Tag Archives: TELEM

Ten Thousand and Counting

This week, a message from Barry Glass, Director of TELEM, JCRC's teen service volunteer program:

They didn’t get the email.

Had they received it, they would have learned that the TELEM inter-generational program at the Simon Fireman Senior Living Community in Randolph was cancelled that night because of the pending snowstorm.

Instead, the three intrepid high school seniors, who had been regularly driving themselves to their TELEM program, hopped into the car and drove from Sharon to Randolph to be with their senior friends. All three had been in the TELEM program at Fireman throughout their high school years, and the threat of snow storm would definitely not keep them away. They made it there (and back!) safely, and had the Fireman residents to themselves.  

For these high school seniors, Tuesday nights at Fireman were a staple of their lives.  Weekly visits helped create bonds and friendships that resonated with both sets of seniors. They laughed, learned, shared stories, grew older together and touched each other’s lives in memorable and meaningful ways. 

The TELEM program with the Fireman community had an indelible impact on this crew of three: so much so that in her first week upon enrollment in college, one of them set out to find a senior care facility at which to volunteer. 

This small but mighty crew is but a part of what is now a veritable army of volunteers: TELEM has reached the monumental milestone of engaging our 10,000th participant! That’s a lot of youth, a lot of hours of community service, and a lot of lives touched in so many ways throughout 14 years of programming.

If you’re unfamiliar with TELEM, it is JCRC’s service-learning volunteerism program for Jewish teens, with a separate structure (B’nai TELEM) for 6th and 7th graders. The program was created for teens to build the habit of lifelong volunteerism, embrace a commitment to hands-on social justice rooted in our Jewish tradition, and develop valuable interpersonal skills, such as resiliency and compassion. TELEM provides an informed and able volunteer corps that helps our service partners reach their goals and fulfill their missions. It also reflects JCRC’s community relations mission: the vast majority of service takes place in community based non-profits beyond the Jewish community.

So how did we get to that milestone of 10,000?

First, we built the structure: the service partnerships, the curricula, the training and support. Then, they – our Jewish youth volunteers, educators, and supporters – showed up. Over 10,000 have showed up and made a difference in people’s lives throughout Greater Boston and beyond.

They showed up by way of yellow school buses that took them from their high schools to local under-served after-school programs to read with elementary school children and help them build stronger literacy skills.

They showed up weekly by van or carpool to the Minuteman ARC in Concord to build meaningful relationships with adults in the group homes there.

They showed up by plane as they flew to New Orleans to help people rebuild their damaged homes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

They showed up on MLK Day 2019, despite 9-degree weather and ice, to make 80 banana breads and 56 giant lasagnas to help feed those in homeless shelters in the Metrowest, at our project in collaboration with our Jewish Teen Initiative partners.

They showed up at 5:30am following a snowstorm that delayed the start of a service trip, so that they could get in two full days of work helping to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy.

They showed up for South Area Mitzvah Day to help our service partner Rebuilding Together Boston make essential home repairs, enabling a 94-year-old gentleman to continue to live safely in his home.

And some showed up by themselves – as our three intrepid teens from Sharon did at the Fireman Community.

We built it and they came. And they are still coming.

The JCRC is honored to be the driver of this movement of youth volunteers – and to be working in a Jewish community that deeply values this commitment to service to the broader community, to social justice, and to activism.  We are offering our youth the opportunity to live the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel z”l,: “A Jew is asked to take a leap of action rather than a leap of faith.”

And we look ahead to signing on our 15,000th and 20,000th teens in the future. If you would like to learn more about joining TELEM with your teen or synagogue, please visit our webpage or contact TELEM Coordinator ">Grace Farnan

Shabbat Shalom,


Building Possibility Through Teen Service

The story below about Mr. Clark is just one example of why I am so pleased to tell you about the generosity of the Jim Joseph Foundation, as they are matching 100% of every dollar donated to TELEM before June 30th, 2017 (up to $30,000). We hope to reach this goal with your help!


At 94 years of age, Mr. Branson Clark is as vigorous and engaging as they come. When TELEM teen service program staff visited Mr. Clark in his Jamaica Plain home last winter, he showed them how he ‘jogs’ up and down his hallway to stay limber in the cold and snowy weather. His jog isn’t merely a slow run; it is a rapid, high, knee-pumping activity, with the intensity of an NFL running back in training. It was a remarkable display of fitness and strength.

But notwithstanding his admirable fitness, Mr. Clark was unable to maintain the upkeep of his home on his own. Without the resources to hire contractors to repair unsafe conditions, his ability to live independently was in jeopardy. Enter a new partnership between the JCRC’s TELEM and Rebuilding Together Boston (RTB). RTB harnesses the skill and muscle-power of volunteers to help seniors and vulnerable persons live safely in their homes. TELEM teen participants – with their extensive experience repairing damaged homes in New Orleans, New Jersey, and New York – wanted to provide similar assistance to Boston residents. Mr. Clark’s house was the first of this type of rehab project in Boston, and the partnership with RTB made this vital work possible.

