teaming-up with others in our group who shared similar interests. We split into four groups to cover a variety of important topics and challenges: criminal justice reform, disability rights and awareness, economic justice and gun violence prevention, and worked with RAC Legislative Assistants to learn more about their topics and challenges. We will be lobbying for these issues and current proposed legislation on Capital Hill tomorrow!

It has been an absolute pleasure working with this group of passionate, talented and creative teens. We were blown away by their maturity, dedication and compassion – and can’t wait for tomorrow (well…today, at this point)! Before bed tonight, our group took some time to debrief the day and reflect on what we each learned about ourselves from this experience. We also are reminded of what our tradition teaches us in Pirke Avot: it is not up to us to complete the work (of repairing the world), but we must not desist from it. We are commanded to pursue justice, and to do our part in helping to make our world a better place.

Tonight, we had our first electives, where we were able to learn about many different legislative issues currently being discussed. We begin to identify causes sparking our interest that we will lobby for on Monday!  These included Israel, criminal justice reform, LGBTQ rights, the refugee crisis, disability rights, and gun violence prevention.

Stay in the loop and follow our Facebook and Instagram channels!

Time to get a few hours of sleep before we make some noise 📣 in our nation’s capital!

Day 2: #ShavuaTov from #racltaken!

We began Day #2 at L’taken with breakfast and Shabbat morning services, where we were given the charge from Rabbi Jonah Pesner (Director of the Religious Action Center and former Bostonian!) to consider the power each one of us has to make a difference in the world.

After services, we participated in Kesef, Koach and Politika: A Lobbying Simulation – which focused on money, power and politics through the lenses of campaign finance reform and gun violence prevention. Our teens dove right into the middle of it all, helping to create creative marketing campaigns, slogans, arguments for and against various policies and issues – and being outspoken and passionate advocates for their causes.

photoFollowing lunch, we headed into the city to tour the MLK Jr. Memorial and the Holocaust Memorial Museum. With recent events fresh in our minds, the threads of memory, hope, justice, freedom and speaking up for change were present through the many discussions and experiences we had today. They also connect to the upcoming holiday of Purim

Our group then headed into Georgetown for dinner and some free time, which was enjoyed by all. We then said goodbye to Shabbat with the rest of the L’taken community with Havdalah at the Jefferson Memorial.

Tonight, we had our first electives, where we were able to learn about many different legislative issues currently being discussed. We begin to identify causes sparking our interest that we will lobby for on Monday!  These included Israel, criminal justice reform, LGBTQ rights, the refugee crisis, disability rights, and gun violence prevention.

We wrapped-up the day with a snack and group debrief, and are excited for another action-packed day tomorrow. A reminder to check out our Facebook and Instagram channels for highlights from the weekend. We’ll post more photos, videos and resources in the coming days. Thanks again for following along…and giving us a few likes!

But, for now…good night! 😴

Day 1: Hello from Washington, D.C.!

Our group had a fun afternoon of getting to know each other and travel, and have settled into our rooms at the hotel as we prepare to welcome Shabbat together with the rest of the community here. The weather has been beautiful, and everyone is looking forward to learning more about what we will be doing this weekend.


We enjoyed Shabbat dinner and services with the rest of the RAC L’Taken Seminar community, followed by a poverty education/simulation activity.

Connected to this, our group discussed the various levels of Maimonides’ Ladder of Tzedakah, and the number of barriers families of all shapes, sizes and stories face. Many of our teens took leadership/speaking roles in the discussion and program! Our group had a meaningful conversation of how we can connect our values to what’s happening in our world around us, what people need, and how different programs help and serve vulnerable populations.

We wrapped-up the evening with a snack and some debrief/bonding time with our group. Lots of laughs, good conversation and an opportunity to review the schedule. Don’t forget to like and follow us on Facebook and Instagram!

Time to rest-up for an action-packed day tomorrow!


JTI & CJP Community Action Day

JTI & CJP Community Action Day

Same Great Day, Brand New Name

J-Serve is now JTI & CJP Community Action Day

Since 2009, JTI has gathered teens in April to take part in an international day of service known as J-Serve. Last year, we partnered with Combined Jewish Philanthropies to put together J-Serve + North Shore Mitzvah Day, a day that saw 200 volunteers of all ages led by teens to do a variety of projects to help (check out pictures from last year!)

As the scope of the day changed, we decided that a new name was needed for this amazing day…and so, we are proud to introduce JTI & CJP Community Action Day.

