While their elders worked the phones at two Super Sunday locations, teenagers put their persuasive powers to work in the evening session of the annual fund-raiser for the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.
More than 150 teens and college students made calls to current and prospective donors Dec. 7 from the Aidekman campus in Whippany.
They hailed from a range of area institutions, including synagogues and campus Hillels, youth groups and community centers. Twenty-seven young people came by bus from the Wilf Campus in Scotch Plains after gathering there at the JCC of Central NJ.
“I love being a part of the Jewish community, and this is one day when a sense of the Jewish community is felt,” said Westfield’s Melanie Nettler, 17, a member of the Scotch Plains team. “It’s great to have the opportunity to come together with other kids my age and to help give federation the ability to help others.”
Mallory Saks, the Central JCC’s associate camp director who works with the center’s youth, said having the teens pitch in “was so exciting.”
“We love the third session” — after the earlier calling shifts at the Aidekman and Wilf campuses — “and the energy in the room is amazing,” said volunteer and session emcee Philip Paul.
Before taking to the phones, volunteers attended a briefing. “Forces in our society continually bombard us with opportunities to be selfish and isolated,” Dov Ben-Shimon, the federation’s executive vice president/CEO, told them, “but events like these help make people feel a part of something and experience a bigger sense of community.”
Will Simon of Morristown, 16, one of 40 teenage participants from the Iris Teen Tzedakah Program, said he was eager to take part in the phonathon for the first time. “I’m a little nervous but it gives me a good feeling to be involved,” he said. “I enjoyed all of the pre-meetings we had leading up to this, and I feel like I’m doing something good for the community.”
Livingston resident Jessica Lieberman, 20, a student at Montclair State University, participated for her second year in a row. An active member of her campus Hillel, she joined the federation’s board of college students and will take over as its president next semester. “I want all teens and college students to know that there are amazing leadership opportunities available through federation that I’ve never seen anywhere else,” she said.
Israelis living in the community as rishonim — federation youth emissaries — were also busy, making calls and connecting with their fellow teens. “It’s amazing to see all of these people come together for one night to help federation,” said Ligal Peretz, 18, who lives with a host family in West Orange.
Rishon Hadar Tal, 17, whose host family lives in Morristown, was draped in an Israeli flag. “Through an event like this, you can really see how much impact and influence federation has,” he said.
“Every time we do a mitzva it’s a connection we make that’s greater than ourselves,” concluded Rabbi Shmuel Greene, director of teen initiatives at the federation’s Partnership for Jewish Learning & Life. “We want teens to feel a part of the larger Jewish family and know that they can do something important in the world.”