Shanah Tovah u’Metukah!
In Jewish tradition, we wish each other a good, sweet year. We hope it’s one filled with love, renewal and growth, and look forward to connecting with you in the weeks and months ahead!
In Jewish tradition, we wish each other a good, sweet year. We hope it’s one filled with love, renewal and growth, and look forward to connecting with you in the weeks and months ahead!
Our Assoc. Director Brett Lubarsky had an amazing time helping the San Diego Jewish Teen Initiative Fellows find their why, learn about #relationalengagement & get ready for an exciting year! The #JTIBoston team can’t wait to welcome many of you to Boston in a few weeks!
We teamed up with the Summer at the J staff to throw the best bash of summer! Almost 100 teens swam, danced, devoured treats from Terry’s Ice Cream truck and celebrated the close of a fantastic summer together. Thanks to our #JTIBoston teens and friends at Jewish Community Center of the North Shore, Lappin Foundation Y2I, BBYO New England Region and everyone else for making it a splashing good time!
#JewishBostonTeens are all over the map this summer, taking their journeys to Jewish overnight camps, Israel and beyond! The JTI Team is getting ready for an exciting new year, but the FOMO (fear of missing out) is real…so we’re spending some time at camp, too!
We’ve heard from a bunch of our teens who are having an amazing time in #Israel with Lappin FoundationY2I, Camp Pembroke & Camp Tel Noar. Where has your Jewish journey taken you this summer? We’d love to hear from you! #jtiboston #howucamp
Follow Brett and Gabe’s adventures, in addition to our teens’, on our social media channels.
Pictured: Camp Pembroke, Peer Leadership Fellows in Israel with Y2I, The Cohen Camps Dor L’Dor program and Camp Tel Noar.
Brett Lubarsky is Associate Director and Gabe Miner is Program Director of JTI – Boston
By Emma Keith, Newburyport HS, 2021
My incredible experience with JTI started with a great take off, literally, at 1:23 pm at Boston Logan International Airport. At the very beginning of the trip, I was introduced to eight fellow teens who, like me, were egear to make a difference. My flight from Boston to Houston was very comfortable, thanks to our early boarders who were able to board prior to the rest of the passengers and secure seats for us within the first few rows! At around 5:25 we all stepped off the plane in the exquisite city of Houston, better known as 627 square miles of sauna. Although Texas was beyond muggy for the entire duration of our trip, the presence and energy within the group (and the air conditioning in the van) made the heat tolerable.
The group as a whole took part in an abundance of exciting activities starting out the first night with bowling. On other nights we gamed in an arcade, played laser tag, and checked out downtown Houston (definitely a must-see). We rode the Ferris wheel at sunset, ate some great Tex-Mex and BBQ food, and attended a Houston Astros game. On Friday, we enjoyed a delicious Mediterranean Shabbat dinner in a Jewish Bollywood themed art gallery in the largest temple I have ever seen (thanks Congregation Beth Israel for welcoming us!). The hospitality the rabbi and the entire congregation showed made us feel very welcomed. This whole experience was nothing short of astounding.
Regardless of all the fun and evening activities, the highlight of the trip was meeting the person whose house we were working on: Ms. Cynthia. Working on her house through was tough. After watching a minute and a half video called, “How to Tile- For Beginners,” I spent countless hours tiling the sweltering hot bathroom that reached temperatures above one hundred degrees. I also spent a lot of time painting. Everyday, I left the worksite with paint in my hair, stained onto my clothing, and splotched on skin. Each day I became more and more exhausted, yet we all continued to work twice as hard as the previous day for Cynthia. She stopped by to meet us, talk about how much our services meant to her, and tell us a bit about her life. Just from a quick visit, I could see that Cynthia radiated positivity, thankfulness, and thoughtfulness towards others. She is the epitome of goodness in the world, and her presence made everyone strive to work harder. Personally, after meeting her I was very inspired and I want to try to possess her attitude, strength, and mentality, and carry it with me throughout my life. No words I could possibly write about her would do her any justice. All I have to say is, there are some people you’ll remember for the rest of your life, and I can easily say that Ms. Cynthia is one of them.
