Staff Article

Staff Article

Welcome Home…Time To Get Back To Work!


Welcome home! Many of the teens in our community are returning from amazing and transformative summer adventures at Jewish overnight camps and summer programs, in Israel, doing acts of tikkun olam (repairing the world) and many others. We hope you all had incredible experiences, and are excited to hear about them in the coming weeks as we reconnect and prepare for the new year.

One of the amazing parts of going away for the summer is the ability to block out some of the noise and immerse in the joy and community that surrounds us. And yet, reentry can be somewhat jarring when we readjust to the constant stream of notifications on our phones and read the headlines of what is happening in the world around us.

This past week once again reminded of how broken our world is, with racist and hateful events in Charlottesville, VA and here at home in Boston raising important questions of how we can help repair our fractured world, raise our voices, support and love our neighbors and make a difference. We join our community partners at Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) and Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) in condemning these acts of racism, hate and anti-Semitism, and in taking action to address it.

Here are some resources to help navigate these challenging times:

The Jewish Teen Initiative is extremely proud of the important work that teens in our communities do throughout the year to help make our world a better place. From local service programs to national opportunities to our signature Peer Leader Fellowship, JTI teens are making a difference. We hope you’ll join us this year, both at home and in the broader community, as we continue to connect our community, speak up for change and action, and help spread love and support to those who need more of it.

So…it’s time to get back to work.

  • Educate yourself on what is happening in our communities.
  • Attending a rally or event with JTI friends? Let us know and send us a photo of you taking action so we can post on our social media channels.
  • Looking for additional ways to turn your passions into action? Mark your calendars to join JTI at one of our many opportunities to help make the world a little bit better and contact our office – we’d love to help.

As our tradition teaches us, “tzedek, tzedek tirdof – justice, justice you shall pursue.” We look forward to working together in the coming year.

bullet point  Brett Lubarsky is Associate Director of Jewish Teen Initiative – Boston

Cross-posted at JewishBoston

Staff Article

Staff Article

From Grant Funding to Sustainability, Life After “Start-Up”


In 2009, Jewish Teen Initiative – Boston (JTI), then known as the North Shore Teen Initiative (NSTI), launched in the 23 cities and towns just north of Boston as an innovative, first-of-its-kind program aimed at addressing the alarming trend of teens disconnecting from their Jewish faith and community after Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Now, a little more than eight years later, JTI has become a national model for Jewish teen engagement, with lessons learned being adapted in communities around the country. Created and launched in partnership, and with 100 percent grant funding from the Jim Joseph Foundation, JTI is now independent and building a path toward sustainability – with bumps, bruises and ultimately valuable lessons learned along the way.

Utilizing a combination of community organizing and design thinking, JTI has built a community framework that lowers the barriers for Jewish teens to stay engaged, or re-engage, with their tradition. By collaborating with synagogues, day schools, JCCs and other community agencies, JTI has created an ever-expanding menu of teen-centered, local, regional and national programs grounded in the many experiences that comprise Jewish life. It introduces teens to Jewish learning and leadership experiences that promote life-long commitment to Jewish values.

Here are a few highlights from JTI’s first eight years:

  • Built relationships across Jewish agencies in 23 cities and towns on Boston’s North Shore while supporting existing programs, maximizing connections and increasing/diversifying program offerings for teens
  • Engaged 900+ Jewish teens in meaningful Jewish growth and learning experiences. Many of these teens would not otherwise have been involved in Jewish life
  • Partnered with 50+ organizations, strengthening connections between local Jewish agencies, synagogues, youth groups, day schools, JCCs etc.
  • Offered 200+ program opportunities either in conjunction with community partners or alone – each customized to local needs

Today, JTI is expanding its reach at the request of Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies and launching a new sub-region in the city’s western suburbs. Most recently, JTI has pioneered a partnership with Hillel International, to adapt its highly effective campus peer engagement program to be used with high school students. This fall will see close to 40 peer leaders connecting with nearly 1,000 Jewish teens throughout these two regions.

Challenges Moving Forward

JTI’s main test today is maintaining financial sustainability. For eight years, the Jim Joseph Foundation provided generous support, which diminished over time, including matching grants in the later years. This support helped lead JTI to a place where it can sustain and expand its work.

However, the transition away from the Foundation funding has been difficult.

“Becoming comfortably sustainable is the ultimate challenge facing this remarkable teen initiative. Recognition and appreciation of these teen experiences by parents, grandparents, community members, and others needs to lead to continued support at every level, especially if we are to continue to connect our teens to the meaning, importance and relevance of their Jewish heritage.”

