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August 30, 2015 | 15th Elul 5775

URJ Campaign for Youth Engagement Launches B'nai Mitzvah Revolution and Revamps Conference for Youth Practitioners

Annette Powers

June 27, 2012, New York, NY -- Since the Union for Reform Judaism's Campaign for Youth Engagement was launched at the URJ Biennial in December, URJ professionals, lay leaders and Movement-wide partners have been visiting congregations and communities to gather information about what congregations need to better engage youth. One of the results is an initiative called "B'nai Mitzvah Revolution," and a revamping of a conference geared toward practitioners who work with Reform Jewish Youth

The B'nai Mitzvah Revolution, a project of the URJ and HUC-JIR, will empower synagogues to improve the quality of Jewish education in their communities, reduce the staggering rates of post-b'nai mitzvah dropout, and return depth and meaning to Jewish learning. In the next year, the URJ will work together with a small number of congregations to explore this issue. This pilot cohort will learn together and share resources and ideas as they experiment with revolutionary approaches to b'nai mitzvah observance and preparation, as well as more effective models for learning Hebrew, kavannah (intentionality) in prayer, and other curricular areas. Dr. Isa Aron, Professor of Jewish Education at HUC-JIR and Rabbi Bradley Solmsen, Director of Youth Engagement at URJ, will serve as co-directors.

"The B'nai Mitzvah Revolution will be about systemic change," said Rabbi Bradley Solmsen, who became URJ's Director of Youth Engagement in January and is co-directing the project with Aron. "We want to make the rite more meaningful and more community-oriented," he said, without diminishing the child's personal sense of accomplishment.

The URJ Youth Engagement Conference (formerly Youth Workers Conference), which will be held February 15-19, 2013 in Los Angeles, CA, will focus on transforming congregational youth programs. The conference has been re-envisioned as a gathering of the brightest and most dedicated youth professionals, clergy and lay leaders. Together they will learn from experts in the field, engage in meaningful discussions and share best practices. There will also be opportunities for attendees to connect with teens who are participating in the concurrent NFTY Convention.

"The revamping of the Youth Engagement Conference is not merely cosmetic," said Solmsen. "The Conference will be the premiere opportunity for meaningful professional development for people who care about working with youth. It will also help us deeply explore what positive engagement looks like and how it happens."

The NFTY Convention, also on February 15-19, 2013 in Los Angeles, CA, will bring together hundreds of creative, engaged Reform Jewish teens looking to connect, learn and have fun. Participants will spend five days exploring their Jewish identities and learning how to take action in areas that are meaningful to them. They will return home energized and ready to share their experiences with their congregations, families, friends and other Jewish teens.

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