Jewish Teen Initiative – Boston is excited to introduce you to the newly selected 2018-19 Peer Leadership Fellows who will be helping to connect our community in the coming year! JTI Peer Leadership Fellows represent 26 different schools and 13 synagogues throughout the Metrowest and North Shore communities of Greater Boston.
Jewish Teen Initiative’s signature Peer Leadership Fellows program trains and empowers teens to be communal connectors. Fellows reimagine how they can develop meaningful relationships with their peers, connecting those peers to the vast menu of opportunities available to Jewish teens in their community and beyond. Fellows meet monthly (in real life and virtually), building a team of leaders helping to strengthen their community and each other. Each Fellow serves as a resource for their peers, helping to connect those that are uninvolved or marginally engaged.
JTI Boston is proud to be working with Hillel International, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, to adapt their engagement model for the teen community. Hillel has mobilized college peer interns to professionalize its outreach on campus, strengthen student connections and boost participation. JTI Peer Leadership Fellows receive training based on the Hillel model to practice within their own community.
Building upon the success of the past two years, JTI Boston is thrilled to be partnering with The Ruderman Family Foundation to pilot a Peer Inclusion Cohort this year. Peer Inclusion Fellows will help redefine what mainstream inclusion can be in the Jewish teen community, helping to connect with and support peers at local, regional and national events. Fellows will work to remove many of the stumbling blocks that prevent teens from feeling comfortable and connected at teen programming by acting as a buddy for their peers.
For additional information, contact Brett Lubarsky, Associate Director.
This June 18th-23rd JTI teens from Greater Boston, grades 9-12, traveled to Houston, TX to volunteer in the Hurricane Harvey relief effort through an Act Now Houston grant from Repair the Wold:
Day 1: Greetings from Houston, where it’s warm and a little muggy but delightful! Our trip is off to a great start…after some introductions at the airport we had a pleasant flight through a timezone putting us in Houston (that’s right, we’re an hour behind you in MA…how are things one hour in the future?).
After landing we picked up our van and headed over to the hotel to get settled. We wanted to start our time in Texas with local cuisine, and we had some delicious BBQ ready for us at the hotel. After a tasty, saucy dinner the group bonded over bowling. On our way into the bowling alley we saw a rainbow and stopped to marvel at the miracles of nature and of course snap a picture. Bowling was a blast, replete with funny names on the score screen, funny shoes, and high-fives as the pins fell.
We finished off the night with a Walmart run, getting some much needed supplies (read: Gatorade and snacks) before coming back to the hotel and calling it a night. I’m happy to report everyone is in good spirits and ready for our first day at the work site.
Day 2: Today was our first day at our worksite. We met Linda, the SBP Volunteer Coordinator and our site leaders, Andrew and Theo (two great guys). We learned a little about SPB and the Houston relief effort…Linda told us it they expect it to be a 10-year recovery from the hurricane, and we got a sense of how much damage was done just a year ago. After some ice-breaking and safety orientation, we got to work on the house, working on painting, installing closet doors, moving and staining cabinets, caulking, painting trim, and tiling the bathroom and more.
Before we broke for lunch, we actually got to meet Ms. Cynthia, the owner of the house. She’s a bright, enthusiastic woman with an amazing attitude and a lot of gratitude. She was very thankful for our help, especially for our coming all this way just to help her, someone we’d never met before. She told us a little bit about herself and what she’s been doing and where she’s been living since the hurricane, but our group is part of the final push to get her home ready (they expect it will be done in about three weeks). It was such a moving moment to meet Ms. Cynthia…one of the teens commented later that seeing who we’re doing this work for made her work differently; it gave the jobs more weight and she wanted to do a better job because she knew the person we’re helping is so nice.
We finished up for the afternoon and came back to the hotel for some much needed rest and cleaning up. Did I mention it is HUMID? Sadly it’s been raining on and off all day…one minute it’s fine and the next the rain is pouring. Fortunately we’re inside most of the day. We debriefed the day a little before heading out to the Astro’s game which was fun, but as I said went a little long. We couldn’t leave, though, because tonight had the potential to be Houston’s longest winning streak, and we had to see it through to the end. If you’ve already read the sports section, though, you know that sadly it was not to be. Still a great evening though, and it was fun to rally with the rest of the stadium in the bottom of the ninth. As you can see in our pictures, even though we’re in Houston some of us still happily repped the Red Sox at this game.
