As a teaching assistant, United Synagogue Youth chapter president, babysitter, dance captain and high school student, Chelsea Marek’s plate is definitely full.
Marek, a 17-year-old senior at Nicolet High School, is heavily active in her own synagogue, Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid in Glendale, working as a teaching assistant, offering to babysit during Shabbat services, and serving as the MUSY chapter president of United Synagogue Youth (USY) for the Milwaukee area. USY is a Conservative-affiliated youth group for teens and middle-schoolers who are interested in socializing and learning with their peers in the Jewish community.
Although Marek has to fulfill more logistical duties as MUSY chapter president, like attending meetings, the result of these duties is revealed in activities and programs for younger synagogue members.
Case in point: a November event based on the TV show “Chopped,” called “Chopped: MUSY Style.” The premise is simple – each group has to create an appetizer, main dish, or dessert by using the ingredients provided. The catch comes in the form of a secret ingredient for each dish.
“I remember last year we did the same thing, so we gave them couscous for one and they had to incorporate couscous into whatever they were making,” Marek said. “I was a judge and got to taste all the food and judge them on it.”
In addition to these fun events, Marek works with the main board of the chapter to establish a smaller board for sixth to eighth-graders who are interested in learning how to work together.
“So they watch how we, regular members do stuff, and they’ll plan an activity,” she said.
And this attention to younger children is not just part of Marek’s duties as MUSY chapter president – it’s also her focus in her work as a teaching assistant and a babysitter. Marek has been helping out in a fifth grade classroom at Beth Israel Ner Tamid for about four years now.
“I love it because I learn how different kids learn,” she said, adding, “I want to be a teacher when I grow up so it was a good opportunity to see how kids act and learn.”
Marek has also been volunteering as a babysitter during Shabbat services at Beth Israel Ner Tamid for about three years.
But her list of activities doesn’t begin and end at synagogue. When not helping out at Beth Israel Ner Tamid, Marek spends her time dancing, a passion she’s pursued for most of her life.
“I’m on Nicolet’s dance team, and I also dance outside of that too. So dance is my life,” Marek said. “My mom says that I loved it right away.”
This passion and hard work has definitely paid off. On Dec. 3, Marek will be a part of the Moscow Ballet’s Nutcracker performance at the Milwaukee Theatre, and on Nov. 27, she will get to meet the Moscow Ballet in person in order to run through the entire show.
But in her spare time, Marek is just like any other teen, hanging out with friends, watching movies with family, and applying to colleges where she hopes to pursue degrees in education and, hopefully, dance. Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois is her top choice, even though they don’t have a dance program. Regardless, Marek plans to continue dancing anyway.
And Marek’s plans for continuing dance aren’t unlike her other plans for the future. Even if she moves away, she wants to stay active in the Jewish community.
“If I go away, I would obviously find another synagogue. I would stay involved in the Jewish community because I just love the people in it,” she said.
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The Chronicle is featuring eight Jewish teens who give back to their community – one for each Chanukah candle! Is there a synagogue, community or teen you’d like to recommend for our next Teen Leaders project? Let us know at Chronicle@MilwaukeeJewish.org.