For years, Kylie Gertner (Hall ‘22) has been volunteering with JTConnect before Thanksgiving baking pies that will be donated to the holiday meals at local charities. It is her favorite event of the year “because it gives me a chance to give back while having fun with my friends! I think it is so important to give back to my community, especially this time of the year because I receive so much from everything and everyone in it.”
Thanksgiving is a time for families and friends to gather and celebrate the bounty of the season, but for many in Connecticut, the holiday is a stark reminder of their struggle with hunger. Looking to sweeten the holiday for families in need, more than 120 local teens gathered to bake nearly 300 pumpkin pies to donate to nine different charities for their holiday meal distribution.
“Last year we had to pivot our pumpkin pie virtually,” shared Cara Levine, Associate Program Director at JTConnect. “It felt so good to be able to come together in such a big way to give back to the community. It wouldn’t have been possible without the passionate visioning of our teen planning committee.”
The event was planned by teens Elijah Chaimovitch, Kylie Gertner, Sophie Kudler, Lili Rojek, Danielle Skott, Sam Shefsky, Ellie Kay and Lily Temkin.
“Planning the pie bake was such a meaningful experience,” shared Lily Temkin (Kingswood Oxford, 2025). “Not only does the pie bake allow me to give back to my community, but it encourages others to do the same in a fun and interactive way! Giving back to those less fortunate is a great feeling and encourages me to seek out additional opportunities to support my community in the future.”
The baking was kicked off by remarks from Lauren Banister, an organizer at Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, who challenged the teens “not to let this be the only step you take to ensure people in your community are fed. Let this be the first step. The step that educates you, that makes you inspired, that makes you interested and really binds you together as a community in using your collective voice in this fight to end hunger.”
“Our tradition is explicit in commanding us to feed the hungry and care for the stranger,” says Eric Maurer, Executive Director of JTConnect. “It is inspiring to see the commitment of teens to put Jewish values to action and make a difference in repairing our world. None of the work that we do would be possible without the support of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford and the generous individuals who invest in the next generation of Jewish leaders.”
The pumpkin pie bake was organized through JTConnect. JTConnect engages teens from across the Greater Hartford community in fun, interactive and thought-provoking educational and social experiences grounded in Jewish learning and values. JTConnect gives teens the opportunity to continue their Jewish education in compelling and meaningful ways. Together, teens examine religion, history and traditions through innovative, hands-on programming that includes classroom study, volunteer projects and special events.