Jewish Boston Teens

Jewish Boston Teens

Connecting Our Community is officially here! Have you seen it? Have you used it? Are you excited about all the things you can now find, see, do, learn? helps connect our community to the vast menu of opportunities available in Boston and beyond by acting as:

  • A central online connector for Jewish teens, parents, and professionals.
  • A living calendar of events and experiences.
  • A directory of programs, communities, and organizations. is also a critical resource for the JTI Peer Leadership Fellows who serve as catalysts for enhanced teen connection to Jewish life. The foundation of the Fellows’ relational work is to help foster deeper connections in our community, as well as to raise their peers’ awareness of the menu of opportunities that exist.

Teens from across Greater Boston, including many of the JTI Peer Leadership Fellows, were an important part of the development and implementation of

At the core of are relationships. JTI Boston remains committed to strengthening and supporting partner relationships in the Jewish Boston community to ensure this resource stays up to date, accurate and useful to those it serves.

Partner Resource Kit >>
Submit an Event >>

#JewishBostonTeens #CJPBoston #JTIBoston  #JewishBoston

Summer Blog Series: Habitat

Summer Blog Series: Habitat

We finish our summer blog series with a reflection from Sophie Cohen on her time in New Orleans with our Habitat for Humanity trip this past February. Sophie is a rising senior at Masconomet High School, a counselor at Camp Pembroke, and is going to be in her second year as a Peer Leadership Fellow.

Ever since I heard about the Habitat for Humanity trip, I have always wanted to go and experience what it’s like to build a house from the start. I have an older sister who went on this trip a year before me, and I loved seeing pictures of her with her new friends at a newly built home. Everything about this trip was so appealing to me: constructing a house, meeting Jewish teens, activities outside of the construction aspect. When the trip switched locations from North Carolina (where my sister did this trip) to New Orleans, I was even more excited. I couldn’t stop thinking about everything I could do there, from seeing beautiful places to trying new foods, and of course, building a house for a deserving family.

Habitat for Humanity was an indescribable experience for me. I had an amazing time making new friends and doing everything on the itinerary. My favorite part of the whole trip was, without a doubt, helping finish the house. I tried so many new things that I never even thought had to go into the construction process. Every room, measurement, and placement had to be perfect. No matter how long a certain project in the house took, it was so much fun. Some of the many projects I did during our time working in that house include painting doors and trims, caulking trims, filling in holes in walls or doors, and measuring windows and the accompanying sills that would go with them. Never before had I really understood all the work that goes into finishing a house, as crazy as that seems. Yet, despite all the hard work we put into this house, every moment of it was fun, interactive, and a great way to talk to new people.

Outside of the construction part of this trip, touring New Orleans was amazing. If you’ve never tried a beignet, I highly recommend them. The food was delicious, the streets of New Orleans were fun to walk around and buy souvenirs at, and I made friends with teens I would never have expected to be close with, but they’re people I still talk to today. The nights in our hotel were filled with fun card games, snacks, and many interesting adventures that made all of us laugh. Even outside of our hotel, we had an awesome time bowling, attending a Family Gras festival, and I even got the chance to catch up with a camp friend of mine who lives in New Orleans. My entire week on this trip was amazing. I love everything about what the trip had to offer me because I learned something every day, whether it was at the construction site, walking in the streets, or touring Tulane to see if I was interested in applying there. Not only was I experiencing something new every day, but I connected more with my Jewish identity, either by just being with other Jewish teens or by going to Shabbat services and dinners at Tulane’s Hillel. I recommend this trip to anyone out there who wants to do something great for a community, and “repair the world” one house at a time. Both building the house and not, it is a great way to build relationships while also knowing that you are a part of something that changes someone’s life, and that is the kind of feeling I walked away with after this trip.

Learn more about our Habitat for Humanity Trip >>

Dana Roth, Senior Program Director

Dana Roth, Senior Program Director

Meet Dana!

Dana Roth is the newest JTI teammate, stepping into the exciting role of Senior Program Director. Dana’s job (well, part of her job) will be to organize and plan JTI events throughout the year as well as spend time with our community partners and teens to make sure we’re meeting the needs of the people and organizations we serve!

Dana brings a background in higher education, an impressive ability to organize and a fun, bright personality to the table and we couldn’t be happier to have her aboard. Read more about her family, her background and her goals here.

