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 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.

Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees

Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees

Our partners and friends at JFS of Metrowest officially kicked-off their partnership with Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees to mobilize the Greater Boston community’s delivery of humanitarian relief to those in desperate need inside Syria. In partnership with JFS and The Shapiro Foundation, #jewishbostonteens were proud to have helped start this process back in October by assembling hundreds of care packs at the Metrowest community “Love Our Neighbors” Service Day. #JTIBoston #TikkunOlam #RepairOurWorld @Temple Beth Elohim – Wellesley, MA


  • Watch JTI’s director, Adam Smith, talk about how mobilizing the Greater Boston Metrowest Jewish teen community’s delivery of humanitarian relief helps build community
  • Read more about the Syrian Refugee Humanitarian Project on JFS’ blog
Article Repost

Article Repost

Making A Day Off a Day On!

TBA Plays Host to MLK MetroWest Service Day

By Keith Wagner, Parent Volunteer

Near-zero temperatures on Martin Luther King Jr. Day couldn’t keep people away from the annual MLK Metrowest Service Day, this year hosted by Temple Beth Am. This year’s food preparation event, organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Jewish Teen Initiative of Greater Boston, drew more than 120 students, adults, and clergy from TBA and many other local groups.

JCRC’s fourth annual MLK Day event was a chance for pre-teens and teens to cook for local homeless shelters and meals programs. By the end of the day, volunteers had exceeded the event’s goals, making 58 lasagnas and 78 loaves of banana bread for distribution to nine locations.

The King holiday is the only national holiday that’s also observed as a day of volunteer service (“a day ON, not a day off” is the day’s motto). This was the first combined event for JCRC and JTI, according to Barry Glass, director of the JCRC TELEM program, and it drew a crowd. Seven students from TBA’s religious school, led by Director of Education Rabbi Marcie Kamerow, joined dozens of pre-teens and teens from other local synagogues, including Temple Beth Sholom, Temple Israel Natick, Congregation Or Atid, Temple Shir Tikva, and Camp Tel Noar.

The event started at noon, and loud conversation filled the social hall as students began arriving. Sandra Montesino, director of operations at Daniel’s Table in Framingham, addressed the group, discussing the problem of food insecurity in the MetroWest area and what Daniel’s Table is doing to fight it. She highlighted their work with Lovin’ Spoonfuls, the food rescue program, to create restaurant-quality frozen meals for distribution.

As a final preparation for the day’s work, Adam Smith, executive director of JTI, recited the beginning of Deuteronomy 16:20, “Tzedek tzedek tirdof”: “Justice, justice you shall pursue.” We as Jews, Smith said, are commanded to pursue justice. He explained that “justice” is said twice because first we must ensure justice in our inner circle, the community of Jews, and second, we must go out and work to balance the scales of justice in the world around us.

With that, the students broke off into a dozen small groups led by peer leaders. Six tables were for making vegetable lasagnas and six were for banana breads, and for almost three hours the social hall was abuzz with activity. While adult volunteers staffed the kitchen and provided light supervision of the teen group leaders and student cooks (some of whom were having their first “cooking from scratch” experience), the afternoon’s work was entirely performed by the students, with teens measuring and mixing the ingredients, preparing the bake pans, slicing and dicing the zucchini and mushrooms, and putting everything together to make a fully loaded meal.

Volunteers who opted out of cooking (including younger volunteers who weren’t quite ready to wield a knife on the prep line) worked at an art station decorating giant wooden “Stars of Hope.” Painted with bright colors and words of support and encouragement, the stars are distributed to communities recovering from natural or other disasters, where they’re displayed as a message to survivors that they’re not alone in their recovery.

In a thank-you note sent to participants, JTI Program Director Gabe Miner reminded volunteers of the words and ideals that inspired the event. Miner wrote: “Dr. King famously said, ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is “What are you doing for others?”,’ and on Monday you answered that question by showing up and being part of a tremendous effort.”

Reposted from Temple Beth Am’s monthly newsletter, Tebeam – February, 2019

Spark the Future

Spark the Future

Bringing a mission critical experience to Baltimore

#JTIBoston is thrilled to welcome 4Front Baltimore to the #PeerLeadershipFellows family! These new teen leaders join a growing national network of teens helping to connect their communities through relational engagement! We can’t wait to learn with and from all of you, and help connect more Jewish teens to the diverse menu of opportunities that exists…in Baltimore and beyond! Gratitude to our friends and colleagues at CJP – Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Jim Joseph Foundation and Hillel International for their support & partnership.