The following letter was sent to several hundred Jewish families this summer:
I hope that this letter finds you and your loved ones well and enjoying the summer. I also thank you in advance for the few minutes that you may take to read this important letter about the future of Jewish life in Long Beach, Orange County and beyond.
The most underserved population of our community today are Jewish high-school students. They are also the future of the Jewish community. While we can point to growing and successful Hillels in Orange County and in Long Beach—a crucial link in Jewish continuity— there exists no comparable program to reach out to unaffiliated high-school students.
The local communities and Federations have spent considerable resources and organized long-standing programs to educate and involve high-school students. The students that participate in these after school and weekend programs benefit greatly. However, the vast majority of teens will start school next year with no positive Jewish affiliations and no positive Jewish programming.
Our public high schools today are rife with many problems. But you may not be aware, that some of these problems are not due to budget cuts or drugs. Missionary groups and Muslim Student groups have organized student clubs. They have access to our children during school hours for their programs. And while your children may not be directly affected, other Jewish kids are being affected. The success of these groups makes Jewish students that are already ambivalent about their heritage, even more at risk and harder to reach in college.
I can write several pages about all that is happening and my prognoses and I am happy to discuss with you personally my findings in detail, but in this short communal letter I want to address the solution—JCLUB, dynamic and active Jewish High School Clubs. This is the most effective program to reach unaffiliated teens and Jewish communities around the country are taking notice.
These high-school programs are already under way. With the support of Deanna and Allen Alevy, and dedicated club advisors from Long Beach to Mission Viejo, we began creating new clubs and building up existing ones. Fresh kosher pizzas were sent to a dozen different high schools this year from our own pizza kitchen. Hundreds of Jewish teens participated in theses clubs each week and thousands of pizzas were eaten!
JClubs meet during the lunch break, or in some cases after school. Each week there is a topic or activity for students, as well as a chance to meet a positive Jewish role-model and network with other Jewish students. After school programs like field trips or social events add an extra level of activity for these teens too. Maintaining these clubs has been the work of a dedicated group of volunteers until now, who realize the great importance of this cause.
But we have only scratched the surface. We have another dozen high schools that we cannot reach. We have to create a fund to supply potentially up to a hundred pizzas a week next school year. We need to hire a coordinator to keep track of all the programs, and advisors to lead more clubs and more after school programs. We need to create a website that connects teens and keep them informed of all our upcoming events.
The JClub model works by involving Jewish teens on their terms and on their turf. These teens get involved with Hillel when they get to college, are more likely to visit Israel, have Jewish friends, and want a Jewish future for themselves. They feel proud about their heritage and give their grandparents great joy and naches.
You may have seen me recently in the LA Times leading counter-demonstrations on campus against anti-Israel and anti-Semitic demonstrations. You may have also seen the students that joined me in these protests. The majority of students who are strong enough to stand up for Israel and the Jewish people are the same students that have a strong network of Jewish friends, a love for Israel, and have been involved since high-school in Jewish groups and clubs.
Please join me in helping to ensure all of our Jewish teens have the opportunity to attend a JClub this fall by becoming a partner in this work. We simply cannot do it without your help and interest.
Thank you for your precious time, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Keeping this program running is one thing that we must do for next year. (See Partnership for 2006-2007 letter on main page. But we also must expand our reach, hire a coordinator, sponsor some advisors and serve more pizzas. Successful clubs can get fifty students each week. And you know how much pizza a hungry Jewish teen can put away!
Tell us how you can be a partner for the next year:
• I want to join the JClub Parents Advisory Board for 2006-2007.
• I can volunteer to transport teens for special programs.
• I can offer_____________________.
• I can sponsor one “Pizza Lunch” Program — $75
• I can sponsor an after-school “Jamba Juice & Jews” Program — $100
• I can sponsor a month of the “Pizza Lunch” Program — $300
• I can sponsor one semester of JClub programs at a high school — $3600
All your contributions are tax-deductible.
Please send your checks payable to Jewish Student Clubs and mail to:
Rabbi Yonah Bookstein / Jewish Student Clubs
3801 E. Willow St. / Long Beach CA 90815