We’re Thankful for JCC Chicago
What are you thankful for? It’s a common question asked during this time of the year. As many of us gather around a dinner table to feast on our Thanksgiving favorites, it’s also an opportunity to reflect on what you’re thankful for in your life. After more than a year of navigating a pandemic world, everyone has faced these challenging and isolating times differently. Members of our teen community are sharing how the J supported them and why they’re thankful for JCC Chicago.
While the pandemic forced teens to stay at home, attend school online and limit their social interactions with their peers, the J was able to help teens navigate through the “Covid-waters” by providing essential programs and social and emotional support.
One of those programs was Jewish Student Connection (JSC), an extra-curricular high school program that helps teens find a deeper connection to Jewish values and their community. Teens met online over Zoom allowing them to reconnect with their peers in a social setting. Once the weather got warmer, clubs moved outside, and teens gathered for safe socially-distance meetings.
Lexi Cohen, a Senior at Glenbrook North High School shared that there was a lot of grief and loss last year, but the J helped her build a close community and get emotional support from her peers to get through the pandemic. For Sophie DeKoven, a Senior at Jones College Prep, JSC club was an opportunity to make her school feel smaller and find other Jewish students to forge their own Jewish community. Mollie Dubner, a Junior at Lincoln Park High School agrees, “JCC Chicago has shaped me because it has shown me that there are so many different ways to connect and be involved in Jewish life as a teen. I am so grateful to be a part of the JCC Chicago community because I am given the opportunity to learn new things, meet new people, and celebrate being Jewish!”
Beyond JSC, some of our teens cultivated new friendships during the pandemic. Josie Mandrea, a Sophomore at Glenbrook North High School, found connection through JCC Chicago’s Better Together program where teens were paired up with senior pen pals. Josie connected with a senior from West Rogers Park and they wrote to each other on a monthly basis during the pandemic.
Programs like this aren’t the only opportunities for teens. Female-identifying teens can join Seed613, a social innovation and entrepreneurship program. The cohort identifies challenges in our community and then creates solutions to make a meaningful difference. Maya Heller participated in Seed613 Cohort 5 and shared why she’s grateful for the experience. “I am grateful that JCC Chicago has helped me foster a passion for creating positive change and has taught me that with a group of supportive friends and the right mindset we can all accomplish great things.”
Ellie Agulnek has been going to Camp Chi for nine summers and was a counselor this past year. She credits the J and Camp Chi for impacting her: “JCC Chicago has given me a space to explore my Jewish identity, which I am very grateful for,” Ellie said. “Without the J, I would not have developed the leadership skills I have today!”
The J is grateful to be an essential part in shaping the lives of Jewish teens and providing them with opportunities to support their social and emotional well-being. As our teens reflect on why they are grateful, the J asks you to take a moment this holiday season and ask yourself: What are you thankful for?