JSC Club at Boulder High School

Boulder teens support each other in high school clubs

Jan 5, 2024 | Article, Newsletter

“The word of the week is tikva.”

Talia Shalom, one of JEWISHcolorado’s Shinshinim (teen Israeli emissaries), stands at the front of a Boulder High School classroom, addressing a group of nearly 20 students, including Jewish and non-Jewish teens.

JSC club in Boulder

JEWISHcolorado Shinshinim Talia Shalom and Liron Amar speak at JSC Club in Boulder.

Tikva means hope,” Talia continues. “We are full of tikva.”

It is late November, nearly two months after Hamas terrorists attacked communities and a music festival in the Gaza envelope, killing more than 1,200 men, women, and children and taking 240 hostages. Talia and her fellow emissary Liron Amar have joined Jillian Feiger, JEWISHcolorado’s Director of Jewish Student Connection and IST, for this week’s gathering of Boulder’s High School’s Jewish Club.

For weeks, the teens have spent their time together discussing horrific events in Israel, but today’s meeting is lighthearted. There’s pizza and an activity—the making of “slime,” something that the students dive into with the same enthusiasm they had as Kindergartners.

At the end of the club, Feiger and the Shinshinim dash out of the building and head to their third meeting of the day, this one at Boulder’s Fairview High School. There, another group of 20 students greet them for a Hanukkah trivia activity. But do not be fooled by the slime and the trivia. Jewish Student Connection (JSC) is doing serious work in these high schools.

Slime at JSC club

Students play with slime during JSC Club

“The relationships we build with teens inside their schools are always important—but now more than ever,” says Feiger. “What happened on October 7 made JSC more meaningful that we have community inside public high schools and a safe place and space for Jewish students and Jewish allies.”

The mission of Jewish Student Connection

Boulder and Fairview High Schools are two of the 12 high schools in four school districts that Feiger and her team, including JSC Education Coordinator Michael Kahn, visit weekly. (There were two meetings in Denver on the same day as the Boulder gatherings.) JEWISHcolorado works with the two Boulder high schools in partnership with the Boulder Jewish Community Center.

After several years of pandemic-related disruptions, Feiger felt that this school year began “feeling more like normal times.” Enthusiastic student leaders at the high schools have been planning activities for clubs that are thriving. Last year, Feiger might see an average of 200 teens at clubs each week. This year, even before October 7, the number had increased to an average of 300 teens weekly.

Feiger describes the clubs as “cultural, not religious,” fulfilling a specific vision and mission—to create a safe place in a public high school where teens—both Jewish and non-Jewish—learn about Jewish culture and Israel together.

JSC club in Boulder

JSC Club at Fairview High School

“The Jewish teens will see that being part of a Jewish community is fun and meaningful and adds value to your life,” Feiger says. “The non-Jewish teens will learn about Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Hanukkah and become allies who, as they grow up, will not be taken in by antisemitic tropes. They will stand up to it and say, ‘This is not right.’”

JEWISHcolorado’s Jewish Student Connection is one of few programs in the United States that integrates Shinshinim—Israeli teenagers taking a gap year of service—into American public high schools. The U.S. students get a chance to learn about Israel and Judaism from someone who lives in a different part of the world. After October 7, all the club student leaders acknowledged the importance of discussing the events in Israel, but their first concern was for the emotional health of the Shinshinim who had lost loved ones in the attack. Feiger’s focus in the weeks after the terrorist attack was the mental health and wellness of all students.

“We made sure they knew who they could talk to, and we talked about how to interpret the news rather than doom-scrolling through social media,” Feiger says. “There is so much misinformation on social media, so we talk about how to have a conversation with friends who may be getting all their information from TikTok.”

The reaction of JSC participants

Becca Kless and Delphi Davalos are both seniors at Boulder High School. The two teens are best friends. Becca is Jewish and serves as the President of the Jewish Club. Delphi is Vice President of the club. She is not Jewish but enjoys learning about Jewish culture and even picking up some Hebrew.


Delphi Davalos and Becca Kless

Both students agree that the club has provided a safe place to talk during recent difficult weeks.

“I definitely have seen more antisemitism, especially online,” Becca says. “I have seen people sharing incorrect infographics, a lot of misinformation, and some straight-up antisemitism.”

“We don’t tolerate any nonsense,” Delphi adds. “This is a small community within the big high school where you come to learn and have fun.”

Eve Weksler, one of the student leaders at the Fairview High School Club, echoes the comments of her fellow teens.

“The events in Israel and the spike in antisemitism affects students,” she says. “Young people are especially susceptible to propaganda and misinformation. Clubs like this are so important because Jewish students feel supported by their classmates and reminded that antisemitism is not how everyone thinks.”


Eve Weksler

Jennifer Kraemer has been the faculty advisor to the Jewish Club at Fairview since it was started by the Boulder JCC 10 years ago.

“I think the opportunity to create an environment where Jewish people are not ‘the other’ presents a learning moment to combat antisemitism,” Kraemer says. “People come for the pizza and the bagels, but then they learn something. I just hope it keeps building and building.”

Building the program is exactly why Jillian Feiger and Michael Kahn continue their whirlwind schedule, sometimes visiting as many as six high schools in a day. They know their work has impact, now more than ever.

“When things happen—like antisemitic incidents—these clubs are a place and space to reflect and feel comfortable talking together,” Feiger says. “This framework existed even before October 7. The events of that day and the weeks since don’t change what we do—it reinforces our mission.”