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Archive for : BBYO

Three Days In Motown

J-Serve teens team with BBYO and Repair the World to experience Detroit.

Albaro Aguirre, 9, of Detroit gets a ride from J-Serve volunteer Sierra Stone, 17, of West Bloomfield. (Photos by Brett Mountain)
Albaro Aguirre, 9, of Detroit gets a ride from J-Serve volunteer Sierra Stone, 17, of West Bloomfield. (Photos by Brett Mountain)

It would take three lifetimes to fully comprehend the depths and dynamics of Detroit. But three days immersed in the city provided 13 local Jewish teens, volunteering through J-Serve, the perfect opportunity to investigate and invest.

The itinerary for their service-learning trip, which was coordinated by Repair the World and BBYO, tells the story of a group of young people both serving and expanding their community:

4 p.m. Teens arrive at the Collaboratory, an historic home in southwest Detroit that is now the world headquarters of Summer in the City. Volunteers take their

Brothers Artemio Gonzales, 5, and Gavin Gonzales, 7, of Detroit with J-Serve volunteers Daniel Honet, 15, of West Bloomfield and Jacob Silberg, 15, of Northville
Brothers Artemio Gonzales, 5, and Gavin Gonzales, 7, of Detroit with J-Serve volunteers Daniel Honet, 15, of West Bloomfield and Jacob Silberg, 15, of Northville

unnecessarily large volume of luggage to the recently renovated third floor, where they will be sleeping less than they should. Then they get to work assembling materials for the Winter Games, a free two-day camp for kids in the neighborhood organized by Repair the World.

6 p.m. We dine at Gold ’n’ Greens, Wayne State’s new kosher restaurant. The group enjoys delicious vegetarian fare alongside WSU students and members of the general community who keep kosher or halal — or don’t — but love the all-you-can-eat-for-$8 dinner and self-serve soft serve.

7 p.m. Everyone walks across Wayne State’s campus to the main branch of the Detroit Public Library to explore (and Instagram) the endless rows of books, historic collections and artwork.

9 p.m. Two local community activists, Blair Nosan and Nora Feldhusen, lead a session as part of their new initiative Gesher (“Bridge”), which aims to connect Jewish young adults to Detroit through social and environmental stewardship. The program helps participants explore connections between Jewish Detroit’s past, present and future.

Prina Ortiz, 8, Detroit; Hannah Goodman, 16, West Bloomfield; Abby Cohen, 16, Farmington Hills; Luzmaria Cervantes, 8, Detroit

Prina Ortiz, 8, Detroit; Hannah Goodman, 16, West Bloomfield; Abby Cohen, 16, Farmington Hills; Luzmaria Cervantes, 8, Detroit

9 a.m. J-Serve teens partner up with students volunteering from Detroit’s Western International High School. The Western volunteers are part of buildOn, an organization that runs service-learning and empowerment programs in Detroit and cities around the country. Pairs from J-Serve and buildOn prepare themselves for a mighty challenge — captaining teams of campers for the Winter Games.

10 a.m. Game on! Campers begin flooding into the Latino Mission Society, a community center (just blocks from the Summer in the City House and Western) that has offered to host the Winter Games.

Teams of campers and volunteers create their own countries, replete with name, flag, geography and anthem.

Maldonia, led by Lauren Yellen and Lily Grier, has a tropical climate with small islands named after the campers. Maldonians enjoy surfing, speaking gibberish and reading. Lifeguards, doctors and shark watchers are the primary jobs; dolphins adorn the flag.

Noon After the group eats 18 pizzas (and almost as many carrots), they compete in fast-paced relay races for points and then sing their anthems to determine faux national supremacy.

2 p.m. The campers head home and the volunteers pair off for reflection and dialogue. The conversation’s leaping-off point: grandparents, our relationships with them, the unique role they play in our lives and the common enemies we share.

J-Serve volunteer Abby Cohen, 16, of Farmington Hills works with a group on their “country.”
J-Serve volunteer Abby Cohen, 16, of Farmington Hills works with a group on their “country.”

3 p.m. No trip to the Latino Mission Society would be complete without bowling (and manually setting the pins) on their four-lane basement alley. Irrespective of the geographic, racial and religious differences between the groups, all of the volunteers are comparably poor bowlers in the absence of bumpers.

4 p.m. Volunteers watch a screening of We Are Not Ghosts, a 2012 documentary that shares compelling but often unheard voices of Detroiters as part of a narrative of community self-determination.

 5 p.m. J-Serve heads to the Repair the World Moishe House in Woodbridge to discuss eating Jewishly with Rabbi Ariana Silverman of Temple Kol Ami in West Bloomfield, who lives down the street, and then has dinner with the house’s four residents, who share their experiences living, working, learning and serving in Detroit.

8 p.m. On a roundtrip People Mover ride — the first ever for some — the volunteers enjoy their ironic interaction with a group of riders on their way to the 18th Annual Motor City Tattoo Expo.

 9 p.m. SchmoozeFest. Jewish young adults who live Downtown and in nearby neighborhoods join J-Serve for a party at a Broderick Tower apartment to mix, mingle and enjoy a view that includes the infield at Comerica Park.

One of the distinguished guests, Adam Milgrom, is in the final stages of developing “a super-duper co-working space” in Detroit called, appropriately, An Office in Detroit.

Midnight. A blizzard hits. Snow blankets the city. Blankets blanket the volunteers.