The day will continue to be an amazing opportunity to give back to the North Shore community, and we hope you’ll join us on Sunday, April 14 at Plummer Youth Promise in Salem. Stay tuned for more details!


Article Repost

Article Repost

Derek M. Sheckman Teen Leadership Award

winners prepare for Tikkun Olam

By Michael Wittner, Jewish Journal Staff

The North Shore can look forward to a wave of tikkun olam over the next few months.

Teens with disabilities will participate in a Jewish community service day. Community members will learn how to make reusable bags from T-shirts at sustainability fair. Volunteers will make enough hamantashen and rugelach to feed over 250 needy people at My Brother’s Table in Lynn.

All of these projects will be spearheaded by the 2018 winners of the Derek M. Sheckman Teen Leadership Award, which for over 20 years has recognized Jewish teen leaders who have made a difference in the North Shore community. This year’s winners were announced at the Jewish Teen Initiative’s Community Action Day (then called J-Serve/North Shore Mitzvah Day) on April 22 of last year.

The award honors Derek Sheckman of Swampscott, who was one of two recipients of the North Shore Jewish community’s first Teen Leadership Award in 1996. Two years later, the inspirational Sheckman succumbed to cancer. He was 18.

The award, which grants recipients up to $1,000 to design and implement a service project in line with their talents and experience, has typically been given to only one winner. However, Gabe Miner, who helps administer the program on behalf of the Jewish Teen Initiative and works with award winners to develop their projects, said this year it was too difficult to choose just one.

“This last year we had three winners, because we felt that all three candidates were very deserving, and they were really addressing a variety of issues,” said Miner. “The teens who were running them were exceptional leaders. The nominations that we had from the rabbis and teachers who brought them to us really indicated a high level of maturity and intelligence, which was confirmed when we spoke with the three of them.”

One of the recipients is Haley Lakind, an 18-year-old senior at Swampscott High School. Lakind is the president of the school’s Innovators Club, which fosters connections between the larger student body and its special needs population.

Since taking over as president, Lakind has worked to reduce the isolation that special needs students can feel. “I’ve been trying to implement programs and activities that happen around the school for more people to meet them and get involved, and to just make them feel more confident about themselves and that they have a sense of home and community within the school,” said Lakind.

On Feb. 24, Lakind and other Innovators Club members made and sold coffee and desserts to raise money at a North Shore Philharmonic Orchestra concert held at Swampscott High. Lakind also has put together a Thanksgiving party, a Christmas cookie decorating party, and is in the process of planning a movie night. She plans to include members of the Innovators Club at the Jewish Teen Initiative and Combined Jewish Philanthropies’ Com­munity Action Day on April 19.

Another award recipient is Kevin MacDonald, a 19-year-old from Beverly who is currently a freshman at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. During a high school internship with Salem Sound Coastwatch, an environmental nonprofit, MacDonald learned how to make reusable bags out of T-shirts. This will come in handy for residents of Beverly, where plastic bags have been banned in stores since January.

“Anyone can make them, because they don’t require sewing knowledge,” said MacDonald. “You can cut the sleeves of the shirt and use them as handles for the bag. You cut the collar off, so there’s room to put things in the bag, and then you make a fringe – you cut them into strips and then tie the strips together to close the seam.”

MacDonald has shared these skills at Temple B’nai Abraham in Beverly – which his family attends, and whose rabbi, Alison Adler, nominated him for the award – with a Hebrew school class and during a session open to the community. These two sessions produced 20 reusable bags. MacDonald will run a third session on March 31, when the temple will host the Shomrei Adamah Festival, which will showcase the works of different local environmental groups.

More T-shirts are needed, so if you would like to donate any, you can email MacDonald at

The final award recipient is Arly MackRosen, a 16-year-old junior at Marblehead High School, who was nominated by Rabbi David Meyer of Temple Emanu-El. For a long time, MackRosen has spent Thursday nights helping prepare food at Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead for the families of congregants who are sick or have a member who has recently passed away. She also has cooked and baked for many other temple occasions.

After this volunteer work won her a Sheckman Award, MackRosen decided to use her culinary skills to help the wider community. In January, 13 of her peers joined her to make rugelach and brownies to donate to My Brother’s Table. She plans to do three more of these cooking sessions in March, April, and May.

“It means a lot to me because I feel like I’m really privileged, and I always think about how every night and every day I have something for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and it’s hard to think how some people don’t necessarily have that,” said MackRosen. “So it means a lot to me to be giving back and helping people to make sure they have food and something sweet to enjoy after dinner.”

