Youth invited to community service camp
Photo: Rabbi Michel Lomner
Rabbi Michel Lomner and Highland Park High School JSU members “gathered” on Monday, July 20 — Zoom the new go-to meeting spot. “It’s been hard being away from friends now we’re connecting to people from lots of schools and synagogues,” said Eli Raphael, who founded the Highland Park High School JSU chapter, “people I’d likely never know.”

Surprises and service for all ages

By Deb Silverthorn
It Takes a Village (ITAV), a new program of Jewish Student Union (JSU), and Dallas’ City National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), invites families throughout the community to share in a nine-day virtual community service camp. From July 22 to July 30, the days leading to Tisha B’Av, activities and daily interactive opportunities will create inspiring experiences and connections.
“The Talmud tells us Tisha B’Av is when both Temples were destroyed because of baseless hatred and unkindness. It is ours today, to live with baseless love and to find ways to help one another,” said NCSY City Director Rabbi Michel Lomner.
The project kicked off Wednesday with boxes for participants to collect canned and dry goods. Boxes will be returned and distributed first, to Jewish Family Service Food Pantry, with any items they cannot accept being shared with other organizations.
At 7 p.m. Thursday, JSU leader and J.J. Pearce High School junior Steven Mendelsohn will host a Jeopardy-style trivia night via Zoom.
Boxes for Friday and Saturday will be distributed with challah baking and Havdallah candle-making kits. The Zoom challah bake will take place Friday at 1 p.m., with ingredients and supplies for each home and at least one challah to give away. Saturday night will offer a Zoom Havdallah at 10 p.m.
A scavenger hunt will begin at noon, on Sunday, July 26. Clues to the first location will be shared and, upon arrival, wrapped snacks and drinks will be given out with the next clue, and so forth.
“Here’s a way to be ‘out’ and safe, with all activities prepared in compliance with CDC guidelines,” said Dallas JSU Director Chana Ben Abraham. “These days allow for accessibility, and safety, with creative and fun activities.”
On Monday, July 27, participants will write letters to The Legacy Willow Bend residents with stationery, envelopes, stickers and other embellishments to create some thoughtful notes. The letters will be held for two weeks before they are delivered for additional safety precautions.
On Tuesday, July 28, the boxes will include MyZuzah mezuzahs assigned to each participant, directions to recipients and the proper way to affix them.
“The first mezuzah was the blood on the doorposts of Jewish homes in Egypt, which differentiated the chaos and death of the outside from the safety and security inside,” said MyZuzah Program Director Alex Shapero. The organization has donated more than 4,000 kosher mezuzahs in 18 countries over three and a half years.

Photo: Chana Ben-Abraham
It Takes A Village’s JSU/NCSY board included from left, top row, Rabbi Michel Lomner, Chana Ben-Abraham and Kayla Rutner; middle row, Eli Raphael, Isabel Strobel and Sami Gubin; and bottom row, Danielle Levkovich, Noam Gurfinkel and Aviv Dahan (not shown: Avi Lipszyc and Chavy Rothstein). Pickup for the nine days of activities began Wednesday, July 22.

“We’re thrilled to have young people as our emissaries, personally realizing the power of the mezuzah,” he said.
On Wednesday, July 29, Erev Tish B’Av, JSU/NCSY board members Sami Gubin, Avi Lipszyc, Eli Raphael and Kayla Rutner will lead Zoom discussions of strengthening Jewish identity. A Holocaust-themed film will be screened.
“It’s been hard being away from friends, but now we’re connecting to people from lots of schools and synagogues — people I’d likely never know,” said Raphael, who founded the Highland Park High School JSU chapter. “We may be ‘locked up’ but we’re meeting the challenge and It Takes a Village is going to be great.”
Thursday, July 30, will host a Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum recorded session with Max Glauben, followed by a discussion and mask-making activity. The masks will be donated to area synagogues.
Throughout the week, Rabbi Lomner, Ben-Abraham of JSU, Rabbi David Shawel of Dallas Kosher and Rabbi Zecharia Sionit of Sephardic Torah Center will also lead conversations. Participating teens can receive up to 15 hours of community service.
While NCSY and JSU programs are generally for teens, ITAV is open to all ages and family participation is encouraged. Registration is $50 per teen or $100 per family, all ingredients and supplies provided. The scavenger hunt costs $36 per car, and sponsorships are available for $180. Cost should not be a barrier to participation, and Rabbi Lomner invited anyone who needs a scholarship to contact him directly at
Box pickups, from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. are near Coit and Parker in Plano, near McCallum and Preston Road or near Churchill Way and Preston Road. Missed pickups and alternate times can be arranged.
“We have to bend over backwards to be kind in this life,” said Rabbi Lomner, “and these nine days are a start to perform chesed, good deeds, and to have fun and make memories while you are at it. That’s something to look for every day.”
To register for the ITAV activities, visit For more information, email or

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