Tomorrow we’re excited to welcome Brett Lubarsky, our Associate Director, who’ll be joining the group for the rest of the week (he’ll be the one with the group at the airport Saturday night). For now, enjoy some of the pictures of us working, the group with Ms. Cynthia, and our night at the game.
Day 3: We’ve wrapped up another great day here in Houston. We got visited by some pretty strong rain, but we managed to stay pretty dry and not let it dampen our spirits.
This morning after everyone got their “Repair the World” shirts (which may now be the softest shirt your teen owns) we headed back to our work site. We continued many of yesterday’s projects, which meant getting a room painted, putting up some trim and shelving in closets, laying tile in the bathroom, working on cabinets, and other little things that are coming together to make the house look more like a home than a construction site.
Today we also welcomed Brett Lubarsky to Houston. Brett joined the group after lunch today fresh from Boston and he’ll be with the group for the rest of the trip.
To close out the day we circled up and each person shared something positive about their work day and something they saw someone else do that impressed them. It was great hearing the group lift each other up like that, and unsurprisingly every person got called out for doing something well.
We headed back to the hotel and relaxed a little bit and before our evening activity we gathered again to talk about the work we’re doing. We continued a conversation from yesterday about the Jewish value tikun olam, repairing the world, and the quote from Rabbi Tarfon (a second-century sage) “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”
We enjoyed a delicious (and bountiful) Tex Mex meal at a fun restaurant with quirky but delightful decor, then we went to Main Event, which is sort of like Dave and Busters…lots of arcade games, billiards, and more. After a game of laser tag, the group went to the Gravity Ropes Course where we all had fun and a few folks even conquered some fears of heights! After people cashed in their tickets for hacky sacks, candy, and other prizes (one person even got a lava lamp!) we came back to the hotel and now we’re calling it a night so that we can wake up early tomorrow morning and do it again!
It’s hard to believe the trip is halfway through already!
Day 4: Today was another great day at the work site…we did a lot of painting in the house today, grouted tile, installed flooring, put up mounts for cabinets, and more. We ate lunch at a local establishment called Jeff’s Kitchen (it’s important to support local businesses!) and we even ran into SBP members who were working on a house a few blocks away from ours!
After lunch we once again to to speak with Ms. Cynthia, the house owner, who once again expressed her immense gratitude to the group for our work. She spoke at being angels, and I shared that in the Torah the word for angel, malach, also means “messenger” or “emissary,” and there exists in Judaism the idea that the things that we do can have a divine purpose, sometimes even without our realizing it. We heard a little more from Ms. Cynthia about her story and we got to tell her a little bit about what inspired us to come thousands of miles from our homes to help her. It’s not the last time I’ll say it, but this is a tremendously special group.
One of the best parts of today was we said goodbye to the rain! The humidity is still here, but by mid morning the rain had stopped, and thankfully it looks like (not to jinx it) we’ll be rain-free for the rest of the trip.
Although we were scheduled to go ice skating tonight, the group decided that they wanted to see a little more of Houston. The nice thing about a group this size is we can be flexible with certain parts of the schedule, and we were able to go into downtown Houston for the night. We enjoyed walking around Discovery Green, a cool park where there was a free concert going on tonight. We enjoyed dinner on by small pond as live Americana blues played in the background. Then we headed over to the Aquarium to enjoy some of the rides that are near the aquarium, including a Ferris wheel that offered us a great view of the Houston skyline. We left the Ferris wheel just as the sun was setting and went back to the downtown for some photo shoots in front of a rainbow-lit fountain. We came back to the hotel and enjoyed an ice-cream night-cap at Sonic (which is right next to our hotel).
Let me again take a moment to say what an amazing group of teens this is. Our site-leader Theo today made the comment that he wasn’t doing this sort of thing when he was in high school, and it really is a testament to your teens that they have chosen to give up their free time to be here. Throughout the week, I have been impressed by the group’s work ethic, kindness, and openness.
