In a step to further engage more youth and families in Jewish life, The Jewish Teen Initiative (JTI) will move to Combined Jewish Philanthropies next month. CJP has been investing in JTI for many years, recognizing its valuable role as an innovative leader in the teen space.
“From its inception, JTI has been a 21st century reimagining of what it looks like to engage teens in Jewish life,” said Rabbi Marc Baker, CJP president. “What began as an innovative start-up on the North Shore, thanks to the vision and support of Jerry Somers and the Jim Joseph Foundation, has become a local and national model.”
Through this move, CJP will acquire the strong brand of Jewish Teen Initiative and a successful engagement strategy. It will leverage and expand this relationship-based approach to community engagement to benefit even more teens across Greater Boston through sustaining and enriching JTI’s core functions.
“The real winners from this move will be our Jewish teens,” said Somers, JTI Founder and board member. “As we know, teen engagement has proven to be pivotal in helping to build a strong committed Jewish community. JTI started on the North Shore with a vision to engage more teens in meaningful ways with Jewish life. This vision was implemented by an extraordinary volunteer-professional partnership led by Adam Smith, who fostered relational engagement for teens. Most importantly, its enthusiastic embrace by so many teens demonstrated the success of the effort and the importance of expanding its reach beyond the North Shore.”
It’s been 12 years since the Jim Joseph Foundation provided the seed funding for the pilot venture, originally referred to as North Shore Teen Initiative. Since then, JTI has brought significant positive attention to Greater Boston as a “leading center of Jewish life and relational engagement.” More importantly, the initiative has had a meaningful impact on thousands of teens, inspiring them to live active and vibrant Jewish lives.
This past year, JTI Boston engaged 406 teens in 12 programs, including four service days and four mental health and wellness programs. The peer engagement fellows connected with 554 teens in the Greater Boston community and thousands of teens, parents, and Jewish professionals visited teens.jewishboston.com, the digital platform that launched this year. Although the onset of Covid-19 brought new, unforeseen challenges, JTI staff quickly pivoted to ensure our community continues to connect through robust virtual programs and active social networks around important topics such as mental health and resilience.
JTI will continue to thrive under CJP. Associate Director Brett Lubarsky will join CJP’s Teen Engagement Team next month as director of the Jewish Teen Initiative, reuniting with Smith, CJP’s associate vice president, Young Adult & Teen Engagement and JTI’s founding executive director. Lubarsky will continue to manage the signature Peer Leaders Fellowship; direct the adaptation and growth of teens.jewishboston.com with CJP’s jewishboston.com team; support the grant administration of service days to community partners for popular pipeline events; and continue to innovate in the space of teen social media.
“As CJP invests in a strong, thriving pipeline of opportunities for Jewish learning and action that begins with young children, we continue to focus on the teenage years as a critical stage of development on a person’s Jewish journey,” said Baker. “The JTI reputation and approach will be a key next step in CJP’s efforts to ensure that more teens across our community choose to participate in Jewish life and, as a result, deepen their sense of connection and belonging to the Jewish people. Our future, after all, is in their hands.”