This is the fourth in a series of interviews featuring a handful of the nearly 10,000 awesome teens who are involved with J-Serve – the International Day of Jewish Youth Service coming up on April 22. Below, Alex Metzman, an 18-year old high school senior in Nashville, Tennessee shares his story. (And check out the first, second and third J-Serve interviews.)
What was your background with service?
Service has always been important to me, ever since I was growing up at synagogue and learned about giving tzedakah. I learned to take service to the next level with BBYO’s Stand Up campaign, which combines philanthropy, service and advocacy. It allows individual regions and chapters to pick a cause that they are most passionate about. We really get to think about which issues matter most to us, and where our service will make the biggest and most meaningful possible impact.
My local chapter, for example, just made cancer research and awareness our new cause. We go to the hospital and hang out with patients and raise money for cancer research. When you get a group of people together who are really passionate about something, you’re not forcing anyone to serve. They want to make a difference and to advocate.
How did you hear about J-Serve?
I first learned about it through BBYO. Our local BBYO in Nashville is small – we only have one girls’ chapter and one guys’ chapter, while some regions have several chapters within 15 minutes of each other and can do region-wide events.
Since we’re so small, I was drawn to the idea of having the opportunity to come together with teens across the country and world to serve together on the same day. It makes real a statement about our collective commitment to tikkun olam.
What sort of J-Serve projects has your local chapter organized?
In the past we have gone out to local parks to help clean it up, and then incorporated some learning about environmental issues. A half marathon had just taken place in Nashville, so the grounds were pretty dirty. It was great to have the chance to help clean it up, and then put that local work in the context of broader environmental issues. It’s no coincidence that J-Serve and Global Youth Service Day are right around Earth Day.
What role have you played in organizing?
I help oversee the J-Serve committee, running open calls for anyone participating in J-Serve who needs help organizing, and running a T-shirt design contest for J-Serve. I also serve on the Youth Council for Youth Service America – a secular service group. Next year I’ll sit on their board of directors. My position this past year has been to make sure the connection between J-Serve and YSA is strong – because, even though were focusing on Jewish kids getting involved, we’re actually a part of something much broader.