In times of crisis, it is more important than ever for Jewish communities to stand together and work towards the greater good. In the era of the coronavirus pandemic, how can we maintain social distancing, but also work together to strengthen our communities? It turns out that now more than ever, Jewish teens are coming up with ways to help those who need it the most.
Locally, The Leffell School Senior Leah Feilbogen and her sister Talia Feilbogen have started an organization called FLAG (Front Line Appreciation Group) Westchester, intended to support local restaurants while providing meals to hospitals and local EMS workers in the Westchester area. When probed on why she created this organization, Feilbogen answered passionately, “I have always been interested in [medicine] and I hope to be on a Pre-Med track at the University of Michigan next fall. I kept thinking that one day it might be me fighting on the front line and this is a way that I can give back. Talia also kept hearing about the local businesses and the struggles they are experiencing during this pandemic. We both wanted to find a way to give back to our community.”
How have the two been spending their time while social distancing at home? They have been strategizing fundraising ideas with non-profit professionals, communicating with hospitals and emergency service workers, analyzing and budgeting resources and reaching out to local news agencies to publicize their organization and overall mission. “We have raised over $13,000 in less than one month. We have given over $10,000 to our local restaurants, and by the end of next week will have sent 1,425 meals to area hospitals and local EMS workers…so we would say FLAG Westchester has been very successful,” Feilbogen continued.
J-Teen, a Westchester-based teen-led community service organization that is now a part of the UJA Foundation, has created an e-tutoring program in which younger students struggling with online learning can pair up with a teen over Zoom for help with their schoolwork. As of now, over 70 teens are participating in tutoring. “I love the connection I create with my tutoree,” explained Talia Krausz, a current senior at White Plains High School and a member of J-Teen’s executive board. Krausz is currently working with an eighth-grade student who seeks assistance in math. She shed light on the fact that now more than ever in a time of social distancing, younger students can really benefit from mentor-like relationships and bonding with older students.
When questioned on what she would say to teens looking to get involved, Krausz urged, “So many teens have free time [right now] and so many other [students] are in need…Organizations like J-Teen aren’t letting a pandemic stop us from helping those that are calling out for support.”
Met Council, an organization that many J-Teen members—as well as other Westchester teens, are participating in—is providing opportunities to write letters to the elderly and impoverished Jewish community in New York City. Right now, about 1,300 senior citizens are in the Met Council on Jewish Poverty’s affordable housing, and most are isolated and lonely. Writing letters, creating and sharing artwork or sending anything else that can brighten someone’s day can comfort and aid them.
Abe Baker-Butler, a member of J-Teen’s Executive Board has partnered with an organization by the name of Telehealth For Seniors as their New York Lead; together with Baker-Butler, this program has donated hundreds of devices to senior citizens living in as many as 20 different states across the country who don’t have adequate resources to allow them to feel connected to their communities during this time of social distance.
Not only can technology provide the elderly with means of connectedness on a social level, but technology is now the main method in which doctors are seeing patients—through video visits and phone calls—to prevent any transmission of the coronavirus, especially to the elderly and other members of high risk groups. “In this time of unprecedented social and human stress, we have to bring all of our resources to the table… to make a positive impact. I see this technology drive to provide telehealth access, as well as the countless other teen-led meaningful community service and activism initiatives, as doing just that,” Baker-Butler said.
While society is living through a horrible and vulnerable time, the Coronavirus pandemic has brought out the best in many people. Jewish teenagers all over have used this time to make an impact on the lives of others. From feeding frontline workers while supporting local restaurants to tutoring children while they adjust to eLearning, to checking on Senior Citizens, Jewish teens have exemplified the silver lining of this difficult time with their acts of Chesed, doing their part to repair the world.
To contribute to FLAG Westchester, visit their social media platforms:
- Instagram: @flagwestchester
- Facebook: FLAG Westchester
- Twitter: @flagwestchester
To contribute to Met Council, send your work to:
- Met Council Fulfillment Center, 171 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10016
Ariel Weinsaft and Leah Breakstone are juniors at Scarsdale High School.Nike