Following NOLA

Following NOLA

Our annual June service trip for private school teens is off to a great start!

Day 1 included checking into Camp Hope NOLA, touring the WWII museum, dinner in the French Quarter, river walks and lots of group bonding! We’re ready to begin our service work starting bright and early this morning! #jewishbostonteens #tikkunolam #nola

Day 2 working in New Orleans with St. Bernard’s Project, helping to rebuild the 9th ward and working with some incredible people. Our group was smiling even at 6:30am for breakfast and worked straight through an amazing, rewarding and challenging day. Worked all day, and now wrapping things up listening to Charmaine Neville at the Snug Harbor jazz club … where one of our teens was invited onto stage to perform a song with the band!!

Days 3 & 4 Our incredible group of volunteers continues to inspire and impress us, as they battle the weather (what’s a tropical storm and hurricane watch anyway) to finish up our interior work on “Ms. Cece’s house”. Minor flooding and driving rain wasn’t going to stop the crew from getting some late night beignets, doing some design work for “Stars of Hope” and then heading downtown to learn how Madri Gras floats are made.

Day 5 Wrapping up an absolutely amazing week of work, experiential learning, connection and community building. This group of volunteer’s commitment, flexibility, creativity and insightfulness exemplifies the BEST of what Jewish Teen Initiative of Greater Bostonis all about. Thank you to our teens, staff and ALL who help support us and allow programs like this to happen … engaging teens in the work of repairing our world!



Have you heard?

We’re Growing!

Over the last nine years, North Shore Teen Initiative has engaged more than 900 Jewish teens while connecting the North Shore community, emerging as a nationally-recognized model for Jewish teen engagement. This year, expanding and branching out into the Metrowest community saw exciting new connections along with the emergence of a new name.

We’re Now Jewish Teen Initiative

…and seeds are being planted for the future! Along with our new name and growing community, exciting new events and opportunities to connect are on the horizon. Stay Tuned!


Learn More & Connect  >> Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Guest Article

Guest Article

Building Community for Teens

By CJP News & Announcements

It’s no secret that it can be a struggle to keep teens involved in the Jewish community. B’nai mitzvah ceremonies act as de facto graduation ceremonies, and these newly minted adults are often given the responsibility of choosing their own involvement with Judaism. In a packed schedule filled with college resume-building activities, it’s tempting to see Judaism as the one thing that can get put aside.

A 2011 study of Jewish teens in New York conducted by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis showed that fewer than half of those surveyed participated in some form of organized Jewish activity, and more than a third of the teens weren’t being reached by the Jewish community at all. And most of the teens didn’t associate their desire to make the world a better place or their personal and societal sense of right and wrong with Jewish teachings.

The Greater Boston Jewish community was no different. As Averi Kaplowitch, a high school student from Marblehead, says, “I am one of the only teens I know who is currently involved in the Jewish community. It can feel very isolating.”

Meeting teens where they are
To address this alarming trend the Jewish Teen Initiative (JTI), then the North Shore Teen Initiative, was founded with the support of the Jim Joseph Foundation. After spending a year listening to the North Shore community talk about how teens were engaging with the opportunities available, Executive Director Adam Smith saw what needed to be done.

“JTI’s mission is to help remove the barriers and open doorways — it’s designed to meet teens where they are. Our goal is to work alongside synagogues, agencies, and community partners to offer a diverse menu of opportunities to engage teens in Jewish life that match their interests and schedules — regardless of label, affiliation, or membership.”

Over the last eight years, the Initiative has done just that. By coordinating with community organizations to leverage existing events in addition to their own programs, JTI has expanded opportunities without competing with other agencies. More than 900 teens from 23 municipalities on the North Shore have gotten involved in meaningful Jewish growth and learning experiences including service learning and social justice action trips.

Rabbi David Cohen-Henriquez of Temple Sinai in Marblehead has seen how the teen community on the North Shore has changed in the last few years. “It is impressive to have witnessed the fast growth and strength of JTI. What we have here is not only the new model of teen programming, but perhaps a new way synagogues and other Jewish institutions will operate in order to help Jews connect with each other and with the topics of interest in their search for meaning and identity.”