#JTIBoston #JewishBostonTeens

Summer Blog Series: MLK Jr. Service Day

Summer Blog Series: MLK Jr. Service Day

Our summer blog series continues with a look back at our inaugural MLK Jr. Service Day, in partnership with TELEM. Rachel Wolf-Wagner, of Temple Beth Am Framingham, came to Soup-er Sunday in November and then was one of our amazing teen leaders for MLK Jr. Service Day in January. Rachel was a JTI Ruderman Inclusion Fellow and joined JTI in DC for L’Taken this year. In the fall, Rachel is starting Boston University.

The MLK Day of Service was a unique experience for me. I had attended the Soup-er Sunday event in Marblehead in the fall, but doing a service project like that at my synagogue was completely new and very special. Just like in the fall, I helped prepare lasagna, soup, and this time, banana bread for local shelters and charities. What was different about MLK Jr. Service Day for me was that I got to lead a group, my whole family was there helping out, and the donations were aimed at the Metrowest community I am a part of, and all of those things made the day not only fun but meaningful to me.

I’ve always been involved in community service, but recently, I’ve gotten more involved in service with my Jewish community as a peer leader. By attending and leading events like MLK Jr. Service Day, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with people in my community who I might not have otherwise met, and it offers a common interest and desire to give back to the larger local community. Although I’m going off to college in the fall and won’t be able to attend as many events like this at home, I hope to continue down the path of service that I’ve discovered in high school in the Jewish community, and I always want to be able to help those in need.

Learn more about our MLK Jr. Service Day >>

Summer Blog Series: DSA Innovator’s Club

Summer Blog Series: DSA Innovator’s Club

The summer series continues with a look back from Derek Sheckman Award winner Haley Lakind. Haley’s project focused on expanding inclusion programming at her high school, and we were so proud of the work she did this year. In addition to being a Derek Sheckman Award winner, Haley was a 2017-2018 Sloane Peer Leadership Fellow and has traveled with JTI to Washington DC for L’Taken. In the fall Haley is starting UMass Amherst and majoring in communications.

My Derek Sheckman Award project was called ITS. This stands for Inclusion Through Service. At Swampscott High School, there is a club called the Innovators Club. This is a club that used to meet once a week for lunch and it included kids in the school population as well as students on the spectrum who were part of their own separate program. My project had the goal of getting these students as involved in the school community as possible while also giving back to the community.

I was able to help host multiple events that got the students involved. This included a Thanksgiving breakfast where we made breakfast foods and arts and crafts that went to all the teachers in the school as a way of showing our thanks. We had a cookie decorating party where we baked, frosted and decorated cookies that we gave to the students and faculty at the school but also ate ourselves. We ran a bake sale at the local Opera Show that took place in February. The students got to interact with people in the community by selling the baked goods and the profit went toward the Discovery Learning Center at the High school. Also, we had a game day where people would come down for lunch and play board and card games with the kids.

These were fun and interactive ways I was able to help the students on the spectrum get involved in the school community and it is my hope that they will continue to interact in the future years.

Learn more about the Derek Sheckman Award >>>

Summer Blog Series: Peer Leadership Fellows

Summer Blog Series: Peer Leadership Fellows

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,, 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.

Learn more about and meet our Peer Leadership Fellows >>>

End-of-Summer Pool Party

End-of-Summer Pool Party

#JewishBostonTeens, grades 8-12, round up all your friends for an evening of swimming, games, music, lounging and delicious food (Terry’s Ice Cream Truck!) at the JCCNS outdoor pool. Israel-travelers, campers, counselors, interns, JTI alums and anyone who wants to hang out with friends old and new are welcome as we celebrate the end of a great summer and the start of a new school year! We’ve teamed up with the JCC and partnered with your favorite teen organizations again this year to throw the best bash of summer!

button #JTIBoston #PoolParty2019 #ItsStillSummer #FunInTheSun #FloatyLife



A New Chapter for JTI

A New Chapter for JTI

Dear Friends,

We write to share some bittersweet news. After 10 exceptional years as the Executive Director of Jewish Teen Initiative (JTI), formerly known as North Shore Teen Initiative (NSTI), Adam Smith will be leaving the organization to take on the exciting new role of Associate Vice President, Young Adult and Teen Engagement at Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP).

CJP and JTI share the same goal of engaging more individuals and families in Jewish life.  Adam’s move to CJP will leverage and expand upon his relationship-based approach to community engagement, which has been so instrumental at JTI.  In his new role, Adam will be responsible for developing a communal strategy to connect young adults and teens throughout Greater Boston with their Jewish identities.

