Erica Groten, Parent of Teen Service Corps student
Last summer, my son, Ethan, participated in BJE’s Teen Service Corps and it was so impactful for him. In our family, we do tzedakah projects and talk about giving back. It has been our practice since Ethan was a toddler. I believe that you can’t throw the idea of community service on a child at 13 years old. It has to be a lifelong experience. As a family, we strive to create meaningful tzedakah projects. For the past 15 years, we’ve adopted a family during the holidays through Jewish Family Service. Monthly, Ethan sets aside 5% of his allowance for a holiday tzedakah project of his choice. But this participation in Teen Service Corps was different. It was really meaningful for him to go with a group of Jewish teenagers and do hands on work in situations where they could really see the impact of what they were doing.
Everything he saw and did really resonated for him with his faith, with the idea that we as Jews have a responsibility to make the planet a better place, to leave something a little bit better than you found it.
I was so impressed with the impact the program made on Ethan that I called Alisha, who runs the program at BJE, and asked if there was something I could do to help. I work full time, but I felt like I wanted to support the program. Alisha had a project for me, contacting synagogues about their Bar and Bat Mitzvah community service requirements and how BJE can provide meaningful support. Having just gone through my own son’s Bar Mitzvah, I had struggled to find community service for a child under 13, especially something that is meaningful to the child, so I found the project fascinating. I thought this was an important project that can really make a difference in our community.
I’m really proud of the Jewish tradition of tzedakah and the important place it has in our family.