More than 100 Reform teens from across Pennsylvania and West Virginia lent a hand at local nonprofits this past weekend while sharpening their social justice skills.
The activities were part of the Winter Institute for Temple Youth (WINSTY).
“Social justice is an important value in Reform Judaism,” said Jackie Braslawsce, the director of Jewish informal education at Temple Sinai, and the leader behind the coordination of WINSTY. “It is not enough to just talk about it, we need to teach this value through action and role modeling.”
The annual social action event is part of the North American Federation of Temple Youth Pennsylvania Area Region (NFTY PAR), and included nonprofits such as the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, Salvation Army Family Care Center, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Junior Achievement and the Jewish Association of Aging.
Braslawsce worked with volunteers, student leadership groups and parents to bring WINSTY to Pittsburgh, whose youth participants collectively spent 672 hours in the community doing social justice work with more than 25 nonprofits.
She said 113 teens attended.
The weekend workshops brought people together to worship, meet new friends, connect with old friends and create memories.
“We could have never brought so many people together without the many hours spent by our volunteers to make it happen,” Braslawsce said. “It takes a village [and] we are very blessed.”
Scott Stein, who assisted with a project at Thriftique, a thrift store operated by the National Council of Jewish Women, agreed.
“They really made it an amazing weekend for the kids,” he said.
Zane Braslawsce, a high school junior from Beaver County, and Jackie Braslawsce’s nephew, said he was humbled by the event and new connections.
“It was a great experience to be out of the small town of Beaver where I am the only Jew,” Zane said. “WINSTY allowed me to be connected to a lot of Jews from all over the PA region. I was surprised at how in just 48 hours I had made lasting bonds and friendships that I hope to keep for the rest of my life.”
(Bee Schindler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)