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Young Judaea’s Alternative Winter Break (AWB) is an annual week long program which takes participants out of their everyday surroundings and immerses them in an entirely different environment. The new “community” formed in each of our AWB trips, aims to engage in intensive community service, youth leadership development and experiential Jewish learning that is both enriching and transformative.

This powerful experience provides participants with opportunities to learn about challenges faced by members of marginalized communities. By weaving service and Jewish learning into the fabric of AWB, participants build leadership skills and explore their Jewish identity in a meaningful way. Teens complete AWB with a deeper commitment to service, leadership and Jewish identity that will act as a launching pad to lifelong active Jewish citizenship guided by the principles of Tzedek (Social Justice) and Tikun Olam (Social Action).

This year, Young Judaea returned to two economically, ethnically and geographically distinct communities: New Orleans, LA which is still reeling from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Los Angeles, CA, which struggles with the challenge of having the largest wealth gap in the US, with more millionaires than any other county, as well as the most residents under the poverty line.

Young Judaea’s AWB program has served the New Orleans, LA community since 2008, and is committed to helping rebuild, renew and revive the city.  Young Judaea has developed a deep understanding of the on-going needs of New Orleans, teaching our teens the value of Pirkei Avot 2:20, 20 “It is not on you to finish the work, neither are you free to desist from it”. We continue to nurture and grow meaningful and mutually beneficial partnerships with local non-profits and city leaders. In addition Young Judaea plans to enhance the Jewish nature of our program by inviting leaders of the local Jewish community to speak about New Orleans from their own perspective.

Young Judaea’s Alternative Winter Break also returned to Los Angeles, CA, the site of AWB’s inaugural program in 2007, and then again in 2013 and 2015 to learn about and affect change around poverty. Los Angeles epitomizes the challenges of economic inequality in America, with mansions and resorts peppered upon hills that overlook some of the country’s most underserved and impoverished neighborhoods and populations. AWB has built on its success in 2007 and 2013 in volunteering with J organizations that look to balance the playing field by providing badly needed services, including food, school supplies and assistance to children, elderly, young families and disabled populations around the city. Through taking on the issues that surround and fuel poverty, AWB will challenge teens with the Jewish responsibility to support those who are the most vulnerable in society, “God upholds the cause of the orphan and the widow, and befriends the stranger, providing him/her with food and clothing. — You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10:18.

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