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J-Serve Pittsburgh: Teamwork in Action

Posted by Carolyn Gerecht on March 27, 2017

Last June, four collaborating agencies – BBYO, Repair the World, the Volunteer Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and the JCC – came together to begin planning the largest Jewish teen service event of the year. Calendars were managed, Steering Committee applications were drafted, and each organization’s role was clearly determined and defined.

Several months later and following a competitive application process, 17 incredible Jewish teens met for the very first time, forming the 2017 J-Serve Steering Committee and modeling collaboration to the community at large. These teens represent every denomination, geographic locations across the city, diverse Jewish identities, a multitude of schools and youth programs, and a wide range of passions and experiences. Despite their unique backgrounds, they learned from each other and began to work towards a shared goal: to engage more Jewish teens in service in Pittsburgh than ever before.

By mid-year, more than 25 local Jewish programs and organizations generously stepped forward to also support teens in attending this community-wide service event. These organizations put aside their own agendas for one day, in order to unite a broad spectrum of teens around the value of supporting those in need in our community. In addition to teaching tikkun olam, partnering agencies also recognized the value of fostering a sense of relationship and respect for one another in the Jewish community by ensuring a diverse turnout at the event.

By early January, 19 local nonprofit organizations generously agreed to host J-Serve teens on a Sunday morning for J-Serve and to engage them as volunteers. We may often like to believe that we, the volunteers, are “doing a favor” for these organizations by volunteering – but we must remember that it takes staff time and energy for each of these organizations to create volunteer opportunities for Jewish teens, and to host them in their own spaces. J-Serve is one day, but the staff and volunteers connected to each of these organizations perform acts of tikkun olam every day, and we are fortunate to learn from them. To every organization we volunteered alongside at J-Serve, we are also grateful for partnership.

And now, as the curtain falls on J-Serve this year, 340 teens are returning home not only with J-Serve backpacks and t-shirts and sunglasses – but with an understanding of what teamwork in the Jewish community is all about. J-Serve Pittsburgh is unique nationally because so many Jewish organizations and teens join together to pull it off. As we bask in the success of 17 Steering Committee members and 21 teen Group Leaders in executing the largest J-Serve in the country this year, we remember why.

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