Day 5: Shabbat Shalom from Houston! Here are TODAY’S TOP 5 for you all following along at home:
1. Putting the finishing touches on our work this morning, completing a few outstanding projects in Ms. Cynthia’s home, and prepped others for the next group coming in. Because of our work, they anticipate having the house ready THREE WEEKS ahead of schedule! Wow! We also had an opportunity to chat with Sasha, the local rep from Repair The World, an awesome organization that supports quite a bit of our service work through micro-grants.
2. A little rest and relaxation this afternoon back at the hotel.
3. We were invited to a “welcome home party” for another group a few blocks away from where we’ve been working. It was incredibly powerful to meet another Houstonian impacted by Hurricane Harvey, and to hear his story. He was so immensely moved by everyone’s efforts…that he hosted an open-house complete with more BBQ than we’ve ever seen!
4. Our group travelled to the other side of Houston to celebrate Shabbat at Congregation Beth Israel. We spent some time with Rabbi Chase Foster (an old friend and colleague of mine), who showed us around their beautiful synagogue and explained about the damage and repair work they are still doing at the congregation, as well as throughout their community. We got a shout out at services, their hospitality was amazing and dinner was DELICIOUS!
5. Car sing-alongs and dance parties happened at random times throughout the day, and our group wrapped-up the evening by enjoying a little hangout time at the hotel.
While we are sad to be wrapping-up an action-packed week, we are heading home with full hearts and the charge to continue to be the change we wish to see in the world. Tomorrow we’ll reflect on our time in Houston, pack everything up, and head back to the airport.
Day 6: …and that’s a wrap! We’re headed to the airport for lunch and hanging out before our flight. It’s been a wonderful relaxing morning, doing a little reflecting and debriefing, and we enjoyed a nice breakfast at Waffle House! We look forward to arriving tonight at Logan. It has been an absolute pleasure to travel with this group, and we are grateful for your support!
Brett and the JTI Team
Thanks to our 3 amazing Senior Interns for all your help! We’ve loved having you in the office and want to shout from the rooftops that “We’ll miss you!”
“Working with JTI has been everything I wanted and more. They’ve opened up so many more doors within my community that I didn’t know about. I wouldn’t change a single thing while working with them. I hope I can help out in the future.”
Mason’s done J-Serve and Souper Sunday with JTI for the last two years. He is an active member of BBYO as the Morah of his chapter and this year he helped organize the Campus Anti-Semitism Task Force of the North Shore at Shirat Hayam. In the fall, Mason will be starting college at UMass Amherst. Toda Raba Mason! תודה רבה
“My experience with JTI has been incredible. I wouldn’t have become as involved in my community and in my Judaism as I am today, if it were not for this amazing organization. I love working with them and always have fun doing it. I hope I can continue to work with JTI in the future.”
Maya has traveled with JTI to Habitat for Humanity, J-served for two years, and was one of our inaugural Sloane Peer Leadership Fellows. In the fall Maya will start college at Binghamtom University. Toda Raba Mason! תודה רבה
“JTI has been a big part of my Jewish life for the past 7 years. They’ve given me the opportunity to stay involved in the Jewish community throughout high school.”
Halle’s done Habitat for Humanity with us 3 years in a row, she’s been at J-Serve and Souper Sunday since 2015 and joined us in DC for L’Taken in 2015. Next year she’s going to Bryant University. Toda Raba Halle! תודה רבה
By Katie Hamelburg for JewishBoston
Through an innovative partnership, Jewish institutions in the Metrowest Boston suburbs are working to change the nature of pre-teen Jewish engagement.
“Engagement differs from outreach in that the goal is not to bring people in, but to bring Jewish life to people wherever they live, work, and play. It is about bringing Jewish life to people in a way that meets them where they are emotionally, religiously, and culturally.”
