This month the URJ is highlighting resources to help congregations engage teens and their families both in their synagogues and at URJ Camps. We most often focus Outreach efforts on the parents of young people parents in interfaith relationships, or LGBT parents raising kids, for example. This month we turn our attention to the young people themselves, suggesting ways in which our congregations can be more supportive of tweens and teens who identify as LGBTQ, or whose parents are of different faiths.
As consultants, we are often asked for the program or effort that will make a particular population feel welcome in a congregation. It is important to realize that populations are not homogeneous and there is no magic bullet. We bring people into our congregations one by one. Developing relationships with each person requires dedication and work. Much as a sukkah that is not firmly grounded will blow down when the weather intensifies, a relationship that is not firmly grounded is tenuous, and may not survive in more than fair weather.
As we dwell in our sukkot this week, may each of us truly find inspiration in the meaning of its name, Season of our Joy.
Rabbi Victor Appell
Marketing, Outreach and New Communities Specialist
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It Gets Better
Last year, in response to a number of highly publicized suicides by gay and lesbian youth, syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage made a video and posted it on YouTube. He called his message to LGBT teens, It Gets Better. Almost a year later, the It Gets Better Project includes 25,000 videos that have been viewed more than 40 million times. Even HUC-JIR created its own It Gets Better video.
This video is the inspiration for our Biennial workshop, It Gets Better Creating Safe Spaces for LGBTQ Youth. . Along with Nikki DeBlosi, PhD, the creator of HUCs Its Gets Better Video and Andrea Jacobs, PhD of Keshet, we will be learning how to implement programs and curricula that will make our congregations, schools and youth g groups safe and welcoming spaces for our most vulnerable members. When you register for the Biennial, make sure to sign up for this important learning session!
Pizza and Conversation Build Outreach Youth Communities
Children from Interfaith families are a significant part of the population of our religious schools, camps and youth programs. When congregations create an opportunity for children from interfaith families to gather and share their experiences with each other, it provides them with the chance to discover commonalities and reinforces strong, positive Jewish identities. Temple Shir Amis Interfaith Family Pizza Chat gave kids 8-14 years of age this opportunity. Read about their story and learn how you can do something similar in your congregation. Contact a URJ Outreach Specialist and let us help you develop your congregations Interfaith Outreach programs.
URJ Camps Build Jewish Identity But What Do Parents Know About Them?
50% of the children in our religious schools have one parent who did not grow up in a Jewish home. That often means these parents also did not have the experience of Jewish camping. The URJ Camps are very sensitive to welcoming children of interfaith families and are respectful of both parents. We share this article Interfaith Family? We welcome your child! from our URJ Camp websites for you to share with your Youth Directors, Educators and congregants. Camp registration is now open. Visit the URJ Camps webpage for direct links to each camp.
Interfaith Family? We welcome your child!
When you send your child to a URJ Camp, they will make friends that may well last a lifetime. We promise we will provide them with a nurturing and fulfilling experience.
Your child - any child from an interfaith family who is being raised as a Jew - has a place at our camp. For over 30 years, the Reform Movement has been at the forefront of the Jewish world ensuring a welcoming environment for interfaith families and their children. As Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Eric Yoffie has stated, "The non-Jewish parent raising a Jewish child is the hero of our Reform Movement, and we owe them a huge thank you."