By Laura Safran, Director of Community Impact
The fact is that 90 percent of Jewish youth attend college and university.
It’s also a fact that 100 percent of parents wish they could go with them to make sure everything’s ok. And actually, there is something to help our kids when they’re away. A handful of Jewish organizations, including our own Federation, have a presence on college campuses around the country to give our kids a safe place to learn, connect and maintain (and maybe even deepen) their Jewish roots.
That’s been true for Elizabeth B, who is finishing her undergraduate degree at Rutgers where she’s been involved in Jewish programming through Rutgers Jewish Xperience and Rutgers Hillel. She was profoundly affected by trips to Israel and Poland through RJX, and alternative breaks to Texas and Nicaragua with Hillel.
Here Elizabeth tells us in her own words how her work trip to help an impoverished community in Nicaragua opened her eyes to environmental social justice and connected her back to Jewish values.
“I feel humbled, a renewed sense of gratitude, and a burning passion to continue my education in order to work toward a more comprehensive understanding of the issues facing communities internationally,” she said. “While I think through the ideas of whether or not our work was worthwhile and whether I was gaining more than I was giving, I tried to live by the Hebrew quote mentioned by Rabbi Frieberg during one of our reflection sessions, ‘Gam zeh la tova’ - This too is for good.”
Moishe House: Dinners and More
The Federation is also in conversation with partners regarding the establishment of a new Moishe House planned for New Brunswick, NJ. It’s exciting to envision our community with its own Moishe House. The model is built on strong, peer to peer relationships that, among other benefits, gives graduating students an additional incentive to stay in the community. Participants stay connected, and are motivated to create a stronger social network, threaded and grounded in the Jewish community.
Stand Up: Learning What We Believe
We realize that we are living in an extremely volatile international political environment right now. Concerning Israel, there are a multitude of viewpoints about every aspect of national politics and the resulting impact on the country’s neighbors and global allies.
The Federation wants students to feel capable of expressing their positions about Israel, should they want or need to, during their campus experience and so we support programs that offer Israel advocacy training for high school students before they leave for college and during their stay. These programs, run in collaboration with organizations like Stand with Us and Jerusalem U, give them the information and perspective they need to be a pro-Israel voice on campus.
Thanks to our community partners, we are fortunate to be able to help connect families to valuable programs that help prepare young people for their first, significant living experience away from home. It’s one of our key impact areas.
We’ve rounded up some of the best youth programs supported by the Federation. Visit one of the links below to see how you can help your kids stay connected as they grow:
- The Federation provides incentives of up to $1,000 for first-time campers at over 155 nonprofit Jewish overnight camps through the One Happy Camper program. www.jewishheartnj.org/camp-travel
- Philanthropy-minded teens spend the year learning about the non-profit world and then pool and distribute their dollars through the J Team Teen Leadership Development program. www.jewishheartnj.org/teens
- The Federation awards need-based scholarships for financially-strapped families to afford a Jewish summer camp experience. www.jewishheartnj.org/camp-travel
- The International Day of Youth Service engages 200 local teens in hands-on community volunteerism.
- The Federation invests over $75,000 in Israel Teen Grants of $1,000 for high schoolers to travel on a youth-based program. www.jewishheartnj.org/camp-travel
- The Federation supports training for high school and college students about issues of genocide and anti-Semitism organized through CHHANGE (Center for Holocaust, Human Rights and Genocide Education at Brookdale Community College). (www.chhange.org)
- Shabbat Dinners at Rutgers Hillel and Chabad
- The JMed program provides pre-med students access to successful Jewish leaders within medicine and internships within the medical field (http://www.rutgersjx.com/professional-xperience/j-med)
- Birthright Israel offers free trips to Israel to young Jewish adults between the ages of 18 and 26, promoting a new connection for youth. (www.birthrightisrael.com)
- Young adults that travel to Israel for extending stays are eligible for MASA funding, supported through the Federation (www.masaisrael.org)
- The Federation supports Jewish life on campus at Monmouth University.