“We were excited about these three projects because they were rooted in things that winners were quite passionate about,” said Miner. “It seemed to us that these were projects that were not only values that we wanted to promote and live as a Jewish organization, but also we were just really impressed with the passion and excitement that the teens brought to these ideas.”

buttonNominations for the 2019 Derek M. Sheckman Award are open through March 20th.

Reposted from Jewish Journal – March 11, 2019

Homework Cafe

Homework Cafe

Attention Gloucester Teens!

(note: non-Gloucester Teens welcome)

Looking for a spot to spend a few hours on Sunday where you can see friends, do homework, and enjoy a hot beverage (on us)?

Drop a pin at Pleasant Street Tea Co this Sunday, March 17th from 12-2pm for our #HomeworkCafe. Bring a book, something to work on, or just come say “HI” 👋.

Can’t wait to see you there!

#JewishBostonTeens #JTIBoston

Derek Sheckman Award Project

Derek Sheckman Award Project

Love Cooking 👩‍🍳

Looking for service hours?

Bake with Arly MackRosen and other #JewishBostonTeens on Thursday, 3/14 at Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead from 6:30-8pm for her 2nd session of making My Brother’s Table donations. In honor of Purim, you’ll be cooking hamentashen! RSVP to

Mad props to Arly for COOKING WITH L❤️VE through her Derek Sheckman Award and to all the amazing #JewishBostonTeens who came out on January 10th and made delicious rugelach and brownie donations.

#CookWithLove #JewishDesserts #DerekSheckman #MyBrothersTable

Nominate a Teen

Whether you are a teen with a project you’re passionate about or a teacher, rabbi, coach, or neighbor who knows an impressive teen, learn and nominate a teen today.


2019 Annual Meeting – Join us!

2019 Annual Meeting – Join us!

A Night with JTI Boston

Join us as we showcase the heart and soul of our organization at our Annual Meeting! Whether you’re a parent, a friend or an interested community member, join us to hear teens share stories and lessons from Habitat, NYC, DC, Peer Leadership Fellows, Metrowest and North Shore Service Days, Sheckman Award programs and more.

  • Who: Jewish Teens and all those that support them (families, friends, community partners, rabbis, teachers, board members and more)
  • What: Stories of adventure, impact, laughter and growth as told by JTI Boston Teens
  • When: Sunday, March 31st, 2019 from 4-6pm
  • Where: Temple Emanuel at 120 Chestnut St, Wakefield, MA 01880

buttonThis program is free but your RSVP is required to ensure we have enough snacks and project supplies for this special evening.

But wait, there’s more.

We’ll also work together to complete a special service project in support of Community Action Day (formerly J-Serve), our April 14th day of service in partnership with CJP!

Psst: we get it, life is busy. 

If you want to support JTI but your schedule won’t allow you to join us, you can still send a gift that directly impacts our ability to engage more amazing Jewish teens, like the ones sharing at this event.

Your Support Counts!

2019 Sheckman Award Nominations

2019 Sheckman Award Nominations

Nominations are now open for the Derek Sheckman Award! Each year we accept nominations for outstanding North Shore teens who want to create a service project that will benefit the community. Past projects have addressed sustainability, inclusion, food scarcity, LGBTQ+ rights, and more! Whether you are a teen with a project you’re passionate about or a teacher, rabbi, coach, or neighbor who knows an impressive teen, learn and nominate a teen today.


(Pictured: Kevin MacDonald helps Hebrew Schoolers at Temple B’nai Abraham of Beverly, Mass. USA, – make reusable bags as part of his project)

Following Habitat in NOLA 2019

Following Habitat in NOLA 2019

Jewish teens from Greater Boston, ages 16+, have gone from hitting the books to hitting nails in New Orleans, LA through Habitat for Humanity’s alternative spring break program:

Day 1: We had a great first day here in the Big Easy! After sleeping in a little bit after last night’s late-night arrival, we made a run to the nearby grocery store to get snacks and lunch supplies for our work week (we’ll be making our sandwiches daily at the work site).