Tiushka Shaday Marquez Olivo, 9, with buildOn volunteer Lydia Maciel, 14, both of Detroit
Tiushka Shaday Marquez Olivo, 9, with buildOn volunteer Lydia Maciel, 14, both of Detroit

9:30 a.m. Anxiety. Will the kids brave the blizzard on their school break to come back to camp?

10 a.m. They came back! Kids shake off layers of coats and snow and don’t miss a beat. One mother shares that her boys literally dragged her out of bed to bring them. Chaos and creativity ensue as campers and volunteers craft their own wizards, with materials from Arts and Scraps, and instill them with all variety of magical powers.

4 p.m. Half of the volunteers don aprons to cook a local-sustainable Shabbat dinner at the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue. The rest stock up on provisions at Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe for an adventure that includes snow-silent Heidelberg Street and Belle Isle.

7 p.m. Participants Brian Dickstein, Lily Grier and Sierra Stone leap at the opportunity to lead the Kabbalat Shabbat service, which erupts into dance. Twice.

8 p.m. Congregant Ruby Robinson gives the d’var Torah, drawing a lesson for the volunteers from this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Tetzaveh: In the same way that the high priest carried the 12 tribes of Israel on his shoulders and in his heart, as symbolized by the jewels on his epaulets and breastplate, so, too, should we carry our service to and love of Detroit with us wherever we go.

8:30 p.m. We dine at the synagogue on the delicious dinner prepared by the volunteers: winter green salad, kasha with eggplant, kreplach soup with sweet potato stuffing, a trio of hummuses, beet and carrot slaw and, of course, hamantaschen.

9:30 p.m. Walking past the sounds of live music at Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy, the volunteers head home, tired, wired and inspired. 

Students in grades 6-12 from around the community will gather together to volunteer at and learn about organizations making a difference in Detroit. J-Serve projects include gardening, painting, food packing, park clean-up and more.

When? Sunday, April 21, from noon-4:30 p.m. Drop off and pick up at Temple Beth El, 7400 Telegraph Road in Bloomfield Hills.

For more information and to register, visit Pre-registration is required.

Questions? Contact Danny Bittker, program associate, BBYO Michigan Region: (248) 432-5686 or [email protected]; or Jodie Gross, associate director of education and youth at Adat Shalom Synagogue: (248) 626-2153 or [email protected].


Stamp Out Bullying on Unity Day, October 10

Do you know someone who has been bullied, or have you experienced bullying yourself? Chances are, the answer is yes. According to The Bully Project, a powerful documentary on the subject that came out in 2011, a staggering 13 million kids are likely to experience bullying in America this year. And reported that 160,000 students skip school every day – just to avoid being bullied.

Bully behavior ranges widely from physical intimidation or violence (pushing, shoving etc.), to verbal threats, rumor spreading, and put-downs about someone’s academic performance, weight, gender or sexual orientation – really anything that makes someone “different” than the perceived status quo.

Bullying happens in schools, after-school clubs, workplaces, and even at home. And with computers and smart phones becoming an increasingly important part of how we communicate, cyber-bulling (bullying via email, social media or texting) has added a whole new dimension to the problem. Whatever the specific form bullying takes, it tends to leave the victim feeling the same way: powerless and alone.

Fortunately, bullying – and particularly how to stop it – has gotten a lot of media attention lately. And today, people across the country are celebrating Unity Day – a day to unite against bullying and promote friendship, tolerance and self-esteem. Unity Day also offers the chance to get plugged into some organizations that are doing great work to fight bullying on the ground and help build kinder, more thoughtful schools and communities. Check them out:

  • BBYO: This Jewish Youth Leadership organization, which is committed to respect and inclusion of all teenagers, is the exclusive partner with the Bully Project in bringing the film and supportive curriculum and discussion guide to Jewish teen audiences across North America.
  • The Trevor Project: This organization works to prevent suicide (much of it related to bullying) within the LGBTQ community.
  • DoSomething: This organization’s Bully Text game lets people engage themselves and their friends in the issue of bullying, while potentially winning cool prizes.
  • Cartoon Network: This cable network naturally reaches a lot of kids – so how cool is it that they started an interactive anti-bullying website and resource hub?

How will you celebrate Unity Day? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting us at @repairtheworld.

BBYO sponsors screening of film on bullying May 2

BBYO is inviting all Cleveland-area Jewish youth and their families to stand up against bullying by attending a screening of the documentary “Bully” at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, May 2, at the Cedar Lee Theatre, 2163 Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. Viewers should arrive by 6:15. Cost is $6, and advanced registration is required.

The Ohio Northern Region of BBYO is sponsoring the local screenings of “Bully,” a full-length documentary that depicts North America’s bullying crisis. BBYO has partnered with Keshet, North American Federation of Temple Youth, Repair the World and a dozen more organizations across the country to ensure the screenings reach the largest number of Jewish teens possible.

“Bully” tells the stories of several children affected by bullying. It is intended to challenge viewers to move from shock and resignation to action aimed at creating schools and communities where bullying is unacceptable and empathy and respect are encouraged.

“Bully” director Lee Hirsch was present for the first all-teen audience screening of the film at BBYO’s international convention last month in Atlanta.

“No matter how shameful it is to admit, every teen witnesses bullying in our schools in some form, and we don’t always want to talk or think about it,” said BBYO member Marni Young of Solon.