Teen Turns Her Jewish Faith Into Action by Volunteering in Portland

Teen Turns Her Jewish Faith Into Action by Volunteering in Portland

Jenny Gurev was unsure of what to expect when she signed up to spend 20 days volunteering in Portland, Oregon this summer.

Along with 11 other teenagers from around the United States and two staff members, Gurev stayed in a Portland synagogue where they slept on air mattresses and showered at the local Jewish Community Center.

Gurev worked with an organization called Tivnu, which originates from the Hebrew word for justice and fairness. She worked through her Jewish youth group, United Synagogue Youth (USY).

Gurev is heavily involved in the social action aspect of USY. She is the Social Action and Tikun Olam (Hebrew for repairing the world) Vice President for her region of USY.

As a Vice President, she has led an initiative called “Yes We Can” to help feed the homeless in Palo Alto. She ran a day where teens from across Northern California helped clean up the streets of San Francisco.

This year she has started working on project called “Walk Beside Me” to help end genocide throughout the world.

While in Portland, the group of teenagers helped a number of grassroots organizations including a community garden that sells all of the food at low, affordable prices while all that they cannot sell is sent to a local food bank.

“Most days, we would get up and work with different volunteer organizations,” the senior said. “There was not much of a set schedule.”

“We worked with the City Repair Project and made little free libraries,” Gurev said. “They are posted around the city for people to give a book or take a book or both.”

They also made benches and helped make raised gardening boxes so disabled people could still garden without having to bend down to the ground.

Gurev worked at Dignity Village, one of the first government sanctioned homeless communities.

“It was a really eye-opening experience,” Gurev said. “It made me realize just how much every human being should be able to live with a roof over his head, no matter their circumstance. In our world, we forget that every person is deserving of being treated with dignity and respect. I really feel that this is something that should be addressed in our society.

When asked what the best part of the summer was, Gurev said, “When we went to deliver a little free library that we had constructed the day before, the woman who we delivered it to was crying. She was about to get her first chemo treatment and was extremely nervous. However, when she realized that we were there to deliver this library for the public, immediately her face lit up so bright. It was this moment that made me know that all of our hard work was definitely worth it.

Jenny Gurev said that her experience this summer working with people less fortunate will forever change her outlook on her own life and the lives of others.