I’m a product of the Reform Movement and have been blessed to have a variety of meaningful moments and experiences that have led me to where I am today. My mom is a Reform rabbi, which naturally meant that we were very engaged in the Jewish community. I was active in NFTY (the Reform Jewish Youth Movement), and was what I like to call “summer camp adjacent,” with so many friends who were devoted campers. In college, I was active in Hillel.
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In recent months, a series of heartbreaking, disruptive events have rocked the greater Los Angeles area and its Jewish communities. The Woolsey Fire burned nearly 100,000 acres, caused the death of three people, destroyed many hundreds of structures – engulfing in flames three Jewish residential camps’ facilities and a school building at a Jewish day school – and caused the evacuation of thousands of families from their homes. At the same time, those of us in Southern California were mindful of and concerned about the devastating conflagration in Butte County, to the north.
On October 21, more than 75 community members from across Greater Los Angeles joined BJE and Mountains Restoration Trust for a family-friendly day of community service learning at Malibu Creek State Park. The morning's activities followed BJE Impact's service learning model of: learning, action and reflection. Led, by BJE Impact's Rachel Dubowe, everyone discussed the Jewish values that framed our work with the natural environment, both before and after the gardening,
BJE is delighted to welcome Rachel Dubowe to its staff as Experiential Educator. In this role, she coordinates BJE Impact - providing consultation to congregations and organizations on teen service learning programs - runs BJE's Teen Service Corps Day Camp, coordinates BJE's Lainer Fellowship which works with campus Hillels to encourage student leaders to explore careers in the Jewish community, and assists with the Professional Learning Community for experiential educators who work with teens in partnership with the Los Angeles Jewish Teen Initiative (LAJTI).
The BJE March teaches powerful lessons of Jewish history and personal Jewish identity with a profound impact on participants. On Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Los Angeles delegation, along with thousands of people from all over the world, march from Auschwitz to Birkenau to remember the lives lost during the Holocaust. In Israel, programming gives participants the opportunity to see the incredible accomplishments and advancements the Jewish state has made since its establishment.
In many Jewish communities - as the Jewish holidays of the month of Tishrei near their close -- it is customary to read the book of Ecclesiastes (Koheleth) during the shabbat of sukkot. A holiday known as "z'man simhateinu" - the time of our joy - is, paradoxically, celebrated in part by reading reflections, traditionally ascribed to King Solomon, that suggest that the human condition is utterly inexplicable. In the face of an uncertain and often frustrating world, the book ends by counseling the reader to maintain awe of God and to observe God's commandments.
Wishing you health,
happiness, prosperity and
a year enriched by Jewish learning.
The Board and Staff of BJE
BJE is proud to welcome to its staff, Michelle Porjes, Ed.S. as Director of Project EnAble.
"I feel blessed to be a part of BJE," Michelle stated. "I look forward to partnering with Jewish day schools to bring affordable onsite services to students who need extra support to maximize success."