Urban Mitzvah Corps (UMC) is a wonderful program in which individuals live on the Rutgers University campus for the duration of a month. During this time, you get to volunteer at various job sites such as Regency (a nursing home) or Play SAFE (a free camp for children in New Brunswick, NJ).
While there, many teens are encouraged by their newly made friends to join NFTY! We always discuss how Jewish programs such as UMC are able to inspire us and reconnect us to our faith, but most importantly- how they possess the power to bring us into new communities, such as NFTY.
This past summer, best friends Zack Lemberg and Ethan Jaffee were participants in Urban Mitzvah Corps. When asked, Zack said, “I truly believe that UMC was the reason I came to NFTY. The people that I met there changed my life and inspired me so much. When they brought up the idea of joining NFTY, I went into it with no hesitation. It was one of the best choices I have ever made.” Ethan held similar sentiment, “It was great coming in knowing a lot of people and it made the whole experience better in my opinion because I immediately felt included and a part of the community. Also I was introduced to people quickly because everyone introduced me to their friends.”
Looking back at the total experience he had in the program, Zack said, “Overall, it was a very welcoming community filled with kind and respectful people.”
Programs like UMC have the power to influence and connect Reform Jewish teens to Judaism, as well as multiple Jewish communities. I decided to take it a step further and ask both Zack and Ethan how UMC (as well as NFTY) connected them to a deeper sense of Judaism.
Did you feel more connected with Judaism? Did any of your perspectives change?
“Throughout the event, I feel that I learned a lot about my religion and that helped me feel more connected. Since the theme was Shomrei Adamah, I feel like I took away a whole new perspective and understanding of the effect that we, as people, have on the environment.”- Zack
“I felt more connected with my Judaism because at UMC I was with 33 other people, but at Winter Kallah, with many other people there, it made me feel more connected. My perspectives definitely changed because during UMC I had always heard about the traditions that go on during NFTY-GER but actually being at the event made it even better. ” -Ethan
“To me, being Shomrei Adamah means caring for the people of the world and the effects that they have on it.”-Zack
“Being Shomrei Adamah, in my opinion, means to not only take care of the environment by recycling and turning off the lights, but it means to take care of the people in the Earth whether it be feeding the hungry, taking care of the elderly, or inspiring the youth, which you can all do at UMC.” -Ethan
From Mitzvah Corps to URJ camps to NFTY in Israel and beyond- there are many ways to get involved. Whether you participate in a summer program or not, NFTY offers a welcoming environment within interesting events that will increase your connection to Judaism and make lasting close friendships. There are so many opportunities to get involved that allow you to make a difference in your community and in the lives of others.
If you’d like to change the world this summer with Urban Mitzvah Corps, find more information HERE!
NFTY-GER Marketing Chair