On an unseasonably chilly day in March, as part of the South Area’s CHAI Mitzvah Day, 34 volunteers from synagogues in Sharon, Randolph, Brockton, Canton, and Easton lent their skills and brawn to a wide variety of projects to make Mr. Clark’s home a more safe and livable place. Adult and teen volunteers – including a crew of 12 from Temple Sinai Sharon’s youth group – built railings, repaired walls and doors, painted trim, installed wallboard, and cleaned lots of yard debris. The youngest volunteer, about to become a b’nai mitzvah, donated $70 of his winter snow-shoveling earnings towards the purchase of materials for Mr. Clark’s home. He and his dad – a professional contractor - worked side by side for four hours to rebuild a wall badly damaged by water leaks.



(L-R) Mitzvah Day Participants; Teens from the TELEM program; Mr. Branson Clarke with TELEM teen; Mr. Clark (center) with Volunteers from the Temple Israel, Sharon, Brotherhood

By the end of the day, many necessary projects had been completed, the dumpster was full, and Mr. Clark was only too grateful for what had been accomplished. The South Area volunteers, with TELEM in the lead, enabled Mr. Clark to continue to live as he desired; safely and independently in his own home.

As we complete TELEM’s 12th year, we’re proud to have engaged over 8,000 Jewish teens in similar projects; bettering the lives of our neighbors in Greater Boston, animating the values of chessed and tzedek, and learning what it means to be engaged citizens and Jews in service to others.



Through your gift and its match from the Jim Joseph Foundation, you will allow JCRC to sustain TELEM’s current model and expand service opportunities – both on-going and one-time programs – for Boston area teens. We hope you will make your donation today, and enable more stories like Mr. Clark’s come to fruition.
Shabbat Shalom,


P.S. - This is a time-sensitive match for TELEM through the Jim Joseph Foundation, so please consider making a contribution today. You can make your tax-deductible donation to JCRC:

  • Online by selecting TELEM under “Gift Designation”
  • By check payable to: JCRC, 126 High Street, Boston, MA 02110
    ATTN: Tasha Lipsky - please note TELEM on the check's memo line
  • With a CJP designation
  • Through a donor advised fund

The Road Trip to Recovery | A Message from our TELEM Director

Imagine for a moment what it would be like to be flooded out of your home, disrupting every aspect of your life. Now imagine waiting three and a half years before you can complete your home repair.

For the Harrilalls of Arverne, NY, this is not an exercise, but the reality for a family whose home suffered significant damage from eight feet of floodwaters when Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast nearly four years ago and flooded most of the Rockaway Peninsula. While many households had adequate resources to pay for post-disaster home rebuilding, many families like the Harrilalls did not, and so, years later, they are still displaced or living in their water-damaged homes.

JCRC’s TELEM program is proud to be a part of the solution for those households in need. Last week, in partnership with Friends of Rockaway (FoR), a community-based nonprofit organization founded in response to the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy on the Rockaway Peninsula, we brought a crew of eager teens from the JCRC’s TELEM program to Rockaway for the fourth time. And, this time, we were assigned to the Harrilall home to help them move closer to recovery.

While the damaged roof has been repaired, the mold removed from the walls, the rotted stairs replaced, and the rafters cleared of vermin, the Harillal home is still very much in need of further repair. Sweaty and covered in plaster dust and paint, we worked hard to help the Harrillals move closer to finish as we spackled, sanded, primed, and painted walls.

Over the course of our three days, we could see the rooms transform from a construction site to the beginnings of a finished home. And, over the course of the trip – as is true for so many on our previous trips – TELEM teens become transformed as well. In the spirit of ‘livnot u’lehibanot” – through the experience of building (transforming) they become transformed in the process, with many of them rolling up their sleeves for multiple trips.

Tamar Gaffin-Cahn, a trip chaperone and former JCRC service trip participant, reflected on our work in this way:

“Our recent trip to New York was especially meaningful for me, and…the kids too because of the home owner's story. She had been put on a waiting list for three and a half  years with half of her house rotting away. She was skeptical and wouldn't believe her luck until her house was finally finished. By the end of September, she'll finally have her home back, better than ever.”

And, it is important to note the crucial role that non-profits like FoR and faith-based volunteer groups like JCRC’s TELEM can play in disaster recovery. Where flood insurance is inadequate or non-existent, where government agencies are slow to provide resources, and where unscrupulous contractors take advantage of vulnerable people, faith groups and non-profits are often the saving grace for those in desperate need.

In these post-Sandy years, - through our ten service-immersion trips to NY and another to New Orleans - JCRC has forged strong working relationships with non-profit organizations in New York and Louisiana whose mission it is to assist families without the resources to rebuild their homes on their own. We’ve been gratified by the response of young members of our community, who have enabled us to provide reliable volunteer assistance to help these families return to their homes. As we continue our trips to NY, we have also set our sights on sending crews to Louisiana, Texas and other communities who have suffered from other natural disasters. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of communities in need of volunteers now, and for years to come.

Reflecting on this benchmark tenth service trip to NY, it never ceases to impress me how moved our teens are by the stories and realities of people losing their homes , and how compelled they are to help. Returning for multiple trips with TELEM has become a priority for many teens as they recognize the work is not finished and as they become more experienced with this work, their contributions are increasingly valuable. As Ben Fein said in reflecting on his five experiences on TELEM trips, “I would travel anywhere to do a TELEM service trip!” And, as Mrs. Harrilall said to Ben and the other trip participants, “Your being here gives us hope.”

We will continue to build – homes, hope, and hearts. We will expand our reach, and our teens will lead the way. If you’re inspired to participate, or to help fund these trips, please contact me at .

Shabbat Shalom,

Barry Glass,
Director, TELEM