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 Noga Hurwitz, a high school senior from the San Francisco Bay Area, CA, currently serving as BBYO’s Female Teen Vice President of Jewish Enrichment, to find out how she’s planning to take part in #jserve2018. Check out what she 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 the Bay Area, teens from BBYO and NFTY have partnered in creating a hands-on day of service with a menu of volunteer opportunities to cater to different teens interests. Throughout the day, participants will engage in direct service projects with one of eight organizations — with options range from gardening at a local social justice garden to creating advocacy artwork with Habitat for Humanity to creating blankets for kids in need through Project Linus. The event will conclude with meaningful community building programming centered around Jewish values. I had the privilege of spearheading J-Serve in the Bay Area last year, and it has been incredibly exciting to see how this year’s leadership team has continued to build out the event in a way that provides teens with diverse interests and skill sets an opportunity to participate in service and better our community.
What has been the most fun part of working on your project so far?
One of my favorite things to emerge from the J-Serve planning process are the conversations that teens around the world are having with each other about their specific community needs. There is significant forethought that goes into planning a community-wide J-Serve experience, and seeing 15, 16 and 17 year old leaders welcome the challenge of narrowing down the injustice that they will work to address is really cool and inspiring. And that’s just the first part! Being part of these conversations as they evolve into full-fledged projects has also been incredibly rewarding, and I look forward to continuing to support our diversity of J-Serve projects taking place around the world throughout the coming weeks.
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?
Unlike other community service events, J-Serve’s “global” aspect makes it feel like teens have the power to better the entire world. It is empowering to know that as I work on a service project in my local community, teens everywhere are donating their time, efforts, and energy to bettering their communities, as well. Each year, participating in J-Serve reminds me that I am a part of an entire generation of young people who are passionate about creating real and tangible change both locally and globally. The value of tikkun olam, repairing the world, is so central to Jewish tradition, and to see teens champion it through meaningful service programming is what fuels my passion for my own Jewish identity. It is remarkable to see how teens are shaping our current cultural and political landscape around the world, and J-Serve offers a concrete example of how our young leaders are making a real, tangible difference.
Why is doing service specifically in a Jewish context meaningful to you personally? What’s uniquely Jewish about doing good and/or giving back?