Guest Column

By Aaron Gordon

OP-J-Serve Aaron Gordon

Aaron Gordon

I am part of a truly amazing and enriching experience at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. I serve on the Teen JAM leadership committee, a task force for J-Serve, the International Day of Jewish Community Service for teens, which is Sunday, April 19, from 1 to 6:30 p.m.

Our 18-member group has coordinated a fun and meaningful day of giving back to the Atlanta community for teens in sixth to 12th grades. Our Teen JAM meetings began in October to give us plenty of time to plan this exciting day.

J-Serve Atlanta is one of more than 200 international projects in which teens will participate as they explore the Jewish values of gemilut chasidim (acts of lovingkindness); tzedakah (just and charitable giving); and tikkun olam (the responsibility to repair the world).

This year marks the 10th year that Jewish youths from around the world will turn out in force for J-Serve to encourage community building and connections across religious and societal lines.

Throughout our Teen JAM sessions we have contacted organizations throughout the Atlanta area to plan a meaningful day for all Jewish teens. Moreover, we have partnered with youth groups, synagogues, schools and different Jewish organizations to ensure great attendance from the entire community.

My experience in the program has taught me a lot about teamwork, planning and the importance of helping others. There is no better feeling than to give back to my community and make a difference in the lives of others.

This year for J-Serve, teen volunteers will choose the projects and causes that most interest them, such as working with individuals with special needs at enAble of Georgia and the Marcus JCC Inclusion program, helping plant and clean up the environment at the Dunwoody and Chattahoochee nature centers, packing backpacks with food for needy children at Sandy Springs United Methodist Church, and helping provide hygiene kits for the homeless at the Gateway Center. A complete list of projects can be found at www.atlantajcc.org/jserve.

When the teens return to the Marcus JCC after volunteering, they will join the rest of the community at a closing concert at 5 p.m. featuring the Maccabeats. The cost is only $12 per participant, including all transportation to the projects, snacks, T-shirts and the Maccabeats concert.

I chose to participate on this task force this year because I wanted to learn about and help organizations that do so much for people in our community. There is no better feeling than helping others and making a difference through tikkun olam.

I have enjoyed this process thoroughly; I have learned a lot of important skills and met great friends. I hope you will consider joining me at J-Serve this year.

Aaron Gordon is a ninth-grader at Atlanta Jewish Academy.