Building on success
Even with JTI’s success, Smith knew that they could be reaching even more teens. “We have long since recognized that the best people to connect to teens are other teens,” so JTI began a Peer Leadership Fellows (PLF) program.

JTI partnered with Hillel International to adapt a model they use on college campuses. The program strengthens student connections and boosts participation by providing sophomore and junior Fellows with a stipend and training in leadership, communication, and community organizing. It’s the first time this model has been used with high schoolers.

“We’re engaging the teens to be community connectors — reaching out to their marginally- or under-involved peers, building those relationships and connecting them to opportunities which relate to their interests,” says Brett Lubarsky, Associate Director of JTI.

The PLF program is also collaborating with several Jewish organizations, including Brandeis University’s Design Lab, to allow the Fellows to work on real-world problems our community is facing. Earlier this year, the North Shore Fellows brainstormed ways to make synagogues more inclusive and accessible so that everyone can participate fully in Jewish life.

Taking it wide
Now, in addition to being a national model for teen engagement, JTI is expanding into Boston’s Metrowest community. CJP supported this expansion with grants and research.

“We are incredibly grateful for CJP’s support and partnership as we work to pursue our shared goal of engaging teens in meaningful Jewish experiences,” says Smith. “Without CJP we wouldn’t be able to bring our model of community collaboration and outreach to Metrowest.”

Already, JTI has collaborated with 13 synagogues, 26 Jewish agencies, and countless community leaders in Metrowest. The first class of Metrowest Fellows have already begun their training, and Lubarsky is excited about the future of the program in the area.

“Our Metrowest Peer Leadership Fellows, representing seven different schools, will continue strengthening our community and serving as catalysts for enhanced teen connection to Jewish life,” says Lubarsky.

The Fellows, both from the North Shore and from Metrowest, are expected to connect with more than 800 teens at least once a month — most of them would not otherwise be reached by the Jewish community.

“It’s important for us to connect and be the voice of the future,” says Jacob Abisso, a Fellow and a student at Gann Academy. “It has been awesome to be part of something so big and to feel the momentum build.”

As JTI continues to grow, Rabbi David Meyer of Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead sees its accomplishments. “JTI has certainly made a large impact and has lived up to our hopes.”

JTI is currently accepting applications for the second year of the PLF on the North Shore. Apply, or find out more about JTI programming on the North Shore or in Metrowest, HERE.

Cross-posted at CJP News

Guest Article

Guest Article

North Shore Teens Dig in to Help

Homeless at Lynn Shelter

By Leigh Blander

More than 85 teenagers from across the North Shore joined forces on a recent Sunday to paint, plant, build and cook at the Lynn Shelter Association.

“It feels good to help homeless families right here on the North Shore because they don’t live too far from us and we are fortunate enough to be able to afford a home and other necessities, like food, but many of these people cannot,” said Mason Quintero, 17, or Marblehead. Quintero helped organize landscaping at the Lynn Shelter Association campus.

The annual day of service, called J-Serve, was organized by Jewish Teen Initiative (formerly North Shore Teen Initiative), a Marblehead-based non-profit. In addition to the teens, more than 25 adults also came out to help.

“This was our most incredible J-Serve yet,” said Jewish Teen Initiative Director Adam Smith. “Our volunteers were excited and motivated and they did a huge amount of work.”

The teens built raised beds for vegetable gardens and filled them, in partnership with The Food Project. They also constructed and installed shelving, built picnic tables, landscaped the parking lot perimeter with more than 50 plants and trees, painted storage crates and created hopscotch boards.

“It felt rewarding to know that I had a positive impact on the families who stay here,” said Jonathan Resnic, 18, of Swampscott, who oversaw the construction of the picnic tables. “I was one of the last people to leave the site. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment.”

Samantha Wheeler with the Lynn Shelter Association says the teens’ work will make a difference.

