Each year, J-Serve: The International Day of Jewish Youth Service mobilizes more than ten thousand Jewish teens worldwide around meaningful service programs. This year, J-Serve was on April 6th. Below, we check in with Lindsay Gorby, a junior in Pittsburgh who made J-Serve happen in a big way in her city. Check out what she had to say.
When did you first get involved with service and volunteering?
My first real involvement with service was actually with J-Serve in 8th grade. My youth group, BBYO, and my sister both had a hands-on role in the preparation and lead up to J-Serve and invited me to volunteer. That year we collected books for a women’s shelter. Before that I had done a bat mitzvah service project, but nothing had really come of that, so I’m thankful that J-Serve helped me get into the regular habit of service.
What did your J-Serve sites do this year in Pittsburgh?
We had 205 teens volunteering over several different sites. They ranged from planting and restoring trees in Pittsburgh parks, to working with food pantries, and decorating matzo covers with the residents at a local hospice.
What role did you play personally?
I was in an organizational role as one of the presidents who co-led the day. I was specifically working on fundraising – reaching out to different businesses and families for support. We were able to raise $13,000 for the event! It was amazing to see how the Jewish community comes together around important causes.
On the day of, we all showed up early to the JCC to help set up for the event. We asked people to post photos of their volunteer sites to #jserveweek. While they volunteered, we compiled a video slideshow to show at the end of the day. When everyone returned from their service projects, we had 3 different educational programs led by teens about how Jews define heroism and what it means to be an everyday hero.
What kind of feedback have you heard from participants?
So far I’ve been getting really great feedback. We had representation from so many different youth groups and synagogues, and everyone came together to hang out with friends and have a good time while volunteering. There’s a reason people come back every year – they have realized that volunteering can be both fun and fulfilling. In Pittsburgh, we’re getting to a point where, if you’re a Jewish teen, you’ll almost definitely be at J-Serve and your friends will be there with you. It’s amazing to get out there and see the power we can have as a community.
Do you personally connect service with your sense of Jewish identity?
Tikkun olam is a huge part of my Jewish identity. I’m only 17, so I’m still trying to figure out where I sit within the Jewish community. But as long as there are Jews going out and trying to improve the world, I know I’ll always have a place.