Teens can still sign up for weekend projects across Bay Area

Sierra Lash, 17, the president of BBYO’s Oakland chapter, will lead a crew of 20 Jewish teenagers at Sunrise Assisted Living in Oakland on Sunday, April 22. After they volunteer in the Sunrise garden, they’ll participate in a learning session with Jonah Sampson Boyarin, an educator at Kehillah Jewish High School in Palo Alto.

Eric Palonsky, 17, the leader of BBYO’s Danville chapter, is gearing up to run a variety show for residents of the Reutlinger Community for Jewish Living in Danville. The show, like Lash’s outing, is part of J-Serve, the national day of Jewish community service. More than 500 young volunteers are expected to perform service projects at 29 Bay Area sites.

Nationwide, more than 10,000 Jewish teens around the world will volunteer in their communities as part of J-Serve 2012, a collaboration of the BBYO Panim Institute and Repair the World.

Sierra Lash

J-Serve is underwritten by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Found-ation.

“A core principle of BBYO is community service,” said Lash. “When I first joined, the older girls were always setting up volunteer opportunities all around Oakland, and now it’s an important part of my life.” Lash has held BBYO officer positions over the past three years. Last month, she was elected to be the regional vice president of Social Action and Jewish Heritage for BBYO’s Central Region West.

Palonsky is also excited for the chance to help out. “At first, you sort of expect others to put together these projects,” he said. “But then you realize that you can actually do it yourself.”

After the show, Palonsky and the teens will participate in a learning session with Rabbi Jennifer Flam of Congregation B’nai Shalom in Walnut Creek. Flam said that projects like Palonsky’s affect the Jewish identities of both students and residents.

“As a people, we are commanded to pass Judaism from one generation to the next,” Flam said. “This community service at Reutlinger is an illustration of our values.”

Volunteer opportunities are still available at J-Serve’s Bay Area locations. Jewish children in grades six to 12 can sign up online: East Bay: www.Jewi.sh/J-ServeEastBay; South Bay: http://bit.ly/J-ServeSJ; San Francisco: http://jewi.sh/sfjserve.

J-Serve is a collaboration among BBYO, the Foundation for Jewish Camp, the JCC Association, and a number of other Jewish organizations.