~ Jerry Somers, JTI Founder/Board member, and former Jim Joseph Foundation Board member

While we at JTI are in the midst of building our path towards sustainability, we can take an honest look back at two particularly valuable lessons learned, which hopefully can inform others who embark on similar efforts:

  • Get Early Community BuyIn. While the Foundation’s seed money made JTI possible, it is now clear that launching with 100 percent funding negatively impacted community buy-in, making fundraising more difficult today. Many potential donors did not want to play second fiddle to the Foundation; some people want to have skin in the game right from the beginning. In hindsight, JTI would have benefited by bringing donors to the table from the outset.
  • Invest in Fundraising. In retrospect, it would have been beneficial for JTI to use some of its early funding on philanthropy training. As the executive director since JTI’s inception, I was hired for my strengths in making connections and creating programming, along with a knowledge of Judaism. The organization would have greatly benefited if I had worked with a fundraising coach early on to build an expertise in this important area. However, with full funding, JTI had no urgent need to start professional fundraising. We were solely focused on establishing a model and path toward success. It wasn’t until year four that the JTI team started to think about fundraising.

In part because of these early “mistakes,” there have been some important developments more recently: More than half of my time now is spent on fundraising; The Foundation has connected JTI with large local funders, including Combined Jewish Philanthropies; and the Foundation also has also helped JTI pursue individual donors who have been positively impacted by the program, such as parents and grandparents of teens.

To date, we have raised 80% of our annual campaign goal and early indicators are that we are tracking to a place to be sustainable locally without the Foundation’s involvement. The ongoing discussion and challenge will focus on our ability to have a larger community impact without a national partner.

A Partnership that Led to Success

Today, as we fundraise, JTI continues to thrive and engage more Jewish teens. The Foundation played a large role in the success of the model, guiding our evolution and growth each year.

From day one, Foundation leaders provided direct input and involvement with JTI professionals and Board chairs. They helped with staffing models, evaluation processes, training, coaching, and brainstorming. They opened doors not just to funders, but to program partners and resources.

For our part, JTI has remained committed to innovation. In the eight years that we’ve existed, we’ve never stepped back. No two years have really been the same. While our overarching goal did not change, we were never constrained to maintain a specific approach if we could see it wasn’t working. We had a commitment to flexibility.

All of us with JTI have learned the importance of being responsive to our community – to always ask questions to learn what people want; to pilot, test, and have a risk-taking mentality. Over eight years, we have built deep and meaningful relationships with teens, families, and congregations in our community. While the road ahead is not without challenges, we are confident that JTI will continue to help support and create vibrant Jewish life for many.

bullet point  Adam Smith is Executive Director of Jewish Teen Initiative – Boston.

Cross-posted at eJewish Philanthropy

Article Repost

Article Repost

Looking to Make Moves for the Summer? Check Out Simchah CIT!

Email Camp/Youth Director Ashley Corcoran or call 781-476-9907 to learn more!




Thank you to David Berlin and Evan Taksar for contributing your resources on this topic.

Do you love working at camp but feel like you need to get a “real job”? Think again. You can learn even more working at camp than at any other type of summer job! As a counselor, you have been able to develop and hone your skills in so many different areas.  The lessons you learn at camp can all be made applicable across different fields and will make your resume stand out from the rest of the pack!

Here are some tips to make your summer work shine:

  • Avoid camp jargon!  While “camp people” may look at a resume and understand “camp language”, assume that most professionals do not. You do not want to undervalue yourself or the leadership experience you have gained working at camp, so use language that professionals in the non-camp world will understand and value. Camp Responsibility: Served as Color War coordinator for lower camp program. Translated for Resume: Oversaw two-day intensive program serving 200+ children and supervising 60+ staff, including management of program logistics, boosting morale, and ensured safety protocols were clearly defined and followed.
  • Focus on specific accomplishments! Go through your daily camp routine, and pick out specific things you do each day. Then describe them using action words and professional language, such as “supervised and organized a comprehensive skill-building sports program serving up 40 children per hour and 120 per day.” By focusing on specific numbers and results you demonstrate your impact at camp, which future employers eagerly look for.
  • Highlight how important your work at camp was! Very few “real world” jobs give college-aged students the amount of responsibility that a job as a camp counselor does. What other profession allows an 18-year-old to supervise, organize, lead programming, and take care of other human beings? It takes a lot of responsibility to be a summer camp counselor, so don’t be afraid to highlight it!
  • Utilize the marketable skills that camp has given you! Depending on what job, different skills become more valuable.
    • Time management: You got your campers from the ropes course to the pool on time.
    • Conflict Resolution/Negotiation/Consensus Building: Your campers often got in fights and you were able to mediate a cabin argument between the 10 campers in your bunk.
    • Team Player: As a counselor you lived and worked alongside your co-counselors, supervisors and other camp staff.
    • Flexibility & Multi-Tasking: It started randomly storming while your bunk was on the climbing wall and you were required to move all campers safely into the nearest indoor location.
    • Emotional intelligence/awareness/cultivation: One of your new campers is homesick because they are away from home for the first time, and you’re the one who helps them to stop being upset and enjoy camp.
    • Group Facilitation/Program Management: You wrote and led fun yet inspiring programs for the entire unit (division).
    • Public Speaking: Last summer you were chosen as Color War Captain and had to lead a group of 50+ campers and staff.
    • Communication: One of your co-counselors is sick in the health center, the other one and you don’t get along as well but you are able to work through your differences to ensure the safety and security of your campers.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg!  Camp is one of the best jobs you can have to prepare for the “real world”. Still skeptical?  Check out what these successful professionals say about where they got their start!

