YJ Teens Words from our YJ National Mazkir
My name is Jonathan Jentis and I am the new National Mazkir for 2023-2024. I am a High School Senior in New Jersey. Growing up, I went to Camp Sprout Lake for six years and then continued my YJ journey to Camp Tel Yehudah. Unfortunately my first year of TY was ripped away by COVID, leaving me longing for more Young Judaea. While TY-fi (virtual TY) was a fun substitute, it was not nearly enough, until I discovered the wonders of year-round YJ (now known as YJ Teens).
Instantly in love with YJ Teens, I decided to see how I could get involved in my regional chapter, but I found that, after COVID, New Jersey didn’t have a Maz (teen board). Jumping into action I contacted the LINYC (Long Island/New York City) mazkirut to find out how to create my own. I gathered a group of camp friends to set out and create something; the only problem was that none of us had ever done any year-round events and were completely lost. Bumbling around, we planned some great events including our very own Purim Party. The next year at the Northeast convention we were able to elect a full New Jersey Maz! I felt as though I had done my job but I wanted to do more to bring the YJ experience to even more people. After two years as New Jersey Mazkir, I have now made my way up to National!
Young Judaea is a place for teens to grow and discover themselves. In an ever-changing world where Judaism and all religions are fading in newer generations, Young Judaea allows young teens like myself to keep that connection.
The National Maz and I are working to create easier entry points for people into Young Judaea events. Often teens are hesitant to risk entire afternoons or weekends if they don’t know if they will enjoy it. One entry point we want to create is through fundraising for the kitchen that caught fire at Tel Yehudah this past summer by creating merchandise and donating the proceeds; this will be an easy way for teens to link together their camp and YJ experiences. Another opportunity we want to explore is Zoom events like Challah baking; this could be a calm and easy activity for everyone to join.
A goal of mine is to expand to reach teens outside of Young Judaea. Establishing a stronger YJ teens presence in places like the Southwest and Southeast would allow for more participation across the country. I am excited to continue building our already established regions like the Midwest and Northeast, and strengthen all of the regions’ connections to one another. On a more regional level, attempting to work with organizations outside of Young Judaea like JCCs and synagogues could create a steady and easy way to reach a new base of teens we would never have been able to reach before. All this is to say, throughout this year I am looking forward to working with the rest of National Maz to bring the Young Judaea experience we all know and love to more and more teens across the country!
As the song of YJ says ‘ani v’ata neshaneh et ha’olam’, you and I will change the world. I look forward to working with everyone in and out of YJ to build an even stronger and wider community!
Jonny Jentis National Mazkir, 2023-2024