Paige Franco, 16, of Morganville was among 50 teens from across the country who participated in the first-ever Jewish National Fund Teen Leadership Seminar at the organization’s national conference in Philadelphia Oct. 25.
The event came a year after the founding of the JNF student board to increase the involvement of teens within the organization.
“This was a remarkable experience for me,” said Paige, a junior at Marlboro High School in Morganville, “because it gave me the opportunity to find my place in Israel. This influential group of teen leaders shared the desire to learn about Israel and how we, as young Jewish advocates, can each make huge difference.”
Paige became involved with JNF after learning about what the land reclamation agency does in Israel — “It’s not just trees,” she said. As president of the Yad B’Yad chapter of B’nai B’rith Girls in Marlboro, a branch of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, Paige committed to raising funds for a JNF playground in Sderot, near the border with Gaza.
It was a great cause, said Paige, “and the efforts certainly paid off because now the children who live in Sderot and their families feel safe.”
In fact, one of the highlights of the JNF conference for her was meeting the mayor of Sderot, who, she said, was “really appreciative for the playground and everything JNF does for Israel.”
At the seminar, held on Oct. 25, the teen participants shared in the conference’s opening plenary and participated in a panel discussion, Anti-Semitism on College Campuses. They built their leadership skills, honed their Israel advocacy, and took part in a jam session with Jewish songwriter and singer Rick Recht. They also participated in a conversation with JNF board chair, philanthropist Ronald S. Lauder.
“I’ve already shared what I learned with my peers and I plan to do more fund-raising for JNF,” said Paige, who also was part of a BBYO delegation to AIPAC’s High School Summit in Washington Nov. 8-10.
“I will continue to update myself and others about the current situation in Israel …so I can passionately defend and stand behind Israel.
“This JNF seminar has truly helped me connect with Israel.”