The Yoni Jesner Awards – You’re never too young to start volunteering

The last two weeks have been an absolute whirlwind of events timed to coincide (or thereabouts! with Volunteers Week, allowing us a little wriggle room due to Shavuot being bang right in the middle of it!

The really big one was the Yoni Jesner Award ceremony on Monday 6th June. The awards were being given out to students – aged 11 to 14 – who had completed 20 hours or more of volunteering and were from six Jewish secondary schools taking part this year: Hasmonean Boys School, Hasmonean Girls School, Immanuel College, JCoSS, King Solomon and Yavneh. In total, 140 children completed the award – volunteering at charities including Gift, Kisharon, Jewish Care, World Jewish Relief, Tzedek and Mitzvah Day and at their schools, shuls and in the wider community -with 90 students receiving their awards on the evening.

It was a really big event for our small staff team. Organising six schools children – and their respective certificates- into alphabetical order by school in a very crowded St John’s Wood shul hall is no mean feat! I hosted the event and corralled, -with great help from the teachers – the parents, children and Jesner family guests into general order for the presentation on stage by the Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks and Yoni  Jesner (z”l)’s grandmother Mrs Vivian Black. They were so proud of their achievement (and so are we the JVN team) as they were posing in front of the cameras, and who can blame them?

What I found especially moving was when Ari Jesner (Yoni’s brother) and the children talked about Yoni, a student youth leader tragically killed in a bus bomb in Tel Aviv in September 2002, because it shows his legacy continues on. Yoni would have been very proud of these young students and the fact that it wasn’t about points on their CV that they were involved for, it was about acts of loving-kindness which brought joy to both them and the people they were helping. The Chief Rabbi similarly spoke about loving kindness and its connection to Shavuot (happening later that same week) and how volunteering ran through his own family like a stick of rock!

Well done everyone!

I think the highlight of the evening was the presentations from young people at each school about what it was like to volunteer. They were true ambassadors for the concept of volunteering and encouraging others to follow their example. I really hope that their participation in the Yoni Jesner Award will trigger yet more volunteering – perhaps next the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, which JVN will also be working with our partners JLGB, I very much expect so, as all of them said they would be continuing. Truly a moment to schlep nachas and reflect that the younger you start volunteering, the more likely you are to keep at it.


Categories: Leonie's View


Hi, I'm Mike, JVN's Youth Co-ordinator and blogger. I'll be blogging about all sorts of issues affecting the volunteering community, with a particular focus on how recent developments might affect the UK Jewish community's volunteers. I'm always interested to read the comments you make. If you have something you want to see in the JVN blog, e-mail me at and I'll be happy to talk. And if you're inspired by any of my blogs to volunteer, log on to and register to find your perfect volunteering opportunity.


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