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Youth in service across Greater MetroWest
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Youth in service across Greater MetroWest

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On Sunday, Jan. 24, hundreds of preteens will attend Mitzvot of Greater MetroWest at the Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life — the Jewish identity-building organization of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ. The expo on the Aidekman campus in Whippany affords youngsters the opportunity to find and adopt mitzva projects that are meaningful, accessible, and empowering, and reinforce teens’ connection to Judaism. A host of agencies throughout Greater MetroWest provide service opportunities, study, travel, and support programs for young people.

The following are among the options designed to enhance teens’ attachment to Jewish community, values, and teaching. 

Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life — JTEEN GMW service learning programs

Destination: Jewish Service Learning — This grant program aims to enable teens to embark on Jewish service learning trips. Scholarships of up to $800 are provided to connect teens with programs that incorporate community service with Jewish learning. The complete list of trips eligible for the grant, along with the application form, can be found at jteengmw.org/destination_jewish_service_learning.

Iris Teen Tzedekah Program — A two-year philanthropy program that engages 40 Greater MetroWest teens who receive the opportunity to make a real difference in the local community and around the world. The program, open to high school freshmen and sophomores, focuses on philanthropy, Jewish education, and leadership and includes exploration of how the Jewish community responds to Jews and other people in need locally, globally, and in Israel. More information is at jteengmw.org/iris_teen_tzedakah.

J-Serve, the International Day of Jewish Service Learning — Provides hundreds of teens with the opportunity to to fulfill Jewish values through hands-on service projects. With the help of the J-Serve committee, a wide variety of service projects are organized and hosted primarily at the Partnership on the Aidekman campus. Participants sign up for a program they are passionate about, perform service, and connect with hundreds of teens dedicated to Jewish service learning. 

Mitzvah Mania! — Throughout the year, JTEEN GMW hosts partnership events with nonprofit agencies and Jewish organizations in the Greater MetroWest area to provide hands-on service projects that incorporate Jewish learning. The most recent event involved preparing gift packages for impoverished Jewish families. The capstone event each year is two weeks of Mitzvah Mania projects at the end of the summer. Teens can receive notifications by signing up at jteengmw.org/mitzvah_mania.

JTEEN GMW Justice League — The six members selected from among teens involved in JTEEN GMW programming make a full-year commitment to service, outreach, learning, and leadership, and can earn up to $1,000 for their efforts. Specific duties include engagement in monthly meetings relating to social justice issues through a Jewish lens, organization of at least two service projects, and the presentation of a capstone research expose. 

SeniorITIS: Senior Institute for Teens In-Service — Rising and graduating high school seniors are paired with a Jewish professional in a field of their interest for 15 hours a week of engagement during July. Participants are tasked with completing a project goal during their placement while attending training seminars and learning about Jewish workplace ethics. Find out more at jteengmw.org/senioritis.

The JTEEN-GMW Sunday Morning Learning Community — Teens have a menu of educational opportunities to chart his or her own journey to their Jewish future. The community is the only ongoing Jewish learning program for teens of this frequency and scope aside from day schools in the Greater MetroWest area.

One Happy Camper NJ — Provides free, personalized guidance to connect teens with a wide array of Jewish summer programs. Opportunities range from camps, domestic and international tours, Israel experiences, specialty programs (sports, arts, STEM, farming, and cooking), outdoor adventure, and college campus and advocacy programs. Three grant programs offer teens opportunities to receive up to $1,000 in incentives toward many programs. Visit jteengmw.org/summer and OneHappyCamperNJ.org or contact One Happy Camper NJ director Tracy Levine 973-929-2970 or tracy@onehappycamperNJ.org.

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Greater MetroWest ABLE

Greater MetroWest ABLE (Access, Belonging, and Life Enrichment for People and Families with Special Needs) is the network of community leaders and professionals who advocate for and support individuals with special needs and their families. 

Greater MetroWest Madrichim Shadow Training Program — Reaches out to area synagogues and recreational programs to provide training for teens to support a child with special needs one-on one in a religious school or recreational setting, creating opportunities for all individuals to participate fully in Jewish experiences. 

Contact community inclusion coordinator Rebecca Wanatick at metrowestABLE@jfedgmw.org or 973-929-3129.

Learn to Babysit for Children with Special Needs Program — A five-week course in which teens are trained by a special-needs professional through workshops, videos, and meetings. Students will be certified in CPR and First Aid; additional topics include disability awareness, rights and responsibilities, child development and behavioral challenges, communicating with the child with special needs, modifying games/activities, and handling emergencies. 

A list of teens who have completed the course can be shared with families in the community seeking childcare. Contact community inclusion coordinator Rebecca Wanatick at metrowestABLE@jfedgmw.org or 973-929-3129.

