J-Serve Toronto (www.jserve.ca), an annual day of community service and improvement projects organized by BBYO, already reaches hundreds of Jewish teens from across the Toronto area - from all Jewish backgrounds.
The Toronto initiative is one of over 100 J-Serve events held simultaneously around the world, where teens participate in a variety of different projects as they explore the Jewish values of gemilut chasidim (acts of loving kindness), tzedakah (just and charitable giving) and tikkun olam (the responsibility to repair the world).
With the support of UJA Federation's Six Points Jewish Venture Philanthropy Fund, J-Serve Toronto will expand its approach to teen engagement to include year-round volunteer experiences offering compelling content and a meaningful connection to the community.
With an innovative brand that appeals to teens and partnerships with organizations and community leaders who are committed to securing a strong Jewish future, J-Serve Toronto is committed to - and uniquely capable of - connecting thousands of new teens in the coming years to meaningful involvement in the community.
Teens don't know what service opportunities exist and organizations don't ask for volunteers often enough because they don't know where to look.
Although J-Serve Toronto already offers teens an opportunity to participate in an annual day of community service and improvement projects, there remains a significant need for an ongoing connection to service and service-learning - not just because service has become a prerequisite to high school graduation, but because teens have demonstrated that they're interested in making a real difference: More than 600 teens have participated in J-Serve Toronto's annual event, of whom 60% do not attend a Jewish day school and 25% do not participate in a Jewish youth group or camp.
Our goal is to promote service as a defining element of Jewish life and learning by connecting teens with agencies and opportunities that resonate with them, ultimately creating a movement of young activists ready to take on the challenges facing society and the Jewish community.
Fueled by dynamic volunteer and professional leadership, J-Serve Toronto will position itself as the Jewish community's "gateway" to the teen population, by capitalizing on, instead of competing with, the environment in which teens live.
Through the launch of a vibrant online community, J-Serve Toronto will empower teens to discover the wide range of volunteer opportunities available and allow them to register for projects and track their participation.
Once a project - either youth-led or agency-led - is submitted, the J-Serve Toronto website will publicize the opportunity, facilitate registration within preset parameters (including age restrictions and project capacities) and enable the project leader to communicate with participants before and after the project.
To supplement the online community, J-Serve Toronto will also enable teens to opt-in to email and text messaging alerts tailored to their individual interests. Customized messages will highlight upcoming volunteer opportunities within a teen's favourite causes and provide compelling content on related issues.
J-Serve Toronto's online initiatives will not only provide teens with easy access to fun and meaningful volunteer experiences year-round, but will also be a powerful tool in expanding the reach and depth of J-Serve Toronto's annual day of community service and improvement projects (400 teen participants in 2011), and offer participants a continued connection to identity-building experiences via J-Serve Toronto's partners (more than a dozen youth movements, day schools, supplementary schools and synagogues in 2011) and and beneficiaries (fourteen social service agencies in 2011).
With the added benefit of the collective skillset of the Six Points Jewish Venture Philanthropy Fund members, J-Serve Toronto will efficiently and effectively meet its goals outlined above.
Mentoring in the areas of operations & project management and business development, analysis & marketing will help J-Serve Toronto fine-tune its strategic plan.
Assistance with web site & technology services, graphic design and social media will be instrumental in the launch of J-Serve Toronto's online initiatives.
Fund members' experience in PR & media networking, fundraising and management consulting will ensure J-Serve Toronto's growth and impact remains sustainable well beyond the SixPoints JVPF's investment.
Nov. 2011 to April 2012 - Coordination of the J-Serve Toronto 2012 annual day of community service and improvement projects, scheduled for April 22, including administration of the staff planning committee and teen ambassadors group, selection and coordination of 2012 beneficiaries, implementation of promotional strategy and execution of event.
January 2012 to April 2012 - Research and development phase of J-Serve Toronto online initiatives (including the online community and tailored communication strategy) as well as the development of social service agency outreach and education strategies in order to position J-Serve Toronto as the Jewish community's gateway to teen volunteers.
May 2012 to August 2012 - Implementation of J-Serve Toronto online initiatives, including the launch of the online community and tailored communication strategy.
September 2012 to December 2012 - Development of new brand strategy to position J-Serve Toronto as an initiative that offers teens a continuing connection to agencies and volunteer experiences that resonate with them.
