J-Serve, an event that began in 2005 as one day in April has grown to now engage a generation of teens to make service a continued and regular part of their lives throughout the month of April and all year long.
“In 2011, I went to my first J-Serve event and that event changed my life,” said Shayna Shulman, 17, from Detroit, MI and an avid J-Serve participant “I was surprised to see that many Jewish teens have the same passion as I do—volunteering! I’ve come back to every J-Serve event after that. I loved learning about why we are volunteering. I knew I was in the right place and that it was going to be life changing for me. That first day I volunteered with J-Serve was the day I knew I had to do more.”
In its eighth year, J-Serve 2012 engaged more teens in 6th through 12th grade, reaching more communities in countries across the United States, Canada and Europe than ever before, in an effort to encourage community building and establish connections among youth across religious and societal lines.
“I’ve always felt that it was more meaningful to do service with other Jewish teens, and felt more connected that way. I also was exposed to ideas like tikkun olam—things that I’d heard before but had flown over my head. But learning about them more deeply interested me, and has drawn me in,” said Ryan Ladd, 17, from Austin, TX..
Washington, DC area teen, Talia Katz, first found out about J-Serve when a friend was planning their local project at a women’s shelter, “It was one of the best service projects I’d ever participated in because with J-Serve, when I came home the experience wasn’t over. One of the pitfalls of most service projects is that they are just one time things. But this wasn’t just a “hop off the metro” and go serve project. We talked a lot about Jewish values and got updates about women’s issues from around the world,” said Katz.
Teens served at 275 community project sites around the world. Over the years, J-Serve has evolved to mean more than just service, but also service learning. In addition to doing physical work, teens explore the Jewish values of gemilut chasidim (acts of loving kindness), tzedakah (just and charitable giving) and tikkum olam (the responsibility to repair the world) through staff and teen facilitated discussions and post-project follow up and education.
J-Serve is a collaboration of the BBYO Panim Institute and Repair the World, and is generously underwritten by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. J-Serve’s continued growth in new communities and countries can be accredited to the support of partner agencies including BBYO, Foundation for Jewish Camp, JCCA, Jewish Federations, Jewish Student Unions, Jewish Teen Funders Network, NCSY, NFTY, Rock the Vote, USY and Young Judea. As the Jewish service component of Youth Service America’s annual Global Youth Service Day, J-Serve was included in the recently approved US Senate Resolution officially designating April 20-22, 2012 as “Global Youth Service Day” (S. Res. 421).
“J-Serve is weaving a tapestry of stories into a moving narrative: thousands of teens united in answering the call to greatness by volunteering to repair their communities and our world. All of us who share a devotion and commitment to the Jewish future should be moved and inspired,” says Lynn Schusterman, chair of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.
J-Serve 2013 is scheduled to take place on Sunday, April 28, 2013. To learn more about J-Serve visit, www.jserve.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JServeForTeens
J-Serve is the International Day of Jewish Youth Service and is a part of Youth Service America’s Global Youth Service Day. J-Serve is endorsed throughout the world by BBYO, Bureau of Jewish Education of New York, Foundation for Jewish Camp, JCCA, Jewish Federations, Jewish Student Unions, Jewish Teen Funders Network, NCSY, NFTY, Rock the Vote, USY, and Young Judea. J-Serve is in partnership with Repair the World and YOUTH SERVICE AMERICA and is generously underwritten by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.