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 JewishBostonTeens.com 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! JewishBostonTeens.com, 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 >>>

Summer Blog Series: Derek Sheckman Award

Summer Blog Series: Derek Sheckman Award

Next up in our teen authored Summer Blog Series, we’ll hear from Arly MackRosen, one of our Derek M. Sheckman Teen Leadership Award recipients for the 2018-2019 school year. In the true spirit of the Award, Arly took one of her passions and used it to impact our community, learning something important about herself along the way!

“For my Derek Sheckman award project, I definitely wanted to incorporate cooking because it is something I enjoy and connect to my Jewish identity. So, for my project, I planned a cooking night that met regularly. At these events, I gathered other teens from middle and high school to help cook foods connected to our Jewish culture. I wanted to give the food to people less fortunate, so I decided to donate it all to My Brother‘s Table in Lynn. The first session we made rugelach, the second time we baked hamantaschen, then macaroons, and finally, kugels.

The Derek Sheckman award made me feel recognized for my community service, but more importantly, taught me about being a leader. Before doing this, I never thought of myself as a leader. Now, I know that I am very capable of leading a group and not just being led. I was able to use the leadership skills I learned at JTI‘s spring service day and in school projects. Since doing my Sheckman project, I am more self-confident in my ability to be in front of and lead a group of my peers.”

Arly lives in Marblehead and will graduate from Marblehead High School with the class of 2020.

Learn more about Derek Sheckman, his legacy to Jewish teens on the North Shore and the many teen leaders his life has inspired >>

Summer Blog Series: Soup’s On!

Summer Blog Series: Soup’s On!

Welcome to the new #JTIBoston Summer Blog Series, a teen-narrated look at our best-loved programs! First up is Michael Kobrosky, a 2019 graduate of St. John’s Prep and JTI North Shore Sloane Peer Leadership Fellow (Cohort 2) with a reflection on the fun, the community impact and the “stepping stone for further Jewish engagement” he found in Soup-er Sunday.

“Soup-er Sunday is always an event I look forward to attending. We are helping the community; it is fun, it is Jewish, what more could you ask for? I have been attending the event for the last two years after being introduced to the program through my Jewish youth group, BBYO. I wanted to get more involved with the local Jewish community and realized that Soup-er Sunday was my opportunity. Soup-er Sunday is important because we provide food for low-income members of the North Shore community; however, to me, it is especially important because it was my stepping stone for further Jewish engagement.

The event has proved to me that people working together can be much more productive than those working alone. It also showed me how much other people want to help those in need, something I was not sure about before attending Soup-er Sunday. Some highlights from my experience include reconnecting with old friends, meeting new ones, and learning how to make an apple pie.”

Save the date for Soup-er Sunday 2019: Sunday, November 24!

Learn more about this annual day of service on the North Shore >>


Meet our 2019-20 Fellows

Meet our 2019-20 Fellows

#JTIBoston is excited to introduce the 2019-2020 #PeerLeadershipFellows, who will be helping to make our community more connected and inclusive in the coming year! These #JewishBostonTeens represent 25 different schools, 14 synagogues and many #JewishCamp and youth-serving organizations throughout the Metrowest and North Shore communities! Gratitude to our partners at Hillel International, CJP – Combined Jewish Philanthropies, The Ruderman Family Foundation and Jim Joseph Foundation for supporting this important work, now entering its fourth year in Boston and inspiring partnerships in communities across the country.

Learn more & meet the Fellows >> JewishTeenInitiative.org/programs/fellowship


A Bed for Every Child

A Bed for Every Child

JTI is proud of Derek Sheckman Award winner Jason Gladstone for not only raising money to purchase 8 beds for A Bed for Every Child but bringing together community members this past weekend to build those 8 beds. It was an amazing day, and Governor Baker was even on hand to wish Jason and others well! Yasher Koach (great job) to Jason on this amazing project and on helping to combat the very real problem of children who don’t have a bed to call their own…as we learn in Pirkei Avot (The Teachings of our Sages), “It is not up to us to complete the task, but neither are we free to desist from it.”

#DerekSheckmanAward #BuildThisWorldWithLove #JewishBostonTeens #JTIBoston

Mazal tov

Mazal tov

Mazal tov to all of our JewishBostonTeens graduating seniors! Contact a member of the #JTIBoston team to learn about the many opportunities to connect Jewishly on campus, ideas for a gap year and semester abroad programs & more. Also, take 60 seconds to fill out this form, and you can receive more information from our friends at Hillel International!

Making a WORLDWIDE difference!

Making a WORLDWIDE difference!

JTI Delivers:

50 School Supplies Backpacks to the JFS/MFA Mobilize Boston Container

By JFS of Metrowest Staff

We are excited to share that the JFS/MFA Mobilize Boston project is wrapping up next month, meaning we will soon be sending our shipping container of supplies to refugee camps across Syria!

Just last week, Gabe Miner of Jewish Teen Initiative (JTI) brought another delivery of backpacks to our storage container! He says, “The most recent backpacks were one of 18 projects on JTI & CJP Community Action Day, which saw more than 200 volunteers of all ages come to Plummer Youth Promise in Salem for an amazing day of service that included building, cooking, painting, and making backpacks.”

Thanks to the teens’ hard work and generosity, dozens of children in Syria’s refugee camps will be able to attend school with proper educational materials!

Reposted from JFS of Metrowest’s Blog – May 28, 2019


What We Say!

So cool to see the 40-foot shipping container that JFS of Metrowest is sending to Syria next month! We were happy to drop off the 50 bags of school supplies that we made at JTI & CJP – Combined Jewish Philanthropies Community Action Day…and somewhere in the container are also the 200 hygiene kits we made as part of Love Our Neighbors back in October. Thanks to all the #JewishBostonTeens and adults who helped pack bags this year and to JFS Metrowest for taking on this amazing project helping refugees! Nice work!!

#JTIBoston #LoveOurNeighbors #CommunityActionDay #BuildThisWorldWithLove