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JCC of Central NJ, Scotch Plains — The JCC offers a variety of social, service, and leadership programs for teens in sixth-12th grades. A new program offers a full roster of activities for middle-school students; some upcoming events include Middle School Night Out-Game Show, Saturday, Feb. 20, 7 p.m.; Paint Party, Sunday March 13, 3 p.m.; and a Bounce Factory trip, Sunday, April 10, 12:45 p.m. 

Teen Action Service Corps — For teens in ninth-12th grades, TASC is an experiential learning program that incorporates leadership training, volunteer experiences, and social programming into a year-long adventure. Meetings are held once a month on a weeknight from October-June. Visit jccnj.org or contact Jordyn Barry, director of teen outreach and engagement, at jbarry@jccnj.org or 908-889-8800, ext. 203. 

JCC MetroWest, West Orange — The JCC’s Children and Teen Production Companies have opportunities for students in middle and high school. The next show for youngsters in fifth-12th grades is FAME Jr. Auditions are at the Cooperman JCC in West Orange on March 28 and 29; the show is the first weekend in June. 

The Triple Threat Theater Camp is a musical theater day camp that runs June 27- Aug. 12. Campers sing and dance every day and each Wednesday go to New York City for a workshop, lunch, and a Broadway show. There is a showcase at the end of each session. The camp goes through 10th grade with CIT positions for 11th-graders and intern positions for seniors.

Contact Samara Grossman at sgrossman@jccmetrowest.org or 973-530-3410. 

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Jewish Family Service of Central NJ Teen Volunteer Opportunities — JFS offers many opportunities for teens to learn about and address the problems of hunger in the community, including volunteering in the food pantry, packing food boxes, and delivering food to the homebound elderly and disabled. 

The Urban Community Vegetable Garden provides enjoyable and productive opportunities to help with planting and harvesting vegetables.

Teens can also run food drives in their communities and raise money to purchase food for those in need, and organize collections of toys, school supplies, or other needs for JFS clients. Contact JFS volunteer coordinator Elie Bodner at ebodner@jfscentralnj.org or 908-352-8375.

Jewish Family Service of MetroWest Adolescent Service Department — Provides comprehensive counseling and related support services for area teens, parents, and teachers. Available services address the typical needs of developing teens as well as those displaying worrisome, self-destructive behaviors. Social workers with expertise in adolescent development provide counseling and group services for a range of mental health issues. 

Contact coordinator of adolescent services Robyn Krugman, LCSW, at rkrugman@jfsmetrowest.org

The Teen Volunteer Team of JFS MetroWest offers a range of community service projects for young people. Options include friendly visiting with residents of the senior communities of the Jewish Community Housing Corporation, assembling and delivering holiday packages for isolated older adults, collecting iTunes gift cards and loading iPod Shuffles with playlists to help seniors coping with memory loss, and fund-raising to assist JFS MetroWest clients struggling to make ends meet. 

Contact JFS MetroWest volunteer coordinator Suzy Berman at sberman@jfsmetrowest.org

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Friendship Circle Teen Volunteers — With the assistance of 850 volunteers and a staff of professional therapists, Friendship Circle engages children with special needs in a full range of social, recreational, and Judaic experiences. With 15 different opportunities, teens can volunteer to spend time with children with disabilities, offering them friendship and support and much-needed respite to their parents. 

Learn more at fcnj.com or call 973-251-0200. 

Diller Teen Fellows — The goal of this international Jewish teen leadership program, sponsored by the Helen Diller Family Foundation, locally by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, is to create a network of inspired, empowered Jewish teens. Diller’s informal education leads to the development of a strong Jewish identity and a sense of commitment to community, the Jewish people, and Israel, and guides teens to serve as active, effective leaders upholding Jewish values, peoplehood, and pluralism.

Eligible teens live in Greater MetroWest and are entering either 10th or 11th grade for the 2016-17 academic year. Applications for the 10th GMW Diller cohort open in early April; visit jfedgmw.org/dillerteens or contact program coordinator Amanda Solomon at asolomon@jfedgmw.org.

Alexander Muss High School in Israel — An immersive academic high school experience abroad for sophomores through seniors, whose programs develop the skills and tools that prepare the students for college and beyond.

Participants study and live in dorms on the AMHSI Hod Hasharon campus, 20 minutes from Tel Aviv. The students are immersed in the narrative of Israel and the Jewish people with study and travel to sites across the country, including Masada, the Kineret, and the Dead Sea. 

AMHSI offers a variety of sessions, including two semester programs and a six-week summer program. In addition to completing general studies classes, students also earn six college credits from completing the AMHSI core curriculum. 

Contact Rebekah Sedwin at rsedwin@jnf.org or 973-593-0095, ext. 828.

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