Teen leadership students celebrate graduation
The Jewish Learning Institute Teen Leadership Program (JLI), directed by Chabad of Jupiter and Chabad of West Palm Beach, just completed its first year of studies with a celebration ceremony honoring the participants at the Courtyard Marriott in Jupiter.
Drawing on research-based instructional design and cutting-edge approaches to learning, JLI's innovative presentation of Jewish wisdom is designed to be both intellectually rigorous and highly accessible.
JLI is associated with the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch.
The training program is designed to help students think critically about their purpose and identity to build their own personal conviction and passion.
After successfully completing the year's courses, the students received a certificate recognizing their achievements, as well as a stipend to help them continue their quest for leadership and education.
Chabad of Jupiter ran the program together with Chabad of West Palm Beach. Seventeen students attended a total of 12 classes to gain an understanding of Jewish philosophy and values to better navigate life's challenges and appreciate life's gifts, Rebbetzin Sarah Barash of Chabad of Jupiter said.
"Our teens confront critical choices on a daily basis. We try to provide them with a moral framework to guide their decisions, a framework that is based on Jewish wisdom, and inspires them to do good and to make this world a better place," she said.
The JLI program provides advanced Jewish involvement for high school students by challenging teenagers to incorporate Jewish thought into their everyday life. Lessons incorporate ethics, philosophy, faith, history, community service, current evens and textual studies.
In his speech at the graduating celebration, Adin Segal of Palm Beach Gardens, and who just finished his freshman year at Dwyer High School, spoke about what JLI has meant to him.
"JLI has made has made me look at Judaism as a value system and guide to a happy fulfilling life. I'm not very spiritual so as you can imagine, after my bar mitzvah, I lost touch with Judaism," he said.
"This class has taught me to value Judaism as a tool to make my future better. I found this class to be interesting and extremely informative," Segal said. "I enjoyed learning about myself and Judaism every weekend from this class."
In her graduation speech, Nikki Lickstein, a freshman at Dreyfus School of the Arts in West Palm Beach talked about one of her favorite lessons leaned at JLI.
"In one of my favorite lessons, 'A Star Is Born,' we learned about how from the moment you are born you are born a star. Despite what competitions like 'American Idol,' teen magazines, or polls show about stardom, nothing compares to the celeb-like qualities you are born with," she said. "Rabbi Barash emphasized that God always thinks you're popular, and I think that's what is important.
"Together, and with the help of some amazing rabbis, teachers and guest speakers," she said, "we have gained new learning and understanding of values we will carry with us through our whole life."
Fifteen-year-old Ben Rembaum of Palm Beach said the class taught him "a lot about my self and my past."
"I have learned a great deal about our souls, the animal soul and the Godly soul," he said. "One of the most important things about our soul is that our soul is who we are — our appearance is not. Something that was emphasized during all of the 12 weeks of this class is that everyone, everywhere, is unique.
"The most important lesson that I have probably learned was that when you are troubled with something, on your mind or not, you should go seek guidance and assistance," the Palm Beach Gardens High School student said. "This negativity can always be turned to positivity."
Rabbi Berel Barash of Chabad of Jupiter recommends the course for all teens, regardless of their Jewish or secular affiliation.
"The course offers Jewish teenagers the tools to make decisions, develop strong ethical opinions, and empower their inner voice to stand up for what they believe," Barash said.
Students interested in applying for next year can contact Sarah Barash of Chabad of Jupiter at 561-222-4083 or Chaya Gancz of Chabad of West Palm Beach at 561-714-2349.