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,

Barry