With all that Adam has achieved since the founding of JTI — his innovative thought leadership, strong local and national relationships, and meaningful impact on thousands of teens — it goes without saying that he will be greatly missed. However, Adam leaves JTI in the capable hands of an enthusiastic and committed Board of Directors and a highly knowledgeable and talented staff.

Associate Director, Brett Lubarsky will continue to innovate and oversee our national leading Peer Leadership and Inclusion networks while working hand-in-hand with JewishBoston to launch this fall. Our database, marketing and administration will continue under the thoughtful leadership of our Operations Manager, Sarah Wood. Additionally, we are pleased to announce JTI’s newest hire for the position of Senior Program Director. Dana Roth joins our team with an incredible range of talent and vision, having worked most recently in education and administration at Umass of Boston. Dana is looking forward to getting back into the field of Jewish education, and brings valuable education, inclusion and operational experience to the job!

As we enter this new chapter for our organization, JTI remains wholly committed to connecting Jewish teens to a broad base of their peers by engaging them in meaningful programming centered around Jewish life and community building. Part of that commitment has come in the form of an exciting new tool that challenges the way our community connects around the myriad of year-round opportunities that exist for our teens!, currently still in its soft launch, will provide a living communal calendar of opportunities, as well as directory of programs, communities and organizations – serving as the central online connector for teens, JTI Peer Leadership Fellows, parents and Jewish professionals. Members of the JTI Boston Team have played an integral role in the design and population of this innovative site, and are continuing this important work as we prepare to officially launch the site in September with our partners at JewishBoston and CJP.

Heading into its fourth year, our signature Peer Leadership Fellows program continues to foster deeper connections between teens in the Greater Boston Jewish community while helping them access the vast menu of opportunities. Learn more and meet the Fellows who will be creating a more connected and inclusive community in the coming year .

Plans are already in progress for the popular regional community service days we help coordinate (like Soup-er SundayMLK Day of Service and Community Action Day), as well as our annual travel opportunities  – where teens, pre-teens and adults are able to turn their passions to action, build and strengthen community and engage in the important work of tikkun olam – repairing our world. Check out the JTI Today section of our website for a broader view of the amazing things happening in our community, and to read first-hand accounts from our teens.

JTI Boston kicks off the 2019-20 programmatic year on August 20, with our annual end-of-summer pool party at the JCCNS in Marblehead – a collaboration between JTI and JCCNS in partnership with BBYO, NFTY, Lappin Foundation, Cohen Camps, Young Judaea, URJ Eisner Camp, URJ Crane Lake Camp, and URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy East, with support by CJP.

As JTI enters an exciting new decade, CJP will continue to provide support for growth opportunities and select programming.  JTI continues to rely on support from our generous donors to ensure that teens remain a top priority on the North Shore as well as in the Greater Boston Area.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to our success, we look forward to new opportunities and connections in the coming year. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.


Michele Cohen and Gayle Rubin
Co-Chairs, Jewish Teen Initiative-Boston, Board of Directors

Summer Blog Series: Community Action Day

Summer Blog Series: Community Action Day

We continue to look back on our year with a reflection on JTI & CJP Community Action Day from Amanda Lewis, a rising senior at Peabody Veterans Memorial High School. Amanda joined us in New Orleans for Habitat for Humanity in February, and in the coming year, she will be one of our Peer Leadership Fellows. Community Action Day is our biggest program of the year, with more than 200 participants coming together for a fantastic day that serves multiple organizations that help make our community better like Plummer Youth Promise, LifeBridge, Lynn Shelter Association, and more.

On April 14th, JTI hosted its annual community action day event at Plummer Youth Promise in Salem. The day was filled with so many fun projects that required people of all ages to come together. Some of the projects involved painting a mural, gardening, building shelving, painting picnic tables, etc.

I was a “project leader” of a group whose job was to create a multi-panel mural for Plummer Youth Promise. My job was simply to oversee the project, make sure the group knew what they needed to do, and ensure that the project would be done in the specific time slot we had.

My team consisted of young kids who worked so hard all day to create a beautifully painted, abstract mural of a piano keyboard. Although I did not know the kids in my group before the project day, we all came together and worked diligently to complete the task at hand.