January 2013 to April 2013 - Planning and promotion of the J-Serve Toronto 2013 annual day of community service and improvement projects as a fun and easy access point to meaningful involvement in the community, with J-Serve Toronto 2013 beneficiaries the first to launch year-round volunteer recruitment via J-Serve Toronto online community.
May 2013 to August 2013 - Outreach and education to agencies beyond J-Serve Toronto beneficiaries to promote the online community as the premier gateway to teen volunteers.
September 2013 to December 2013 - Project evaluation and identification of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Examine expansion to additional communities.
J-Serve Toronto is an initiative of BBYO (B'nai B'rith Youth Organization Lake Ontario Region, charitable registration number 893290569 RR0001), and is coordinated by Kevin Goodman, Program Director, and Jessie Greenspan, Program Associate.
A committee of more than a dozen professional staff representing a wide range of Jewish youth movements, overnight camps, day schools, supplementary schools and synagogues meet regularly throughout the planning of each annual day of community service and improvement projects making J-Serve Toronto a true community-wide collaboration.
A youth-led group of J-Serve Toronto Teen Ambassadors who have involvement in our partner agencies also meet regularly and lead recruitment efforts among their peers and within their youth movements, schools, congregations and communities.
Recent J-Serve Toronto partners include Adath Israel Congregation, B'nai Tzedek Teen Philanthropy, B'nei Akiva, Bayview Corridor Synagogues, Canadian Young Judaea, Chabad Youth Network, GROW, Habonim Dror, Hashomer Hatzair, Jewish National Fund of Canada, Jewish Student Union, Magen Boys Entertainment, Miles Nadal JCC, NCSY Canada, The PANIM Institute of BBYO, Prosserman JCC, TannenbaumCHAT, Torah High, Tzofim and United Synagogue Youth.
Recent J-Serve Toronto beneficiaries include Ansei Minsk Synagogue, Baycrest, Bayview Corridor of Synagogues, Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee, Circle of Care, City of Toronto Parks, Forestry & Recreation, Cummer Lodge, D.A.N.I., Free the Children, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, Ve'ahavta and Zareinu Educational Centre.
Over the course of 87 years, the lives of tens of thousands of Jewish teens in Toronto have been shaped by BBYO; value systems strengthened, leadership skills honed and friendships formed. BBYO's endless number of individual success stories, from politicians and top business executives to Jewish communal leaders and cutting-edge entrepreneurs - have been built on a proven model of exceptional identity enrichment and leadership development experiences. Through BBYO, Jewish teens connect with one another, volunteer in the community, celebrate their Jewish heritage, prepare for leadership roles, and travel the world together, all within a Jewish context.
BBYO's renowned leadership model of experiential democracy, with teens leading other teens and creating their own programs under the guidance of adult volunteers and staff, is carried out through AZA chapters (for young men) and BBG chapters (for young women). Teens are given real responsibilities and develop leadership skills that relate to their everyday lives. By practicing public speaking, program planning and community organizing, teens build the skills that not only make them more confident and capable of navigating the challenging teen years, but also prepare them to make positive contributions to the world around them as adults.
Over the last three years, BBYO has reinvented and expanded its approach to teen engagement to include opportunities outside of its traditional chapter-based membership model. Through these new offerings and its pluralistic approach, BBYO has emerged as an organization well-positioned to reach thousands of young Toronto-area Jews in the midst of establishing the values, friendships and priorities that will come to define their lives.
Connecting teens with agencies and opportunities by capitalizing on the environment in which they live is an innovative way of addressing their desire for meaningful involvement in the community. Teens don't know what service opportunities exist and organizations don't ask for volunteers often enough because they don't know where to look. Bridging this gap not only meets the immediate needs of both the teens and organizations but also aids in developing the next generation of Jewish leaders.
J-Serve Toronto already reaches hundreds of Jewish teens as an annual event, with initial support from UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and the PANIM Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values as well as ongoing support from individual donors and philanthropists with a belief in BBYO's programs. An investment by SixPoints JVPF will enable J-Serve Toronto to develop and launch a new online engagement strategy, with little to no increase in overhead or long-term operational costs in order to sustain the initiative.
J-Serve Toronto has already served as a model for other communities looking to engage teens in meaningful service experiences. The new ongoing engagement strategy is easily scalable by a simple modification to the website and resource-sharing that already takes place between J-Serve project leaders across the country and around the world.