“They’re giving families an area where they can feel safe, appreciated… where they can sit outside and enjoy themselves,” Wheeler said.

“It’s about community building,” she added, “breaking down barriers between the homeless and people who might not always spend time in downtown Lynn.”

Jewish Teen Initiative has a strong relationship with the Lynn Shelter Association, sending teen volunteers to read to and play with homeless children each week.

For the teens at J-Serve, volunteering is a key component of the Jewish value Tikkun Olam, Hebrew for “Repairing the World.”

“I’ve always been fortunate enough to have had a roof over my head and food to eat, so offering my time and help is the least I can do to help those in need,” said Ariella Nardizzi who lives in Nahant and attends Swampscott High School. She helped organize and paint two hopscotch boards, clean up trash in the parking lot and landscape flower beds.

Gayle Rubin of Swampscott has been involved with J-Serve for seven years and is now Board chair at Jewish Teen Initiative. She looks forward to J-Serve every year.

“Everyone was happy, excited, inspired and ready to work hard to complete their projects. Additionally, this year we fed more than 100 shelter residents and homeless individuals and families walking by. These individuals were in awe that teens were out working to make their space better.

“I returned home absolutely exhausted, yet so energized. There is no way to attend J-Serve and not feel good about yourself, your community, how fortunate we are for what we have and the organization that exists.”

After hours of digging and planting, Quintero was exhausted and had blisters on his hands. But he’s not complaining.

“I’m already looking forward to next year,” he said.

bullet point  Leigh Blander, is a freelance journalist and a North Shore Teen Initiative community partner.

Cross-posted at JewishJournal.orgJewishBoston.comWicked Local

New Orleans Trip

New Orleans Trip

Start your summer by giving back with friends in one of a kind New Orleans. Are you out of school June 18-23? If so…THIS IS YOUR TRIP!!


Graduating Seniors, Independent School Students, YOU!


We’re partnering with TELEM: Jewish Youth Making a Difference Together and heading to New Orleans for an epic week of tikkun olam (repairing our world)! Help rebuild homes damaged by natural disasters by day and head out out on the NOLA town with your friends at night.


Sunday, June 18th – Friday, June 23rd


This trip is being offered in partnership with TELEM, a program of Boston’s JCRC

Doing Good Indeed! J-Serve 2017

Doing Good Indeed! J-Serve 2017

In partnership with BBYO, J-Serve is one of our favorite annual events, bringing more than 100 teen and adult volunteers from throughout the North Shore together to help make our community a better place!

Planting, building, painting, cooking and schlepping…our NSTI fam did an amazing amount of work in just 4 hours, helping to brighten up the neighborhood for our partners at the Lynn Shelter Association. A huge yashar koach (job well done!) and many thanks to everyone who helped to make J-Serve 2017 an incredibly powerful and successful event. If you want to help support this work, or other service programs like it, please consider making a gift to the North Shore Teen Initiative.

Have you checked out the photos yet from #JServe2017? Wow! We’re feeling great about the amazing #TikkunOlam work our community volunteers did at this year’s 8th annual J-Serve!

We Need Your Support!

We Need Your Support!

J-SERVE IS THIS SUNDAY! It’s time to roll up your sleeves, rally your friends and wrap-up April vacation by helping NSTI + BBYO make a difference here on the North Shore @ NSTI’s 8th annual J-Serve!

We have an incredible group of teen and adult leaders working on 9 team Mitzvah projects to help renovate The Lynn Shelter Association’s Main Campus and it all happens on 1 international Jewish day of service! It’s only through our combined planning, volunteerism & financial support that we’re able to accomplish our mission to help “Repair the World”.

J-Serve volunteers are building a better community for us all.

——> gardening and beautifying the grounds
——> painting interior
——> mural painting
——> painting hop scotch & four square boards
——> building picnic tables and benches

Please consider a gift or volunteering to help make this event and others like it possible!

J-Serve is made possible in part by a grant from BBYO.