You may not know this, but there are hundreds of Jewish organizations that are giving away enoughchickens to choke an army in the hopes of appealing to you. Why? Because the number of Jewish people is shrinking, and those organizations know that what today’s Jews want might not be the same as the generations before them. A quick Google search will give you lists of Jewish camps, Shabbat dinners, trips to Israel, trips to Poland, trips to the Bahamas… (just kidding, we couldn’t find any of those), free children’s books, Shabbats on a beach, Shabbats in a loft, Shabbats online, Sha-barbeques, alternative get- togethers, parties (latke and vodka, anyone?), teen tours, sports programs, etc. etc. etc. Not to mention some really cool and JCC programs. It can be overwhelming. That’s why we created JELP (Yelp for Jews). The list includes many of the programs that are out there, and if we have one, our opinion, like on Yelp. We also try to tell you where programs fall on the Jewish spectrum, like if something is going to be very Jewy with lots of Hebrew, we’ll let you know in advance. Not that it’s necessarily bad, but it’s nice to be warned, amiright?
Need a full-time temple for your half-Jewish kids?
There are more than 146 different Jewish Federations across the U.S. and they have been around for a long time. Federations are kind of umbrella organizations that fundraise to support social welfare, social services, and educational needs in Jewish communities. Federations are great in a crisis. Sort of like a Jewish Red Cross, they show up to support the Jewish communities that are hit by floods, COVID-19, etc. They even give support to Jewish communities around the globe. We are trying to think of a nice way to say this…so here goes. Because Federation has been around for so long, they get tagged with being not cool or kind of tired. Maybe that is true in some places, but from what we can tell, there are a lot of Federations doing great work with lots of young adults. In areas without many Jews, Federation is often the only game in town. They’re a great group to get involved with if you’re concerned about a vibrant Jewish community in North America. By the way, Federation is also known as UJA, which stood for United Jewish Appeal, which is who they were before they changed their name.
Here's the bottom line about Federation: They are a lot better than you think.
The Village People were half right- it’s fun to stay at the YMCA AND the JCC. Jewish Community Centers are just that. Places that are often the center square of a Jewish community. That being said, it is highly possible for your daughter to take gymnastics at the JCC and there is not one Jewishy thing about it. Some JCCs are more Jewish oriented than others. They all seem to have a wide range of events and programs…Jewish and not.
Too bad the Village People didn't write a song about JCCs!
Have you ever had a guy in a black hat, black suit, white shirt, and probably a beard, walk up to you and ask, “Are you Jewish?” Then you’ve met someone in Chabad! A public menorah lighting? Mitzvah mobile? Again, Chabad! They are an observant group (they spell God as G-d) that focuses on community outreach, and they offer a lot of classes and other resources. They have a large college campus presence, too. Sometimes Chabad gets a bad rap because it is a very observant group and that can be a turn off. But we have yet to meet a crabby Chabad representative and that is saying something! People who are deep into Chabad have seen the light. We don’t really get it, but it is interesting. You can just go for a chicken dinner and call it a day if you want. But we are warning you, they are super observant, so if you go to them with questions get ready for some super serious answers.
Yeah, yeah, everybody's got an opinion about Chabad. But honestly, have you ever met a crabby Chabad devotee? Me neither.
Looking for some signs of Jewish life on your college campus? Go check out what your Hillel is up to. They are one of the central places for Jewish community in college. They’re a national network of local chapters, so every Hillel is a little different. They are in 550 colleges and universities in North America, and 56 international locations! For the most part, Hillels have speakers and events and make up very nice communities. On many campuses, the Hillels are known for food that is better than the dining hall. Especially Shabbat dinner. Even if you’re not in college yet, they have helpful guides on getting scholarships and the top schools for Jews. Hillels are often the first line of defense for Jewish kids on campus when ugly antisemitism rears its head on campus.
It's a Hillel of a lot of fun!
Looking for a great soup recipe? Not sure what kreplach is? The bubbehs, and other contributors, at Jewish Food Society will answer all your questions. This chic, gorgeous site focuses on highlighting Jewish cuisine from around the world, with super sweet food and family stories to go along!
Once and for all find out what is going on with gefilte fish.
If either you or your partner aren’t Jewish, it’s so not a big deal anymore. If you want to build a Jewish home together, then this is the site for you. Maybe it’s called 18Doors for how many doors open when you realize you can be with whomever you want and still be accepted! You two will find helpful resources to build your Jewish home and family, even finding clergy and connecting to communities to welcome you both with open arms. It might even help your mom eventually love your spouse more than you!
