Dear Melanie

By Melanie Cytron, Senior, ladue horton watkins high school

Dear Melanie,

As the school year draws to a close, I’m beginning to make plans for this summer. Usually, I go to summer camp, but this year, I want to do something that will positively impact others. However, at many of the places I’ve inquired about volunteering, there is a minimum age of 18. What are some programs that I can take part in that will allow me to help my community?

-Helpful in Hazelwood

Beth Shalom Cemetery ad

Dear Helpful,

There is a wide variety of volunteer positions available to teenagers if you know where to look. A great website for finding such opportunities is, which provides a database of volunteer opportunities for youth ages 10-17 in the St. Louis metropolitan area. Businesses ranging from museums to hospitals are currently seeking help. Volunteen sorts these opportunities by the age requirement and provides contact information necessary to inquire about the position. However, if you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity that will allow you to also embrace your religious faith, check out St. Louis Interfaith Community Explorations (SLICE), a program run by Faith Beyond Walls. Although there is a slight fee to cover lunches and water, this program is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about other religions and improve the community through service projects. With a little research, a great volunteer opportunity can be easy to find.

Dear Melanie,

Over the summer, I’m traveling to Israel for the first time. Although I’m very excited, I’m also a little nervous because I don’t know much about Israeli culture. I don’t speak any Hebrew and I’m worried that I will stick out like a sore thumb. What are some ways that I can immerse myself in Israeli culture in preparation for my trip?

-Out of Place in Olivette

Dear Out of Place,

Lucky for you, many Israelis speak English as well as Hebrew. However, if you want to try and learn Hebrew through immersion, there are many different translation guides that you bring with you on your journey. Check your local bookstore or Jewish goods store to see what they have in stock. As for Israeli culture, Israeli music and films are available in the U.S., if you know where to look. Some temples and cinemas hold Israeli or Jewish film festivals. For example, the St. Louis Jewish Film Festival will be occurring at the Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema from June 12th-16th this summer. If you’re interested in listening to some Israeli music, all genres of Israeli artists can be found on iTunes. If you’re into hip-hop, check out Subliminal, who just released his new album, “Jew-niversal,” last month. If pop is more your style, look for Yael Naim, whose song “New Soul” was featured on an Apple commercial a few years ago. Fortunately, a wide variety of ways to experience Israeli culture can be found close to home.

“Dear Melanie” hopes to help those with burning Jewish questions find the answers they seek. This has been a great year for “Dear Melanie.” Thanks for submitting your questions and I hope you enjoyed reading my advice!