Because it was a little rainy this morning, we switched around our plans and made our way straight to the World War II Museum. This is an incredible museum…interactive exhibits and so much information, we honestly could have spent the whole day there. After learning about D-Day (did you know the Allies employed movie studios to help make a fake army base at Pas-de-Calais do distract the Germans?), we saw a 4-D movie called “Beyond All Boundaries,” where we learned more about America’s involvement in the war (bonus: narrated by Tom Hanks!). Then we had some time to explore parts of the museum on our own before we participated in a submarine simulation (you can see in the pictures some of the teens holding their identity cards from the mission).

photoAfter the museum, we made our way to the famous Cafe Du Monde for cafe au lait and beignets.  If you’re not familiar with the beignet (ben-YAY), it is a French pastry that is fried dough covered with powdered sugar, and dips quite nicely in the aforementioned cafe au lait (or hot chocolate).  I don’t want to exaggerate but if there’s a heaven, this is for sure one of the foods they serve up there.  After enjoying this divine delectable, the group had some free time in the French Quarter.  We explored shops, galleries, cafes, hot sauce stores, and more in this architecturally stunning and historical neighborhood.  Before dinner, we discussed the work we’d be starting tomorrow with Habitat, and everyone had a chance to share highlights of the trip so far.  We also looked at the biblical verse “tzedek tzedek tirdof, (Justice, justice shall you pursue)” as a frame for our work this week.

After a delicious dinner at Louisiana Pizza Kitchen (which is way better than California Pizza Kitchen), we made our way to Snug Harbor for some New Orleans jazz courtesy of the Charmaine Neville Band.  There, we also got to meet up with the crew from Shir Tikvah in Winchester, who are also down in New Orleans volunteering over the break.  Charmaine got the audience singing and we had a blast, whether she was singing about the girl from Ipanema or Minne the Moocher.  Now we’re back at the hotel resting up for our first day at the work site.

Tomorrow…we get to work!

Day 2: Today was our first day at our buildsite, which is in the eastern part of the city (known colloquially as New Orleans East). We arrived at our site to find our house and our site manager, Lizzie. After Lizzie told us a bit about the work that Habitat does, she gave us the safety shpiel and then we got to work! The house we’re working on is pretty far along in its process, so for the first part of the morning we painted the exterior of the house. As the rain picked up a bit we moved inside to work on the inside; doors, frames, and trim needed our attention and there was caulking to be done.

During lunch we enjoyed some relaxing music (as opposed to the more upbeat, high-energy music we listen to when we work) and the sandwiches we made with our lunch fixins.  After lunch, we had the energy to continue to make this house beautiful, and as the rain cleared in the afternoon some of us were able to make our way out to do some more exterior work.  The group is eager to work, and are quick learners in a variety of new skills/tasks they’ve learned.  It’s only been one day, but already we can see progress on the house.

photoCovered in paint, mud, and satisfaction, the group loaded up the cars and returned to the hotel to wash up and shower before tonight’s evening program, which I must say took a surprising turn.  We had planned on a walking tour in the French Quarter, but because it had rained most of the day and the forecast said rain, we decided as a group not to risk a cold, wet, and uncomfortable evening, and opted instead for dinner at a delightful diner where a woman named Debbie, a resident of New Orleans for over 60 years, made a point to come over to our table and thank the group for volunteering, and how their work meant so much to the city.  This highlighted for the group not only how friendly the folks down here are, but also how significant their decision to spend their vacation helping others was.

After the diner, we went to a nearby mall to finish off the night with a little strolling, shopping, and even ice skating on a synthetic ice rink!  Though we were bummed to miss the French Quarter tonight, the group had a fun, low-key night after a good day of work.  In tonight’s debrief, some of the words people used to describe how they were feeling included “accomplished,” “proud,” and “excited.”  The group is feeling good about the work we’re doing, and excited to see more of New Orleans in the coming days.

Can’t wait to share what tomorrow brings!

Day 3: It’s hard to believe it, but we’re almost halfway through our trip…when did that happen?! Today was another great day at the buildsite. First off, the morning was much warmer than it’s been, so that was a nice change of pace (even if it was a little muggy…we’ll take it!). We started off the day by taking a group shot in our Habitat Vests. You may notice they have both the JTI logo and the Marblehead Bank logo. Marblehead Bank makes a generous donation in support of this trip to help us with the swag, and we appreciate their inVESTment in us (sorry, I couldn’t help myself).

photoThe work day saw a variety of jobs; cutting and putting up trim, installing doors, painting, caulking, and more. The weather decided to wait until just as we were finishing lunch to start raining, and we spent the afternoon continuing to work inside on the house. The group has been doing a great job of keeping energy high and being eager to work…it is apropos that tonight before we went out we talked about the rabbinic quote “it is not upon you to finish the task, but neither are you free to desist from it” and the idea of service as a Jewish value.

