SoCal Jewish Student Services (SoCalJSS) is an enterprise of Beth El Synagogue, a synagogue without walls, generously funded by Allen & Deanna Alevy of Long Beach. SoCalJSS’s mission is to facilitate Jewish living and learning, creating meaningful Jewish experiences and engaging with young adults & students in Southern California.
Rabbi Drew Kaplan, the present rabbi & director, works with Beach Hillel, Orange County Hillel, and Inland Empire & Desert Hillel to provide rabbinic services to the students on the campuses served by those respective Hillels. In addition to working with university & college students, Rabbi Drew works with a local high school Jewish club. After five strong years with its first Rabbi, Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, who started the Jewlicious Festival, Rabbi Drew has continued on this unique initiative.
SoCal Jewish Student Services is dedicated to fostering Jewish pride, identity and knowledge as well as a love of Israel, meeting the spiritual needs of Jewish students and reaching out to Jewish students at the college, university or high school level on an individual basis.
Jewish students make up the most unaffiliated section of the Jewish community. While many teens and students do get involved, the majority —the future — remain woefully neglected and under-reached. Their involvement now will make the difference between a silent Holocaust and a Jewish renaissance. The affluence and freedom of American Jewish life, rather than being our downfall, is in fact a golden opportunity for Jewish renewal.
What it takes is youth. That is where SoCalJSS is filling the gaps, determining needs, creating programs, working hands-on to reach every Jewish student we can.