Combining her passion for community service, and her strong connection with her Jewish identity, Phoebe Rotman, a Grade 11 student at the York School in Toronto, is an example of the impact one teen can have on both their local and global community.
When she was 13, Phoebe participated in a community service trip to the village of Melelo in Kenya, where she was struck by the women she met there. While they worked so hard to break their cycle of poverty, they simply did not have the means to do so. Inspired by their determination, Phoebe launched Rafippahs, an initiative that raises money for building a women’s empowerment centre in Melelo, Kenya. Rafippahs are hand-beaded kippot, which are made by the group of women Phoebe met while in Kenya, and are sold online through her website.
A few years after launching Rafippahs, Phoebe participated in the 2019/20 cohort of UJA’s Diller Teen Fellows program, a year-long leadership training program for students in Grades 10 and 11 that provides a powerful and transformative extra-curricular experience, typically culminating in a three-week seminar in Israel in early summer. As a result of the skills and resources she gained through the Diller program, Phoebe was able to expand Rafippahs, and think about new ways that she could connect with her local Jewish community to raise awareness about a cause that was so close to her heart. She wasted no time, getting in touch with local synagogues and Jewish organizations about promoting Rafippahs throughout the Toronto Jewish community.
“The Diller program was so meaningful,” says Phoebe, who believes that the program helped her develop meaningful and deep friendships with like-minded Jewish teens and opened her eyes to many global issues. The program also empowered her to delve deeper into her own Jewish identity, and gain a deeper understanding of the world around her, from the perspective of Tikkun Olam.
In response to COVID, Pheobe is currently selling hand sanitizer produced and donated by TopShelf. All proceed will go towards building of the women's empowerment center in Melelo, Kenya.
Phoebe is looking forward to continuing to grow Rafippahs and is excited about continuing to learn about and give back to both her local and global community.
Interested in purchasing kippot or hand sanitizer in support of the women in Melelo? Contact Phoebe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To nominate a teen for our Teen Spotlight section in a future newsletter, please email:
Shoshana Newman, Teen Engagement & Philanthropy Manager