Tonight’s evening activity was dinner and arcade at Dave and Busters. The group had a great time playing games, winning tickets (did you know tickets are electronic now, not actual physical tickets you have to carry around and count?), and redeeming the aforementioned tickets for prizes that ranged from fuzzy pillows to card games (which they subsequently played in our meeting room before lights out tonight).

All in all, another great day here in New Orleans. We’re excited for bowling and live music tomorrow, but for now everyone is burritoed up in their blankets sleeping and dreaming sweet dreams of swinging hammers and humming miter saws.

Day 4: Today was not only the best day of work we’ve had so far, it was also the nicest weather-wise. The day started off a little rainy in the morning, but but mid-morning the sun was peeking through the clouds enough to dry the ground for an outdoor lunch. By the afternoon, it was sunny and warm…don’t worry, everyone is drinking water!

photoIt’s at the point in the trip where it’s frankly a shame we’re leaving soon, because people feel so comfortable at the build site. We’re rarely “teaching” skills at this point, mostly supervising and spot-checking. The teens are really doing this work and you can see that they take pride in it. Our site manager, Lizzie, had a large list of “to-do’s” today, and I’m proud to say that we checked off everything and, with the help of the sunshine, even got a lot of exterior painting and soffit installation done.

I should also point out that for one person on the trip, the day started with balloons because it’s her birthday! Amanda turned 17 today, and we’re so glad that her folks have let her celebrate the big 1-7 with us…birthday celebrations included singing and delicious birthday cake tonight, as well as some gifts and a card that everyone (even Lizzie!) signed.

Before heading out for Mexican dinner tonight, the group listened to the song “Waiting on the World To Change” and shared some great insight into the song, from frustrations with society and government to the knowledge that the world is their responsibility, and the idea that it’s not enough to let someone else make something happen, we have to be agents of change.

After a musical text study and dinner we had a great evening at Rock N’ Bowl. In addition to bowling (and eating cake to celebrate Amanda) we got to hear live Zydeco music, continuing our exploration of New Orleans’ musical heritage. The group came back and hung out in the meeting room playing cards until lights out, and now it’s time to get some shut-eye before our final day at the build site.

Day 5: Although today was only a half-day at our build site, we once again accomplished everything on Lizzie’s To Do List, from soffit and painting to shelving and caulking. We were sad to say farewell to Lizzie and the house on Dorian St that we’ve come to think of as our own, but we left feeling proud of the work we’d done. Today, during lunch, a neighborhood man drove past us and honked at us, giving us a thumbs-up in appreciation for what we were doing, a reminder of the community down here and what it means to them to have guests down here helping out.

photoWe went back to the hotel after lunch and got ready for our Tulane experience. First we took a tour of the beautiful campus and heard all about dorms, academics, extracurricular life, and more. Tulane has a wonderful campus; verdant and vast, with several large sculptures in the quad and lots of beautiful buildings. We stopped in a few of them and our tour guide Irene told us about her own experience at Tulane. After a midday snack/coffee break, the group went to Audobon Park, a 350-acre beautiful park literally across the street from Tulane. There we relaxed, enjoyed the views, and people had a chance to share with the group about fun facts, personal accomplishments from the week, and highlights.

From the park we went to Tulane’s Hillel, where we participated in their weekly Nosh and Learn, a short discussion with snacks that is prepared by a Tulane student each other. We discussed community and how we might be able to help our own communities (a topic which was obviously fresh in our teens’ minds!). Services followed, also student led, and then a delicious Israeli dinner of schnitzel, falafel, and baklava. The community was very welcoming, and it was a great way to celebrate Shabbat in New Orleans.

But the night wasn’t over there! After dinner, we headed back to Metairie a few miles down the road from our hotel for Family Gras. When we arrived we had some time to walk around the various booths and vendors before lining up for the end of the Krewe of Excalibur Parade. I can’t even describe the parade, so I took lots of pictures and video which you can take a look at here. I will say, though, that it was an amazing way to spend our last night; a great New Orleans celebration with music, beads, and a fun (but friendly) party atmosphere.

We wound down a bit once we got back to the hotel, sad in the knowledge that we’re leaving tomorrow, but delighted that the flight is late enough that we’ll get to sleep in. Let me take this opportunity to thank you again for sending us down to New Orleans with such a wonderful group of teens. The kindness, work ethic, and enthusiasm they have shown this week has helped make gross weather fun, hot days enjoyable, and this trip unforgettable. The other staff and I feel very lucky to do this work with this group.

The group is sad to leave each other (and the NOLA warmth!) but we’re feeling great about the work we’ve done this week.