Strengthening Community Bonds: A Peer Connector's Perspective

Being a Peer Connector means adapting to meet Jewish young adult community members with an open heart. Whether they've relocated to the Bay Area, returned after time away for their education or career, or are newly exploring their Jewish identity, they all share a common desire: to build connections and find meaningful ways to engage in Jewish life. 

The support of the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund provides an excellent foundation for our role as Peer Connectors. The Federation partially underwrites our roles as part of their grantmaking, enabling us to collaborate with fellow Connectors and engage with young adults to coordinate initial meetings. At the start of my time as a Peer Connector, Gather, Inc. led us in their training program called Leading with Our Hearts, to learn about and begin to apply relational engagement practices. Relational Based Engagement (RBE) is Gather’s framework that centers relationships as a way to create a community in which members feel seen and valued for their uniqueness. This embodies one of Repair the World’s core values hitchazkut (strengthening each other).

The training call started to shift my perspective on the idea that people aren’t inherently seeking more creative or exciting programs to go to — they are seeking an avenue to foster meaningful connections with others so they have a friend to go with. Shifting my perspective benefitted the way I approached coordinating Repair the World’s Service Corps program this year. Repair’s Service Corps is a stipended, part-time, seasonal cohort of young adults, ages 18-29, who live their Jewish values and learn about social change through Jewish wisdom. To implement relational based engagement techniques, our team added in 1:1, in-person check-ins with each Service Corps member and created group volunteer opportunities for them to attend since their usual volunteer hours for the program are done independently. This strategy for engaging our Service Corps members led to a more personalized programmatic experience and encouraged many of them to continue serving with us for multiple program cycles, instead of just signing up for one. We also launched a WhatsApp group for our broader community and Service Corps members to join to learn about our upcoming events and have a space specific to our organization to chat with one another. 

In the fall, the Federation connected me with Rachel, who had recently graduated from the University of San Diego with plans to relocate to San Francisco for work. Prior to boarding a plane or getting settled into her new apartment, Rachel and I connected over Zoom to get to know each other and she signed up to participate in Repair the World’s Service Corps program. We also planned some Jewish activities to check out together at JFCS and Temple Emanu-El. I feel lucky to call her a friend with whom I get to attend events and volunteer regularly, and I’m so appreciative of this community for bringing us together. As I look toward this upcoming program year and high holiday season, I am excited to continue meeting with Jewish young adults in the Bay Area to support them in feeling empowered and welcomed in local Jewish spaces. 

Repair the World is a grantee of the Federation. Their Service Corps program brings together young adults ages 18-29 to live their Jewish values through hands-on service and learning. As Service Corps members, participants engage in meaningful social change, gain valuable skills, and connect deeply with peers and community leaders. Learn more and apply for the fall 2024 cohort. 

Celena was previously a fellow with Repair the World in Detroit after graduating from Ohio State. Following her fellowship, she relocated to the Bay Area to work with BBYO as an Associate Regional Director. In 2022, she served as a Repair the World service corps member before beginning her full-time role as Program Associate with Repair the World in the Bay Area.


June 20, 2024


Celena Ritchey