Jewish teens work on Sandy relief



BBYO Stand UP held their second Teen Issue Summit of the year in New York last week: BBYO Stand UP and Rebuild: A Teen Issue Summit on the Power of Service. Participants aged 14-18 signed up for service projects to help repair Hurricane Sandy damage in Staten Island.

Stand UP and Rebuild is a project of  the youth organization BBYO in which local chapters create programming around a cause of their choosing. The hurricane relief effort was a project of the national organization, in partnership with New York’s Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.

‘We have BBYO Stand UP causes centered around national initiative themes,” said Ira Dounn, director of Jewish enrichment. “The teens choose causes that they’re passionate about and they go out and perform service and advocacy around those causes. The issue summits are one of our most innovative programs. We’ve had them on human rights and genocide, equality, and rebuilding after natural disasters.”

The summit began on Tuesday with a panel featuring a Hurricane Sandy survivor who lost her husband and 13-year-old daughter in the storm. Patricia Dresch is still without a home, living in a church on Staten Island.

“Hearing Patricia’s story really transformed the atmosphere of the summit,” said Judah Burstein, 16, from Brookline, Mass. “Her entire house was under water; she was holding on to a telephone wire for her life. I didn’t realize until after she spoke just how much every small thing we do actually matters.”

The teens were separated into two groups. One group of 25 volunteers beautified the main entrance of a residential area, while another 65 teens began work on a sustainable greenhouse made out of water bottles. The kids also shoveled mulch, sorted clothes and distributed food.

Kyle Price, 15, from Scarsdale, N.Y., applied to be a coordinator during the summit because he felt the need to make a difference after Hurricane Sandy. “I wanted to make it so that 90 kids can go out there and do something that matters. I am really looking forward to the end product.”

Participants hailed from across the United States, including one from Canada and two from Bulgaria.

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