Have your relatives ever planted any trees in your honor in Israel? Maybe for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah or a birthday party when you were younger, and you would’ve wanted literally anything else? That’s Jewish National Fund, a non-profit that raises funds in support of Israel. Planting trees is just one branch (sorry, not sorry) of their efforts, which include work to recycle or reuse more than 85% of Israel’s water supply, work with communities of people with disabilities or special needs, infrastructure development and more. This really is a group that is worth getting your donations.
A lot more than just planting trees!
Help your children stand up to antisemitism! Stand With Us provides easily accessible resources, classes, and pretty cool social media for your kids in middle school, high school, and college. This way they can educate their peers about Israel and stop the spread of lies and misinformation. Because when it comes to Israel everything is somewhat political, Stand By Us tilts right.
If it feels challenging to identify with progressive political values and also a love for Israel, you’re not alone! Progressive spaces can feel downright anti-Zionist sometimes. Zioness is here to make a space for American Jews who feel that progressivism and Zionism work together to fight against oppression! Find a chapter near you to get started!
If you're a Zionist and a progressive, JewBelong with Zioness! (see what we did there?)
Jewish moms already have enough to worry about! JScreen is an at-home saliva test that can help put your mind at ease by giving you a detailed understanding of what genetic diseases your children aren’t at risk for. JScreen also tests for the BRCA breast cancer gene, which can be critical information for Jewish men and women. Just sign up online to order your kit. A genetic counselor will walk you through your results by phone or video teleconference.
Moishe House provides a cool experience for people aged 22-30. You’ll move into a home and forge a small Jewish community together. You’ll host Shabbat dinners, and even create your own programs and events for the community around you to enjoy. Don’t worry, Moishe House provides a partial rent subsidy, programming budget, educational resources and training for you to succeed.
Just be glad it's not our Uncle Moishe's house.
A wonderful group that helps pre-teens and teenagers navigate what it means to be Jewish through a gender lens, which is another way of saying this is a pretty progressive group. Hey, what else would you expect from Manhattan’s Upper West Side? Moving Traditions offers programming for boys, girls, transgender children, and the whole spectrum of gender identity and how to connect the issues facing them with Jewish values. Want to be a leader or educator for Moving Traditions? They offer lots of training so you can help, too!
Because the world is a lot more complicated than when there was just Barbie and Ken.
Not sure what to do for Friday night dinner? OneTable is a way more fun option than endlessly scrolling Seamless. Sign up and you can join a Shabbat dinner fitting almost any style of meal you want. If you want to host one, the team at OneTable will work with you to get food on the table or get people to join. It’s a really fun way to spread the joy of Shabbat.
One Table, lots of opinions!
Why PJ Library? Because it’s a library you can get to in your pajamas! PJ Library is an incredible and free service that will send you books each month that you can read with your child. They curate an amazing collection of Jewish stories, focusing on all sorts of topics and Jewish values. Just tell them what you’re interested in, and they’ll send the best books right to your door! I know, it really seems like there should be a catch, but there isn’t.
There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but we'll be damned! There are indeed free books!
A must-visit for your Jewish pop-culture needs. Alma, created and led entirely by awesome women, is equal parts hilarious, helpful, and informative. They have great news articles and guides to keep you up to date about Jews in the world.
Check out Jewish Insider for a pretty straight-forward, middle-of-the-road news website. They primarily cover politics, philanthropy, and business news but with, you guessed it, a Jewish angle. They’re a great resource to stay up to date on what’s going on.
Sadly not a spy movie.
We wish the acronym for JTA was a little more fun than Jewish Telegraphic Agency, but they’re not here to be the cool kids on the block. JTA is a reputable, global news agency and they give great reports and updates on everything from politics, Israel, health, food, sports, and more.
Note to self: definitely does not stand for Justin Timberlake is Amazing.
This isn’t your mom’s kind of site. Oh wait, it actually is. Kveller has all the news Jewish moms and moms-to-be need to know. Part of the same non-profit group that runs JTA, Nosher, Alma, and more, they have great articles on motherhood and pregnancy in the US, and even a great baby naming guide!
We kvell and plotz at the same time!
We swear this works on any device, not just your tablet. Tablet is a great magazine that is filled with insightful and interesting articles about all things Jewish. They even have some cool podcasts!
Moses didn't have nearly this much information on his tablets.
