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Inside Leadership
Teens Gesher Program

Imagine a congregational school in which the Sunday before a child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah is their last day of classes, forever. A school where classes for students in grades 8-12 are not even offered, and where previous attempts at establishing a youth group have all failed, leaving no teen-specific programs. What would happen to the congregation’s teens once they become Jewish adults? And, perhaps more immediately, what would happen to their families’ involvement?

These were the existential questions facing me when I was hired as Education Director at...

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Teens at Kutz

  1. Combine youth group board installations with a celebratory banquet. The consecration of new leadership is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on what your youth group has accomplished, inspire younger students to see themselves as future leaders, share memories, and celebrate your community. Use NFTY’s generational leadership resources.
  2. Invite graduating seniors to leave their mark (literally). Do you have a dedicated teen space? Is there a wall in your building to include photos of...
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NFTY students riding in a donkey caravan seen from behind

Last week, as the calendar filled with important occasions for Israel, I thought about the role the country plays in shaping Jewish identity for our movement’s young people. For decades, the URJ has been sending teens to Israel for life-changing experiences. This summer, Sci-Tech Israel, a new specialty trip, will join our family of teen and young adult Israel programs, which includes NFTY in Israel...

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URJ board mission participants in front of Israeli flags on flag polls

Several weeks ago, I spent Purim in the Israeli city of Ra'anana, just a bit north of Tel Aviv. Our congregation there has been a victim of anti-Reform attacks and slander repeatedly, yet you would never have known it. It was so moving – and fun – to be with children, parents, and grandparents who actively choose to be involved with this Reform community – and who are committed to being Jewish in a way that is different than most others in Israel. I am fortunate to work closely with our Israeli Reform Movement leaders, but rarely do I have the chance – as I and many of our URJ board...

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schematic of man walking up stairs

Leadership development is critical for any congregation that expects to thrive now and in the future. An excellent and effective leadership development program includes elements of both skill-building and learning about the congregational community, providing emerging leaders with opportunities to explore and develop in these areas. Every leader, new or veteran, must learn about and reflect upon certain overarching principles to prepare for a congregational leadership role. The URJ has created a resource of self-guided modules that can serve as the basis for a congregational leadership...

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About Inside Leadership

Inside Leadership, the blog at, is a source for Reform Jewish leaders to get the latest news and though-provoking articles about Jewish communal life.