Four Questions for Elan Roth

Elan Roth, a rising high school senior in Westchester, currently serves as the Northern Westchester Leadership Circle Philanthropy Chair of J-Teen Leadership. Based in Westchester, J-Teen Leadership, a UJA program, engages nearly 1,000 Jewish teen volunteers annually with community service and advocacy projects and helps teens develop skills in leadership and philanthropy. We talked with Elan about his experiences with J-Teen Leadership over the past four years and how the program has shaped him as a leader.

 

(Q) Why did you become involved with J-Teen Leadership?
(A) Initially because my brother was part of it. But after I volunteered once when I was in eighth grade, I saw how giving just two or three hours of my time on a Sunday can really help people.

(Q) Did J-Teen Leadership provide you with any training that you’ve put into practice?
(A) Yes — after my first year with J-Teen, I joined the Leadership Circle and learned from different speakers about public speaking, social action, running events, and how to engage and recruit other teens. I use that training when I run volunteer events for teens who help with arts and crafts projects at Edenwald Center (a residential care center run by JCCA, a UJA partner, for children and teens with behavioral challenges.) All of our volunteer events connect to Jewish learning, and we talk to the teen volunteers for a few minutes before the project starts to discuss that. I like to talk about the Jewish value that everyone’s made in God’s image.

(Q) What so far has been the most meaningful experience for you as a J-Teen leader?
(A) This past June I was asked to speak at J-Teen Leadership’s gala and introduce the senior class. It was the first time I spoke in front of a lot of adults. I spoke about how the senior class was empowering younger kids, and how they met with local government officials and were effective advocates. And later I talked with donors who support J-Teen. At some point during that evening, I realized that all my words were about representing something bigger than myself, and that was a significant moment.

(Q) What have you learned about being a leader?
(A) One of the things I’ve learned about leadership is, as daunting as it seems, it’s easy to stand up for things you believe in and care about. And people will respect you for it. J-Teen empowers kids to make a change for the better. I’ve understood that even if it’s a small act, it’s still change. And that’s important.

 

Learn more about J-Teen Leadership and how to get involved here.