The Forward is a news agency with a long history, kind of like JTA. Initially started as a Yiddish daily newspaper in 1897 for Jewish immigrants, The Forward is still going strong (just in English now) with news and commentary for all American Jews. They still have a great Yiddish section if you want to learn about it! If you are wondering, it definitely tilts pretty far left.
Aish is a helpful website if you’re looking for a more observant (some would say very observant) approach to Judaism. They have a ton of articles and videos about Torah, holidays, Israel, Jewish news, and anything else Jewish. They offer lots of programs and classes online. Aish also had organized trips pre-pandemic, so expect those to come back when it’s safe again.
Not for the faint of (Jewish) heart.
Get ready to go down a Jewish text rabbit hole! Sefaria has almost every major Hebrew work available (we know, we also just found out there’s more to read than the Torah!), and leaves it up to you to explore. There are also all sorts of cool visualizations of how thousands of years of text and commentaries quote and reference each other, and you can search their database by topic, holiday, basically anything you’re curious about, to see what rabbis have said about it.
Take it from us - this is NOT a makeup store.
Birthright Israel is almost a rite of passage for many Jews. This organization offers FREE trips to Israel for Jews between the ages of 18 and 32 (with some minor exceptions). They have incredible 10-day programs that will take you all over for an incredible experience. More than 750,000 people have gone on Birthright, so they must be doing something right. Did someone say Maccabee beer? And gorgeous Israelis? We at JewBelong believe that traveling to Israel is super important. So much so that it even made our New Ten Commandments (See Number Four)! One thing that has always annoyed us about Birthright is the number of people who could afford to go on their own to Israel, but take the trip because it is free. Here’s the story: generous funders donate money. That is why the trip is free. It’s not like God sends plane tickets. So…if you happen to have the means to pay your own way, for goodness sake make a donation to Birthright, too!
Free trip to Israel? Who could ask for anything more? Oh yeah, and sex...
Honeymoon Israel is sort of like Birthright Israel, but instead of hooking up with whoever you find on the trip, you go with someone you’re already hooking up with! A cohort of couples (say that three times fast) will experience an incredible tour of Israel for nine days. Couples of all backgrounds (lots of interfaith!) are encouraged to apply to this nine-day tour of Israel. The trips are community based, so there is an expectation that you all will become friends and stay friends when you get home and have created a small Jewish community.
Kind of like Birthright, but you're already hooking up with someone.
Visiting Israel is an incredibly important experience, and the funders of RootOne believe money shouldn’t get in the way of that! They offer substantial vouchers, up to $3,000, for your teenager to go on a group trip to Israel with one of their five partner organizations, including BBYO (sound familiar?). Just like Birthright, this is funded by some pretty generous philanthropists. So if you can afford to pay, make a donation!!
Because where else is your kid gonna get his Lakers yalmuke?
If you’re looking to keep your teenager busy for a while, and also strengthen their connection to Judaism, look no further than BBYO! They’re an inclusive organization that offers events, summer camps, and even international travel when it’s safe to do so again. Your teen will get a chance to build friendships and connections that could last a lifetime, and is a great opportunity for them to learn about being Jewish outside of the usual Hebrew School format.
Yeah, we thought it said BYOB too...
Summer camp is a lot more than color wars and tie-dye shirts, but it still is a pretty common rite of passage for Jewish kids. It’s easy to find Jewish adults who will tell you that their best Jewish experience ever was at summer camp. The thing is, unless you are one of those families whose family has been going to Camp Ramah (or wherever) for generations, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the choices. That is where the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) can help. Their Campfinder has more than 150 Jewish camps (these are Jewish camps promoting Jewish values…not just camps full of Jewish kids) listed.
Jewish Camp! It's more than just camps with Jews.
If you’re looking to help your child love Israel, you should check out Young Judea. They offer fun summer camps, community volunteering efforts, and even a gap year your kid can take before starting college. They also are partnered with RootOne (see above!) to help defray the costs, because money shouldn’t get in the way of shaping a proud Jewish adult!
Why make an account and save your favorite JewBelong stuff? Because someday Jack is going to get off his ass and pop the question and you’re going to get to plan that wedding you've been thinking about since third grade.
Because why use any of your precious brain cells to remember where you kept those great readings that you’ll use someday at Jeffrey’s B Mitzvah? Make an account, keep the readings there. Easy peasy. The only thing you’ll need to remember is your password, and from personal experience that’s hard enough.
Hey, can you watch the phones on Friday? We have a thing.