I was shocked at how motivated my group was to not only finish the mural but make it the best it could be. Before Community Action Day, I wondered how I was going to get the kids invested in the project, but in the end, they all took it upon themselves to brainstorm new ideas to make our design even better, and they thought of creative strategies for completing the mural efficiently. It was so heartwarming to see a group of such young kids feel so passionately about making something that would bring joy for others, and not themselves. Their drive and willingness to contribute to the project was so impressive, and it made me happy to watch them have fun.

This was my first experience at JTI’s Community Action Day, and I am so happy I was a part of it this year. Not only did I genuinely enjoy getting to know the kids, but I also loved working on a project that helped others. I would gladly be a part of Community Action Day again, and I can not wait to attend Jewish Teen Initiative’s events in the future!

Learn more about our Community Action Day with CJP >>>

Summer Blog Series: L’Taken in DC

Summer Blog Series: L’Taken in DC

Welcome to week 3 of the JTI Summer Blog Series! This week we join Sam Goldstone, a rising junior at Wayland High School and a 2018-19 Metrowest Peer Leadership Fellow, as he shares highlights from the L’Taken social justice seminar “that gave [him] new ways to follow [his] passion” in Washington DC in March.

If you know me, you know my passion is being an activist, standing up for social justice and making a change in my community. Chances are if you know me, you also know that I’m Jewish. So when I heard that JTI was going on a trip to the US capital in Washington D.C. where I would get the incredible opportunity to lobby congress with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, you bet I was SO in. Throughout a long weekend in D.C., I became more aware of critical social issues, stood up for social justice, and made some terrific friends.

Going into my L’Taken* trip, I had thought of myself as someone who kept up with the news and social issues. While at the RAC, I was immersed in a learning experience like no other. It was an experience that was more than just “educational,” and yet was so much more than just “fun.” My RAC experience taught me more about what I was passionate about and also helped me see new ways I could attempt to make changes in the society-at-large.

Every day we would get to participate in really fun workshops. A few memories from these workshops stand out above the rest. The first was an accurate simulation activity in a workshop about income inequality. Going into the activity, I had thought income inequality and living in poverty was bad, but I only had conceptually grasped the horror of it.

During the simulation, each person was given a certain salary, a biography, a family, and a job. I was a single mom with 4 kids who had to work 2 jobs just so she could afford to pay for rent and food, let alone being able to afford transportation and other utility expenses. When the simulation first started, I planned on going to the grocery store after working my first job so I could get some food. When I got to the grocery store, the really healthy food was all super expensive, so I had to buy as much unhealthy canned food that wasn’t very nutritious, but at least it would be enough dinner for my family. When I went to check out at the store, the owner told me that he was raising the prices, so I no longer could afford all the food for my family and me to have dinner that night. I quickly went home and fed my kids before going back out to work a second job. When I went to get food stamps, they gave me a form to fill out, but it wasn’t in English, and I couldn’t fill it out so I couldn’t get the food stamps.

Unfortunately, this isn’t just an activity or a simulation, but instead, this is a reality for the 43.1 million Americans who live in poverty. The exercise helped me confront the fact that our congress doesn’t do enough to help these poor Americans.

The other activity that helped open my eyes to the problems that plague America and specifically American politics was a lobbying simulation. Everyone was split up into two lobbying groups, one for gun rights and one for gun violence prevention. There were three senators we had to convince to vote a certain way on a piece of legislation that would mandate universal background checks for all gun sales and transfers of ownership. There was one conservative senator, one liberal senator, and one senator who was in the middle of the political spectrum. We would help sway these senators votes by making phone calls to them, spending money on commercials, etc. It seemed fair up until the very end where it was revealed how much money each lobbying group spent on each senator. As the lobbying group who wanted gun violence prevention and the legislature to pass, we had spent about $200,000 on various advertisements, etc. As it turns out, for every dollar we had in our bank account, to begin with, the gun rights supporters had ten dollars. From the very start, the activity wasn’t fair. It parallels the American political system in which the NRA puts millions and millions of dollars into the pockets of elected officials, so those officials then vote against legislation aiming to expand gun violence prevention measures.

Overall, the L’Taken trip not only provided me with new ways I can follow my passion and make differences in society, but it also helped open my eyes to some of the horrors and injustices that many people face every day.

*L’Taken, the name of the DC program is the Hebrew word for “To Repair” (the Jewish value of repairing the word is called “Tikun Olam”)

Learn more about the L’Taken Social Justice Seminar in Washington DC >>>