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 (along with BBYO, Good Deeds Day, and Youth Service America, among others) and supports global planning efforts through a series of web-based trainings and other educational resources for Jewish youth professionals and teen leaders across the country and around the world.
J-Serve 2019 marks the 15th anniversary of this powerful global initiative and is poised to be the biggest and best year yet, engaging more than 15,000 teens in meaningful service, advocacy, philanthropy and other social impact experiences throughout the spring. This year’s official J-Serve date is Sunday, April 7 (though some communities pick an alternative project date a few weeks before or after to maximize participation).
We checked in with Liam McLean from Milwaukee, WI, currently serving as BBYO’s Male Teen Vice President of Jewish Enrichment, to find out how he’s planning to take part in #JSERVE2019. 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 hometown of Milwaukee, WI, BBYO Wisconsin Region is going big for J-Serve this year, hosting a Youth Advocacy Shabbat Dinner in partnership with the MCRC, NFTY, and surrounding synagogues. This event reflects an exciting new direction for our community’s J-Serve, which has traditionally focused on direct service. We made advocacy the core of J-Serve this year to be part of a shared global focus on diversifying teen social action efforts as part of the initiative’s 15th anniversary celebration. With this exciting new approach to our J-Serve experience, we hope to welcome even more Jewish teens from across the community – many of whom aren’t formally affiliated with Jewish institutions (yet!) – to participate in this innovative program that will hopefully inspire a continued connection through future social action events, too!
What has been the most fun part of working on J-Serve so far?
I feel truly privileged to have the opportunity to support the planning of J-Serve events around the world, in partnership with my peers, through my role as BBYO International Shaliach (or Male Teen VP of Jewish Enrichment). So far, my experience has shown me the undeniable power of Jewish teens to create J-Serve projects and events supporting causes that best represent their passions through meaningful programming designed to make a real, positive impact on each local community. I’ve learned that J-Serve is incredibly powerful in elevating the welfare of communities because – when done right – it is absolutely a catalyst for local change on a global scale. There’s really no better feeling than knowing that the hard work you and your friends are doing is poised to change the world.
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?
Ultimately, I believe that choice is the trait that makes J-Serve so special. In my experience, I’ve found that J-Serve’s commitment to empowering Jewish teens to choose causes and social action efforts that they wish to serve is a unique spark that drives teens to become passionate (or deepen their existing passion) for social action. When a community is championing a cause that best represents their interests and community needs, we are ensuring that there’s ample energy and drive to fuel their efforts. J-Serve is the ultimate platform for grassroots social change, and – IMO – the power of choice in the hands of teen leaders shaping these experiences is one of the many reasons that J-Serve is a force in the Jewish community worldwide.
Why is doing service specifically in a Jewish context meaningful to you personally? What’s uniquely Jewish about doing good and/or giving back?