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Community Blog Teen Reflections for a Meaningful New Year

By Hebrew College
JTFGB - two girls smiling

5780. A new year. The perfect time to recharge, reflect and think about what could (and should) change. A few short weeks ago, the beginning of the Jewish Teen Foundation of Greater Boston (JTFGB) aligned with the Jewish new year. The challenge of working with a busy fall calendar amongst the holidays left us with scheduling our orientation and kick-off right in the middle of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The significance of the timing was not lost upon us. In a program that educates teens about philanthropy and gives them the opportunity to focus on a new issue area, it’s an appropriate way to bring in the new year as we think about what new topics need to be tackled. JTFGB allows teens to discover a new part of who they are and become empowered to do something positive with it. We all know how the saying goes: New year, new me…and new changes as a whole. A fresh start at making a difference in the world.

I recently asked our Leadership Council teens what the new year means to them. These are the teens who have participated in JTFGB for at least one year and—just as the title implies—are returning to take on additional leadership roles within the program. These teens have been through JTFGB at least once and know how it works. They have worked their way through the philanthropic grant-making cycle and supported incredible causes and organizations. They see how they have the power to make a real difference and work on systemic change across diverse communities. They remember last year at this time and how they were ready to take on new issues.

After meeting with them, it’s clear the Leadership Council members are ready to get started and will use their past experiences to build upon. As we begin this new year (and our fifth of JTFGB), these teens are feeling prepared and more than willing to take action in this world. As always, I was truly inspired by what they had to say, and I know we’re in good hands with the leaders of this generation as we enter 5780.

“This new year I am excited to have the opportunity to learn about another issue and work with other Jewish teens to do our part in helping to fix it.”

—Aaron Simansky, 12th grade, Brookline High School

“To me, the new year means a time to re-evaluate what I’ve done in the past year both for myself and others. It’s also a time to think about how I can use what I’ve learned going forward to continue changing the world and my life for the better.”

—Adina Kraus, 12th grade, Boston Latin School

“The new year for me is a time to be with loved ones and think about how fortunate I am to live my life. It’s also a great time to begin thinking about what we can do for others rather than ourselves. The High Holidays are a time to think about what positive changes I can make and how I can help society.”

—Brooke Lieber, 10th grade, Newton South High School

“A new year means a new start and to be able to start fresh. It’s also another year to be able to continue the important work we do as leaders and philanthropists to help others.”

—Dani Merken, 11th grade, Needham High School</p

“Every year brings new and renewed opportunities. The opportunity for continued leadership responsibilities. The opportunity to inspire and incite change. And the opportunity as youth philanthropists to promote a vision for our own and subsequent generations.”

—Micaela Yudelman, 12th grade, Newton South High School

“To me, the new year is an opportunity to reset, recharge and reflect. I look forward to bringing all the goodness of last year into 5780 and bettering myself as a person and leader in this upcoming new year.”

—Netanya Simon, 11th grade, Gann Academy

“I think the new year is a time for reflection on the past year; it’s a time for thinking about the positive changes we made in the past year and also about the new challenges that arose in the past year that we haven’t yet solved. Therefore, the new year is also a time to look toward the near future to try to plan specific, concrete ways in which we can we can address these problems.”

—Peri Barest, 12th grade, Newton South High School

“I find that the new year brings a sense of promise for us as Jewish teens. Whatever failures occurred in the past, the coming year is an opportunity to learn from them and build. Whatever successes occurred in the past, the coming year is an opportunity to expand them and grow. As we move into a new year, Jewish teen leaders will continue to analyze the past ones and look to a future of communal achievement and sustained growth.”

—Samson Cantor, 12th grade, Newton South High School

“Rosh Hashanah is an opportunity to spend time with my family and reflect on the past year. While I’m not the biggest fan of apples, I do love apple pie, so the ‘sweet’ part of the new year is always a great plus. I also appreciate the break from my normal routine as a chance to connect with my Judaism and traditions.”

—Sara Modiano, 12th grade, Newton South High School

<p“The new year is an opportunity to take with you the skills and knowledge you’ve gained in the past year and evaluate how you can use it this coming year: in philanthropy, Judaism and all of life.”

—Shoshi Gordon, 12th grade, Newton South High School

“To me, the new year means taking a moment to pause and breathe and celebrate everything beautiful that has happened this year. I think it’s a perfect time to reflect on the power of community and how special it is to be part of a group of teens who are looking to work together. It’s so exciting to think about what we will have accomplished next year at this time!”

—Simone Klein, 12th grade, Newton South High School

“As a Jewish teen leader, I think of the new year as a chance to strengthen my connections with the people I know and communities I’m involved in. It’s a serious chance for me to look back on the past year and think about how I can improve upon my own actions in regards to how I affect others in the coming year.”

—Sophie Ostrovitz, 12th grade, Braintree High School

With some help from the passionate Jewish teen leaders in JTFGB, I am looking forward to this new year of growth, learning, prosperity and change for our world.

Learn more about Hebrew College’s Jewish Teen Foundation of Greater Boston program.

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