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Five Chappaqua Teens Value Community Service

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- Five Chappaqua teens who joined J-Teen Leadership, a Jewish leadership organization based in White Plains, said they never expected to gain such a rewarding experience. Hannah Matluck, Victoria Blumenfeld, Natanie Erlikh, and Sara and Zach Moskowitz have all made their impact in communities both locally and off the coast of the Eastern seaboard.

J-Teens throughout Westchester help locally with events like Project Hope and Habitat for Humanity, rebuilding and giving back to those in need.

Last November, Sara Moskowitz and two other J-Teen members from Pleasantville, Jackie Marra and Katie Connolly, organized a trip to Nashville, where they aided homeless shelters, packaged food and replanted trees in the flood-devastated area.

"There’s so much that can be done," Erlikh said. "One time, I chaired an event for Thanksgiving where we delivered packages to families in Bronxville. A couple years back we did an event in Mount Kisco, really locally and we set up stations for families to come and get immunizations and basic stuff like a can of soup or toilet paper. You wouldn’t have imagined they’re all over the place and we wouldn’t have known this existed without going to these events."

Erlikh and Matluck began their J-Teen Leadership experience over 1,000 miles away from home in Havana, Cuba.

"Cuba was really eye-opening," Erlikh said. "The people were living in such poverty that it was kind of impossible to imagine how a country could’ve gotten to the place they were."

While Erlikh was there with her family and two other families, she met the local Havana Jewish community and did projects to revitalize the city.

"We organized a baseball game for all of them and the one thing I remember is we had a lunch break and we were all about to eat our sandwiches and they were eating just two pieces of bread," Erlikh said. "I just couldn’t believe they have to live through this."

Some of the involved teens say they got their start in community outreach by participating in J-Serve, a national day of community service in the Jewish community, when they volunteered to tour the Bronx Zoo with Bronx elementary school children.

"Each of us, with a partner, got paired up with a group of kids that we toured with around the Bronx Zoo and hung out with them throughout the day," Blumenfeld said. "They were all elementary school kids from the Bronx who didn’t usually have the opportunity to go the Bronx Zoo because they didn’t have the money."

Interested in getting involved? Visit www.jteenleadership.org .

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