Each year, J-Serve: The International Day of Jewish Youth Service mobilizes more than ten thousand Jewish teens worldwide around meaningful service programs. Repair the World is a proud partner of J-Serve and supports global planning efforts through a series of web-based trainings for Jewish youth professionals across the country and around the world.
This year’s official J-Serve date is Sunday, April 15 (though some communities pick an alternative service date a few weeks before or after to maximize participation). We checked in with Jack Rosenblum, a high school senior from Virginia Beach, VA, currently serving as BBYO’s Male Teen Vice President of Jewish Enrichment, to find out how he’s planning to take part in #jserve2018. Check out what he had to say!
How did you get involved with J-Serve? What’s your background with service/volunteering, and how did that experience draw you to J-Serve?
What sort of project(s) will your J-Serve community be working on?
In my community, we usually tend to focus on service projects geared either towards working with the elderly communities in our area or building projects to help the environment. With my chapter, we’ve visited synagogues and old age homes and had incredible experiences spending time with the senior community of our city. It’s a really meaningful moment to be able to make a senior citizen laugh and know what you did made their day better, all while learning from them too about who they are and where they come from. This is something my chapter in particular has had great success doing in the past and will continue to work towards in the future – through J-Serve this spring and beyond. As a city we also love to rally behind environmentalism, especially towards the Chesapeake Bay, as we live directly on it. It’s very common for teens in our area both with our schools and with our chapters to create projects such as cleaning the bay or the beach or building oyster reefs. We have a very strong connection to the bay and to her well-being, which makes these programs very personal and meaningful to us.
What has been the most fun part of working on J-Serve so far?
The most fun part of this entire project has been working with more and more of my fellow teens in creating their own individual projects in communities around the world. It’s an amazing feeling to hear about all the incredible ideas and visions they have for engaging Jewish teens in service locally. It’s absolutely inspiring. J-Serve offers a great opportunity for Jewish teens to express how much they care about certain issues, providing them with the chance to engage 10, 50, 100, sometimes even 500 teens all together in an act of service. It’s an incredible feeling to know what you’re doing has such a large impact internationally and that all around the world people are benefiting from our mission. The fun part is getting to help my peers be creative in what they decide to do for J-Serve, and working together to elevate their service experience by engaging more teens in more meaningful service. Many of my fellow teens have initial ideas or thoughts about what they want to do, but after we get the chance to work together and bounce ideas off each other, we end up with these incredibly powerful and enriching programs. Although I do not get to actively participate everywhere, knowing that teens around the world are all doing such great work and being engaged is breathtaking.
What’s been the most inspiring part of working with J-Serve as a leader this year?
What do you think makes J-Serve successful in its ability to excite Jewish teens around the world about service? What makes it special?
Teens don’t realize when they’re first invited to a J-Serve project how much it will impact their lives. However, once they get there and actively participate in the incredible acts of service with teens from across their community, they understand one of our oldest Jewish values: tikkun olam (to repair the world). They connect to thousands of years of Jews doing what makes the world a better place. It also gives them an opportunity to be involved in a project that matters to them, supporting causes they care about. Whether it be saving the environment, helping refugees, feeding the homeless or any other amazing act, teens are doing projects which are meaningful to them and they can see the impact right in front of their eyes. It’s not adults leading them and telling them what they have to do, but rather it’s a group of teens deciding for themselves how they want to make a difference. J-Serve is important because it offers a platform for Jewish teens to feel inspired, empowered, and excited to do more; especially when they realize that all across the world other Jewish teens are doing the exact same thing: making the world a better place. It’s a very powerful feeling.
Why is doing service specifically in a Jewish context meaningful to you personally? What’s uniquely Jewish about doing good and/or giving back?