“Working at camp was an incredibly important experience that taught me lessons that I still lean on today. There’s nothing quite like being responsible for engaging a group of middle schoolers for an hour to teach you the lessons of meticulous planning and contingency plans.”  -Ari Greenberg, Global Partner Marketing Lead at Spotify & Alumni of Camp Ramah in California 

“Working at camp helped me become a team player, offered the opportunity to lead large groups, and gave me experience working with people of all ages. Camp also taught me how to adapt quickly, an important skill useful for any job.  Having camp on my CV allowed potential employers to see that I could be flexible, think on my feet, and excel in a sometimes stressful environment.” -Emil Cohen, Photo Editor at The New York Times & Alumni of Camp Solomon Schechter 

“Researchers recently canvassed top American companies, (Apple, Lego, &AT&T), to understand what attributes their happiest and most successful employees shared. Not surprisingly – collaboration, creative thinking, taking initiative, having an effective leadership style, and being responsible came out on top. It’s no coincidence that these are exactly the life skills fostered by the camp counselor experience.” -Lisa Mamaysky Vice President, J.P. Morgan Asset Management & Co-Founder of Camp Zeke

“A restaurant like Shaya operates for 16-20 hours a day and the life of a counselor is not much different.  I think about the parallels of managing campers and my restaurant staff a lot and it’s eerie how similar they can be. Every day I put out “small fires”. Keeping a cabin of campers happy and having a good time isn’t all that different. It can be exhausting managing the expectations of so many people but is also super rewarding, which is the reason I became a camp counselor in the first place. -Zachary Engel, 2017 James Beard Award Winner, Chef de Cuisine of Shaya Restaurant in New Orleans, LA, & Alumni of URJ Camp Coleman 

“I run a tech company with young people that work their heart out for something that they believe is larger than themselves. None of them ‘work for me’ — they work for each other, and I’m just here to help them pursue their potential. Guess where I learned that style of leadership from? It’s almost like we run a summer camp…” – Jason Freedman, CEO of 42Floor & Shwayder Camp Alumni & former Assistant Director of URJ Camp Coleman 

“Working at camp helped me build my confidence in a caring and safe place, which helped propel me into my career.  My communication skills were fine-tuned by learning to interact with all different types of people.” – Daniella Steger Steinberg, Director, Merchandise Planning at Kate Spade & Company, Alumni of Camp Young Judaea Sprout Lake & Tel Yehudah

Reposted from
Kernwood Cares

Kernwood Cares

Salem’s Kernwood Country Club raises $50K for nonprofits

Salem’s Kernwood Country Club recently announced that its third annual “Kernwood Cares” charitable golf tournament raised more than $50,000 to be distributed to more than 25 nonprofit organizations.

This year, Kernwood Cares paired with the On Course Foundation’s Northeast Qualifier for the 2017 Simpson Cup. This is a two-day tournament that Kernwood Country Club hosts for wounded veterans from all over the United States.

“Kernwood is proud to host the 2017 Northeast Qualifier for the On Course Foundation and the Simpson Cup,” Club President Bruce Bial said. “Philanthropy is one of the core values dating from Kenwood’s inception and our members are so proud to give back to our communities.

“We are honored to give back to the charities that give so much to our communities and especially to our military veterans who allow all of us our freedom.”

Major corporate sponsors included Salem Waterfront Hotel, Riemer & Braunstein, Cohen Hillel Academy and Commonwealth Diagnostics International. Some of the nonprofit organizations receiving financial contributions will be Jewish Teen Initiative of Greater Boston, Wounded Warriors, Alzheimer’s Association, Make-a-Wish Foundation, The Jason Garfield Scholarship, the On Course Foundation and Pencils of Promise.

Reposted from Wicked Local

Following NOLA

Following NOLA

Jewish teens from Greater Boston, ages 15+, tackled rebuilding projects on homes damaged by natural disasters and explored one of a kind New Orleans:

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.

Days 5 & 6 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 Boston is 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.

Reposted from CJP News