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Jewish teens show support for Israel

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

By Steve Levin, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Squares of cloth, a meal, honest talk and open minds -- from such simple ingredients a group of Jewish youths in Pittsburgh hopes to create a sense of empowerment Friday night among their peers and engender support for Israel.

Called "If Not Now, When?" the program, and similar ones like it around the country, have the support of a wide range of local and national Jewish youth groups and organizations.

"One of the purposes of the program is to try and answer the question why a Jew in Pittsburgh should care about what a Jew in Jerusalem is going through," said Bari Weiss, 18, a Shady Side Academy senior who has been instrumental in putting the program together. "It's to plant a seed of Israel advocacy."

More than 100 area Jewish teens from all branches of Judaism are expected to attend.

At the outset, teens will break into small groups to paint squares of cloth, which later will be sewn into a quilt and sent to Israel. Three separate Shabbat services for Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Jews will be conducted, followed by dinner.

The main program will be led by college-age Israeli students known as the Zionist Caravan. They function as traveling ambassadors for the global Jewish partnership known as the Jewish Agency to teach about Israel and Judaism. They will remain in Pittsburgh for several days after Friday's program to speak at local high schools.

"It's a celebration of what we as American Jews can do," said Benjy Shaw, 18, a senior at the Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts and one of the program's organizers.

The program runs from 6 to 10:30 p.m. in Levinson Hall at the Jewish Community Center and is open to teens in grades 9-12. Tickets are $5. Reservations can be made by e-mail -- israelshabbat@hotmail.com -- or by calling 412-521-8011, Ext. 241.

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