They came, they
learned, and they made a difference.
On May 4, close
to 250 Chicago-area Jewish teens joined peers from around the world for a
meaningful day of volunteering as part of J-Serve 2014, the
ninth annual International Day of Jewish Youth Service.
The event was
hosted under the auspices of the Jewish United Fund’s Hunger Awareness Project.
This year’s project brought 7th-12th grade students from
across Chicago together at the Northern Illinois Food Bank in Geneva, where
they spent the day fighting hunger through hands-on service and advocacy.
“Working with teens
from all over Chicago to make an impact was one of the most fulfilling things I
have done,” said Mallory Sherwood, a junior at Stevenson High School and one of
the teen leaders who helped plan the event. “I think we inspired other teens to
make a difference, and confirmed our commitment to being instrumental voices in
changing our community.”
In addition to
sorting through nearly 20,000 pounds of food – the
equivalent of 15,718 meals that the food bank will provide to Chicago families
in need – the teen volunteers received a crash course on food insecurity in the
Chicago area. Educational workshops focused on Judaism and hunger, root causes
of hunger and how to be an effective advocate, and how to use social media to
make a difference.
The programming was presented by Anshe Emet
Rabbi Heather Altman, Rebecca Katz of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, teen
leaders from the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago, and staff of the Northern
Illinois Food Bank.
“As a teenager, a lot of times you don’t
realize there’s hunger in the community,” said Donna Lake, Communications
Director at the Northern Illinois Food Bank. “This was a great event to help
teenagers understand the challenges that their peers in the community face.”
Internationally, the larger J-Serve program
aims to educate teens about the Jewish values of gemilut chasidim, acts of loving kindness; tzedakah, just and charitable giving; and tikkum olam, the responsibility to repair the world, as well as
build community and connections across religious and societal lines. The
program is the Jewish service component of Youth Service America’s annual
Global Youth Service Day and a collaboration of BBYO and Repair the World.
J-Serve is underwritten by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman
Family Foundation, along with support from partner
agencies: The Foundation for Jewish Camp, JCCA, Jewish
Federations, Jewish Student Unions, Jewish Teen Funders Network, NCSY, NFTY,
Rock the Vote, USY and Young Judea.
In Chicago, the local J-Serve program is
officially cosponsored by the Jewish Teen Alliance of Chicago, which is composed
of JUF/Federation, BBYO, Bnei Akiva, the
Community Foundation for Jewish Education (CFJE), JCC/Chi-Town Connection, the
Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Jewish
Student Connection, Jewish Student Union, Moving Traditions, NCSY, NFTY, Or
Tzedek, Shorashim, Response, USY, Yachad, and Young Judea.