Cultivating leadership early

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Through a new internship program launched this summer, high school students helped run the Jewish community.

The Avodah program, run by Jewish Vocational Service, was a valuable addition to the community. Funding came from the Jewish Community Endowment Fund and the Bureau of Jewish Education's Teen Initiative Project.

Running six weeks through last Friday, the program exposed young people to the value of working in the Jewish community and infused the community with young talent and fresh ideas.

Avodah interns worked on critical legislative issues, developed programs for Jews in the former Soviet Union and planned a community service for Yom HaShoah.

The project, to its credit, recognizes and cultivates leadership potential early, at a formative time in young people's lives — a time when Jewish identity is taking shape.

Avodah is modeled after JVS' successful Kohn Summer Intern Program, which gives college students the chance to spend their summers working at various Jewish agencies.

That program has been integral to the Jewish community for years, assisting organizations and showing young people a broad rubric encompassing opportunities for fund-raising, creativity and activism.

Avodah's coordinator plans to enact a series of programs through JVS to involve more teens in the Jewish community during the school year. Indeed, why limit the teens' involvement to the summer months?

Some interns say they hope their experience in the Jewish community will not be their last. We share that hope.

When young people get involved in the community and are passionate about what goes on in it, we all come out winners.