With most internships and trips canceled due to the pandemic, many Jewish young adults struggled to find something to do over the summer. Then, they began to receive intriguing emails asking, "Are You Ready to Be a Changemaker?"
"Changemakers was created by JFNA for the summer as a way to connect with people who were in their early 20s who might not have had the same opportunities over the summer due to COVID," said Lauren Silverman, JUF Senior Young Adult Engagement Associate and facilitator of one Chicago cohort. Each week, she helped local participants debrief from large sessions and make friends nearby who also wanted to engage with similar issues.
More than one thousand of these aspiring Jewish leaders became the first-ever group of Changemaker Fellows, joining together for an innovative three-week online leadership development, mentorship, and networking program. Forty Fellows from across Chicago were selected, joining peers from more than 100 communities across North America, as well as Mexico, Brazil, Spain, France, the UK, South Africa, the Czech Republic, and Israel.
One Chicago participant, Cohen Kraus, joined to find like-minded people. Kraus discovered quickly that "these are people who wanted to find a way to be engaged in the community at a time during which community is difficult to find." In the three weeks-divided into the story of self, us, and now, and including issues from voter mobilization and antisemitism to global Judaism and racial justice-Kraus learned to tell these important stories.
"I thought it would be a really good opportunity to learn how to make a difference in my community and get at that aspect of Judaism as well and bring it all together," added participant Helen Enda. "The program was a really good way to network and opened my eyes to what resources are out there as a young professional."
"Something I've always liked about being Jewish is the community that comes with it," she said. "Having shared values was a big part of growing up and something I hold dearly in my young adult life." She was thrilled to find others with these values, local and far away, in Changemakers.
Since the program, Enda is working full-time, and Kraus has since accepted an internship position at Changemakers and recommends the experience for social interaction and professional development.
Changemakers follow-up activities will take place throughout the year and plans for a third session this winter will be announced soon. Interested prospective Changemakers should email