Summer Reflections from JSC Teens
Take a moment to learn about how some JSC teens spent their summer working, learning, volunteering, giving back and becoming informed, engaged young Jewish leaders.
Counselor at Apachi Northside
Being a Jewish teen in a public high school has inspired me to continue to connect with my Jewish roots by working at JCC Chicago Apachi Northside J Camp. Apachi is a predominantly Jewish camp, which focuses on the importance of Kehillah, Ometz Lev, Kavod, and Tikkun Olam. The camp teaches campers and staff the importance of each of these qualities and reinforces them daily. Another amazing aspect of Apachi is their inclusion of Shabbat on Fridays. During Shabbat, each camp unit comes together singing songs and prayers so loudly that the whole camp can hear. Shabbat brings the camp together and adds a special aspect to the camp’s dynamic, making it a unique camp experience.
I chose to work at Apachi because I wanted to surround myself with Jewish values and fun and exciting opportunities. Each day is filled with fun activities for both the staff and campers. The activities are engaging for all and help maintain a diverse range of opportunities at camp. One activity that stood out to me was a pinwheel project we made during art class. Each camper was able to exemplify their artistic skills by using different mediums to create a finished product.
Working at Apachi Northside has had a powerful impact on my life. It has taught me important values, leadership skills and, most importantly, a sense of community. Apachi was filled with great experiences and amazing staff that continued to surprise one another with their capabilities and willingness to succeed.
Write On for Israel
Write On for Israel is a two-year Israel advocacy program from junior year to senior year of high school. Throughout junior year, fellows attended seven seminars to prepare for our two-week Israel trip during the summer. Cohort 12 recently returned from that trip. This Israel trip is not the typical “touristy” trip; we spent a lot of time hearing from speakers representing an abundance of different organizations, each with a different opinion on the conflict in the Middle East. This experience in Israel gave us the tools we need to effectively advocate for Israel.
One particular speaker that had a great impact on my ability to advocate was Amir Tibon. Amir Tibon lives on Kibbutz Nahal Oz which is located on the Gaza border. First, he told us where the bomb shelters were located in case of emergency. There are many in Nahal Oz because there is not a lot of time between the time of the siren and when a missile would strike. He then explained that the kibbutz is always in danger of missiles coming from Gaza. This impacted me because I was finally able to realize that the conflict is affecting the daily life of real people. Until hearing from Amir Tibon, the conflict seemed somewhat distant from my life. But now I have seen and met people, just like me, who have to deal with these issues on a daily basis. Amir showed our group the route he walks his dog each morning, which is along a small road past a soccer field in the kibbutz. From that road, you can see a city in Gaza. Amir Tibon helped me realize how close to home this situation is to so many people.
Habitat for Humanity
My name is Rebecca Grais and I am a senior at Walter Payton College Prep. I wanted to spend some time helping others in need this summer, and, after some research, I decided to participate in the Learn and Build Experience with Habitat for Humanity. I had heard of Habitat before and knew that it was a reputable organization, so I knew that my time would be well spent.
The Learn and Build Experience is a one-week program open for 16-18 year olds. This year there were approximately 160 participants, and we all traveled to Des Moines, Iowa where we were divided into crews of 20. Each crew was assigned a house that was in need of repair. We then spent the week updating it. The house that my crew was assigned needed new windows, as well as a fresh coat of paint on the exterior. Replacing the windows of the house makes it easier to heat and cool the home by providing better insulation, which allows the homeowners to save money. The fresh coat of paint on the exterior spruces up the appearance of the house, allowing it to be a place that the homeowners can take pride in.
I spent a majority of my time scraping the old paint off of the porch (which took a long time and was very tedious) and painting. What helped me focus on the task at hand was that I had the opportunity to meet the family living in the home that I was working on. I knew my work was going to directly benefit them and they repeatedly expressed their gratitude. Looking at before and after pictures of the house, as well as seeing the smiles on the homeowners’ faces throughout the week, made me feel like I was a part of a group who made a difference.