April 10 was a day of caring for members of the Jewish Community Youth Foundation, who joined with teens across the country to participate locally in Make a Difference Day, the Areyvut organization’s National Mitzvah Day, and J-Serve, the National Day of Jewish Youth Service.
JCYF is administered by Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County and funded by the Ricky and Andrew J. Shechtel Philanthropic Fund and the Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks.
At Greenwood House, a Jewish seniors’ facility in Ewing, a group of JCYF teens created crafts with residents while they shared their life stories with their young visitors.
The other teens gathered at Beth El Synagogue in East Windsor to undertake other community service projects.
They put together “welcome” toiletry bags for Womanspace, a Lawrenceville-based agency that provides an array of services to individuals and families affected by domestic and sexual violence.
Another project had the kids baking muffins for JF&CS’ Kosher Cafe and Project Highgate in Ewing, two programs where seniors gather to eat and socialize.
The teens also made Passover care packages for residents of local assisted-living facilities and decorated holiday cards and letters for patients at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital.
Jess Rubinstein, an 11th-grader from Lawrenceville, said for him, the most meaningful aspect of the day was the letter-writing activity, because, he said, “letters are something that people cherish forever, and it shows you care.”
“Showing you care,” said organizers, is the purpose of J-Serve, the National Day of Jewish Youth Service, which had over 10,000 participants this year. J-Serve is also held in conjunction with Youth Service America’s Global Youth Service Day, a national effort aimed at increasing the number and diversity of young people volunteering in the community.
“I think the best part about J-Serve is that it gives Jewish teens the opportunity to perform community service and do gemilut hasadim”— acts of kindness, said sophomore Noam Kornsgold of East Windsor. Taking part in a project to benefit the elderly, he said, “gave me a sense of accomplishment to know that I would be making someone’s day a little bit better.”
In the JCYF teen philanthropy program, students at each grade level contribute to a particular area of need, such as national social service or Israel. Each grade’s cohort decides how to distribute their pooled funds, making site visits and giving presentations to their peers about what they’ve seen. At the end of the year, the teens decide as a group how to allocate their funds. The day of service provided an extra opportunity for them to become involved in helping local organizations and understanding the value of personal giving to the community.