Grantee Partner Spotlight:

a group of teens from the Teen JUST-US program in three canoes - the closest teen is looking back at the camera and smiling
The 2022 cohort joined the Mystic River Watershed Association in pulling invasive weeds after a morning of environmental studies.

“Teenagers are a lot more capable than we give them credit for much of the time,” says Fallon Rubin, Director of Teen and Youth Programs at Temple Israel of Boston. “We just have to give them opportunities to prove what they can do.”

For the past four summers, dozens of high school juniors and seniors in the Teen JUST-US summer internship program at Temple Israel have proven themselves time and again, giving back to the community in significant ways, then carrying that inspiration on to college and careers. As an example, Rubin shared a note from Greta Huang of the original 2020 Teen JUST-US cohort, who wrote:

I often reflect on my internship with Mass Rivers and still reference that water bylaws report in my résumé! I am now a sophomore at the University of Vermont, double-majoring in social work and gender studies. I’m not sure what I will do with my degree, but I know I want to help people. I am so grateful to have belonged to a community of like-minded individuals that constantly supported my growth as a young Jewish adult, trying to make a difference in this complicated world.

a group of teens from the Teen JUST-US program on a trolley - some are looking at the camera and others are talking to each other and looking out the windows
A Duck Boat tour was a fun break during Week 3 of last summer’s internships.

Huang’s words reflect the original intent of Teen JUST-US founder Amy Tananbaum, who sought to bridge the gap for Jewish teens looking for a way to engage with the community. Through Temple Israel, Tananbaum launched a five-day, six-week summer model that would teach social justice and job responsibility with paid internship projects on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, and cohort activities on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Most important, Tananbaum set criteria to ensure that these internships would be a meaningful experience that would have an impact — not just busywork. The assignments must focus on a specific project, be less than 15 percent administrative work, and have an on-site supervisor. The teens are expected to use public transportation, and assignments are made to ensure that commutes are under an hour. On the days together as a cohort, students participate in team-building, social service, and leadership activities and celebrate Kabbalat Shabbat each Friday afternoon.

This summer, another alum, Mira Gurock from the Summer 2021 cohort, is returning to Teen JUST-US to serve as the 2024 Program Coordinator. “Mira’s college résumé really impressed us,” Rubin says. “In addition to pursuing a double major in business and creative writing at Emory University, she manages a team of 32 undergraduates and a budget of $250,000 on the university’s Club Sports Council. Of course, we love that she credits her Teen JUST-US internship at Bikes Not Bombs with helping her develop some of the nonprofit skills and professionalism that she’s put to use at Emory.”

Coincidentally, Emory graduate Naomi Zipursky, who is currently in rabbinical school, will be joining Gurock as Summer Director this year. Together, they will support the 18 members of this year’s cohort in their internships at 10 nonprofits. Just a few examples of this summer’s assignments include:

  • Promoting and planning a fundraiser event for sports-based mental health therapy organization Doc Wayne;
  • Writing and recording testimonials from past immigrant and refugee clients of the International Institute of New England;
  • Supporting the community at Hebrew Senior Life.

The team is also excited about the speakers and group projects they have lined up, including building beds for A Bed for Every Child in Lynn and being introduced to the sport of rowing — and inequities in the sport — at Community Rowing in Boston.

“They’ll be learning important Jewish values while being challenged with real-world job experience,” says Rubin. “I think a student from a past cohort said it best when she referred to her time with Teen JUST-US as ‘a perfect transition between adolescence and adulthood, learning to be an independent and positive influence on the community.’ ”

Current needs at Teen JUST-US include funding/donations and partner organizations that can sponsor or help arrange a service project, field trip, or guest speaker, or meet the criteria to employ a teen intern for the summer. If you would like to get involved, please contact Fallon Rubin at