(Dec. 31, 2013) — More than 100 Jewish high school students from across the US, Canada and Puerto spent their winter vacation lending a hand toward rebuilding and community development projects on Alternative Winter Break, Young Judaea’s transformative community service in Los Angeles and New Orleans.
Established by Young Judaea following Hurricane Katrina, Alternative Winter Break sent one group of teens to New Orleans, LA to help renovate homes and work with local youth and residents in the Ninth Ward, developing a stronger understanding of rebuilding efforts and issues affecting the Gulf Coast region today since Hurricane Katrina. AWB also organized Holiday parties at a local church that included activities aimed at helping the church’s congregants better understand Judaism and the Jewish People.
Zack Singer, a participant from Solon, OH, said “The highlight was the Holiday party. The smile on the faces of the less fortunate kids when they opened their presents was priceless. I’ve made friendships with kids 9 years younger than me that live on the other side of the country from me but I will still never forget them.”
A second group traveled to Los Angeles, CA to build upon Alternative Winter Break’s first trip to Los Angeles in December 2007 to tackle issues around poverty by volunteering at shelters and food banks. These teens volunteered at LA Regional Foodbank, Midnight Mission, People Assisting the Homeless (aka PATH) and the Jewish Big Brothers and Sisters of LA.
Emily Hecht, a 9th grader from Westfield NJ, said, “I’m on AWB to make a change in a person’s life, make a difference in the community, and inspire others to do the same.”
Alternative Winter Break is designed to challenge students by taking them out of the comfort of their everyday surroundings and immersing them in an unfamiliar, hopefully life-changing environment. The program aspires to further develop the Jewish values of activism and social justice in young people.
“This year, an amazing group of students is forgoing relaxing over winter break in favor of rolling up their sleeves with hands-on service projects in a new environment. This was an experience that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives,” said Andrew Fretwell, Young Judaea’s Alternative Winter Break Program Manager. “By living and working in communities where the effects of their efforts can be felt, these teens learned firsthand about the issues affecting those who live in recovering and struggling areas. Alternative Winter Break ensures that participants develop a sense of building community, get the chance to further explore their Jewish identity and ultimately go home more committed and better equipped to offer service where it is most needed.”
About Young Judaea:
Young Judaea, the premier Zionist youth movement worldwide, challenges young people from grade school through post-college to become involved in social and educational activities that sharpen their senses of Jewish and Zionist identity. Young Judaea programs include a variety of year-round activities, summer camps, Alternative Winter Break, and summer and year-long Israel programs.
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