—Mike Uram, “Next Generation Judaism: How College Students and Hillel Can Help Reinvent Jewish Organizations”
Growing up as a young American Jew in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, I attended my synagogue’s weekly Hebrew school. Each class, we learned about Jewish holidays, to read letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and ultimately to recite prayers. With this in mind, our ultimate goal was to become a bar or bat mitzvah, to chant our Torah portion in front of the congregation, and to publicly declare our Judaism to family and friends.
While the b’nai mitzvah often felt framed as the milestone of becoming a Jewish adult, it was through informal Jewish educational experiences that my Jewish journey truly began. Through frequent United Synagogue Youth (USY) conventions, leadership opportunities on the USY board, a pluralistic Jewish high school, Hillel at the University of Maryland, global experiences including Camp Szarvas in Hungary, Genesis at Brandeis University, the international school at the University of Haifa, an alternative break to Guatemala, and Alexander Muss High School in Israel, as well as Israeli dance sessions and camps around the world, I developed my own Jewish journey and identity. I learned about Judaism on an academic level, experienced a range of cultures and traditions, applied Jewish practice to my everyday life, and engaged with Jews from throughout the world. These experiences outside of the traditional classroom truly introduced me to Jewish life and experience, shaping the woman, Jew, leader, and person that I’ve become.
From these experiences, I’ve understood that shaping Jewish participants and leaders must occur through a blend of unique, engaging opportunities. Therefore, we must turn to inter-community relations and partnerships in order to reach, connect, and inspire emerging leaders in the best way possible.
There are many leaders in the Metrowest Boston area who have recognized this challenge and are creating an exciting initiative to engage a unique population, as a part of the Metrowest Jewish Community Pre-Teen Engagement Initiative.
While there is a large emphasis on the engagement and leadership development of teenagers throughout the Boston area, the engagement of the pre-teen demographic primarily centers around the b’nai mitzvah milestone, with Jewish experiences consisting of year-round school prep, with a break in the middle for a period, during which many attend summer camp. However, through an innovative partnership between three synagogues, a day school, and an overnight summer camp, Jewish institutions throughout the Metrowest Boston area are working to change the nature of pre-teen Jewish engagement.
Through this partnership, we are reaching pre-teens through an interdisciplinary approach, using a wide variety of methods and content. Through a regular presence at religious schools each day of the week, a service-learning curriculum and volunteer initiative (TELEM) to create tangible social change across the Metrowest area, initiatives to engage summer camp participants during winter months, social programming to attract pre-teens of various interests and backgrounds, as well as institution-specific and community-wide events, we’re working to both strengthen the content of existing programming at specific institutions and provide new communal engagement programs, to bring together pre-teens from throughout the area and foster quality Jewish experiences.
In doing so, our goal is to teach our pre-teens that Jewish life can be fun, exciting, and engaging. We’re connecting students from across denominations, spiritual and religious backgrounds, genders, ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, and institutional affiliations. In this framework, we’re striving to demonstrate to participants that being Jewish is not just about the bar/bat mitzvah, ultimately providing opportunities for them to grow and explore their own Jewish journeys.
Rather than waiting for the opportunity for exciting programming in high school and college years, by providing a year-round quality Jewish experience, we’re encouraging participants to look past the traditional engagement models as early as in their pre-teens. Therefore, this process of redefining pre-teen engagement tactics is both necessary and time-sensitive, if we are to shape the future of Jewish communal leadership as a whole.
The Metrowest Jewish Community Pre-Teen Engagement Initiative is in partnership with Temple Israel of Natick, Temple Beth Am, Temple Beth Sholom, Metrowest Jewish Day School, Camp Tel Noar and the Jewish Teen Initiative of Greater Boston, sponsored by CJP and the Jim Joseph Foundation.
Reposted from JewishBoston.com – May 16, 2018
Katie Hamelburg is a Washington, D.C., native who recently moved to the Boston area. She is thrilled to be working with the Metrowest Boston Jewish community as the pre-teen engagement coordinator. She attended the University of Maryland, studying Jewish and Middle East studies with a focus in Hebrew language education. She is an avid Israeli dancer and loves working with youth groups and Jewish camps. Contact Katie at email@example.com for more information about the Metrowest Jewish Community Pre-Teen Engagement Initiative.