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September 5, 2015 | 21st Elul 5775
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RJ Magazine: Teens Take Tikkun Olam Prize

Originally posted in RJ Magazine.

Two Reform young people--Joseph (Joe) Langerman of Congregation Beth Israel, San Diego and Celine Yousefzadeh of Stephen S. Wise Temple, Los Angeles--are among 10 Jewish teens selected to receive the 2012 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award. Funded by the Helen Diller Family Foundation, the national award grants $36,000 to teens "whose volunteer services projects demonstrate a determined commitment to make the world a better place."

Joe, who had been bullied at school, started "Voices Against Cruelty, Hatred and Intolerance" (VACHI). Developing a survey that demonstrated the extent of bullying at the school, Joe used the results to promote increased solidarity among his classmates, to integrate tolerance programming into the school curriculum, and to lobby the school board to adopt new policies, including creating a program to educate (not ignore or punish) first-time offenders. The campaign has created an international following on Facebook, and Joe is now working to establish VACHI chapters in nearby high schools.

Celine's brainchild, the student-run charity event "Fashion with Compassion," has raised $20,000+ for disadvantaged citizens of Israel, among them children in need of heart surgery. More than 100 students participate as planners, stylists, and models in the annual show, now supported by high profile sponsors. Celine is trying to expand the program to Jewish schools nationwide.

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