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Jewish students to volunteer in New Orleans, Navajo Nation during winter break

High school students will participate in hands-on service projects

NEW YORK – Jewish high school students from across the United States are once again volunteering to spend their winter vacation lending a hand toward rebuilding and community development projects.  This December, Young Judaea, the premier Zionist Youth Movement, managed by Hadassah, will guide students as they experience intensive, transformative community service programs in two very different locations.

During Alternative Winter Break, which will be held December 25-30, one group of students will return to New Orleans – the site of last year’s Alternative Winter Break – to participate in community service activities that will help them develop a stronger understanding of rebuilding efforts and  environmental sustainability and poverty issues affecting the Gulf Coast region today.  Students will learn about environmentalism as they volunteer with local organizations to renovate and repair homes and work with local youth in the Ninth Ward.

A second group will head to the Navajo Nation in Arizona, an opportunity that will allow them to apply the concept of repairing the world from within the Navajo culture.  As participants enjoy the opportunity to see a beautiful region of the United States, they will learn about and work with a frequently under-emphasized and misunderstood part of the American experience.

Alternative Winter Break is designed to challenge students by taking them out of the comfort of their everyday surroundings and immersing them in an unfamiliar, hopefully life-changing environment.  The program aspires to further develop the Jewish values of social action, known in Hebrew as tikun olam, and social justice (tzedek) in young people.

WHAT: Young Judaea’s Alternative Winter Break
WHERE: New Orleans, La., OR Navajo Nation in Tuba City, Ariz.
WHEN: December 25-30, 2011
WHY: To establish a model for community service and encourage activism among Jewish teenagers

“This year, an amazing group of students has opted to forgo relaxation and vacation to participate in hands-on service projects in either New Orleans or the Navajo Nation, an experience they’ll remember for the rest of their lives,” said Andrew Fretwell, Young Judaea’s Manager of Youth Leadership and Education and the guide for the New Orleans group.  “By spending several days living and working in communities where their efforts can be truly beneficial, these students will learn first-hand about the issues affecting those who live in recovering and struggling areas.  The educational element of Alternative Winter Break ensures that participants develop a sense of building community, get the chance to further explore their Jewish identity and ultimately go home with a deeper commitment to service.”

Volunteer staff members, all graduates of Young Judaea programs, are selected to assist Young Judaea’s full-time staff and teen leadership to implement and support the Alternative Winter Break program.  Participating students are eligible to receive 20-25 service hours.

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