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October 25, 2014 | 1st Cheshvan 5775
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The Journal of Youth Engagement is a collective space where those who are passionate about engaging youth can be inspired, can share best principles, and can learn from shared challenges. Now you can search for articles by the topics that you are interested in reading about.

Topics Archive


B'nai Mitzvah Field of Youth Engagement Holidays Inclusion
Israel Mentoring New Models & Innovation Niche Programming
Partnership & Collaboration Post B'nai Mitzvah

New Models and Innovation
  • MASA: A Journey to Family Engagement

    The Journal of Youth Engagement is an online forum of ideas and dialogue for those committed to engaging youth in vibrant Jewish life and living. Join the discussion and become a contributor. On a Friday night this past spring, 26 families shared Shabbat in 7 homes across New York City. They said the blessings, ate their festive meals, […]
  • Transformation that Sticks: How to Create Long-Lasting Change in Your Education Programs

    The Journal of Youth Engagement is an online forum of ideas and dialogue for those committed to engaging youth in vibrant Jewish life and living. Join the discussion and become a contributor. In March of 2010, our congregation was approached by Combined Jewish Philanthropies (Greater Boston’s Jewish Federation) and invited to begin a process of transforming our synagogue’s […]
  • A New Vision for Youth Shabbat

    Moving monthly Tuesday lounge nights to Friday evening Shabbat programs was a giant risk – and the rewards have been even greater. Here’s how one congregation took the leap.
  • “Ruach Rock” Tefilah: Engaging Teens in Creating Meaningful Prayer Experiences

    How one educator turned what is sometimes a dreaded part of religious school into something that is meaningful, personal, and engaging.
  • The NFTY Alumni Gap

    When we think of young alumni as “former NFTYites” rather than “active leaders,” there’s a gap between what we have envisioned for our young people beyond high school and what we have delivered.
  • Asking Big Questions: Applying Design Thinking to Working with Teens

    Ask the question. Brainstorm possibilities. Test an idea. Repeat. A new pilot in Boston utilizes principles from start-ups to guide guide a cohort of early adopters in designing meaningful Jewish experiences by teens, for teens.
Partnership & Collaboration
  • Asking Big Questions: Applying Design Thinking to Working with Teens

    Ask the question. Brainstorm possibilities. Test an idea. Repeat. A new pilot in Boston utilizes principles from start-ups to guide guide a cohort of early adopters in designing meaningful Jewish experiences by teens, for teens.
  • Even Better Together

    When we were growing up in NFTY, the only thing better than being with our temple youth groups was when our advisors would plan an event with other youth group advisors. This gave us the opportunity to see our friends outside of our temple walls. Still today, teens in our congregations enjoy seeing their friends outside of regional events and outside of their own congregations. Teens today are looking for the “congregation-to-congregation” interaction.
Post B'nai Mitzvah
  • Engaging Effective Madrichim Training

    The Journal of Youth Engagement is an online forum of ideas and dialogue for those committed to engaging youth in vibrant Jewish life and living. Join the discussion and become a contributor. Many congregations engage teens as madrichim (“guides”) in Religious School classrooms to serve as role models of continued Jewish involvement, to assist with administrative tasks, and […]
  • L’dor V’dor: From Adults, to Teens, to Kids, Camp Shalom Inspires

    With the nearest Jewish day camps more than an hour away, one congregation turned to its teens to offer its community a transformational summer experience for members of all ages.
  • Asking Big Questions: Applying Design Thinking to Working with Teens

    Ask the question. Brainstorm possibilities. Test an idea. Repeat. A new pilot in Boston utilizes principles from start-ups to guide guide a cohort of early adopters in designing meaningful Jewish experiences by teens, for teens.
  • Move Confirmation to the 12th Grade Now!

    If the road to lifelong Jewish learning begins with religious school, then the widespread practice of ending formal Jewish education with tenth-grade Confirmation is a dead end. 10th-grade Confirmation prevents our teens from integrating their religious schooling with other key Jewish teenage experiences including local Tikkun Olam efforts and serving as religious school Madrichim or counselors at a URJ camp.
  • Why We Made Our Junior Youth Group Event Less “Like NFTY”

    The congregation I work for has been hosting the JOSTY Shul In, a region-wide 7th and 8th grade junior youth group event, longer than I have been alive. After the event last year, I was disappointed to hear from some of my own students that they spent most of the shul in feeling uncomfortable, overwhelmed and bored, or worse - that they never wanted to be at a NFTY event again. And this was coming from the kids who already knew where the bathroom was when they got to the event.
  • Even Better Together

    When we were growing up in NFTY, the only thing better than being with our temple youth groups was when our advisors would plan an event with other youth group advisors. This gave us the opportunity to see our friends outside of our temple walls. Still today, teens in our congregations enjoy seeing their friends outside of regional events and outside of their own congregations. Teens today are looking for the “congregation-to-congregation” interaction.
B'nai Mitzvah
  • An Intergenerational Shabbat Experience: Experimenting Toward Our Future

    As a new clergy team, we have spent the last year listening to laypeople and collaborating on values-based goal-setting as we plan for our future. One area that has emerged as a priority is Shabbat worship.
  • Just Say Yes: Inclusion is a No-Brainer

    Past President Michael Kaplan likes to tell the story about why he joined his current congregation and ultimately became its president. He talks about one High Holy Days when he entered the sanctuary with his wife, their profoundly challenged son Brandon, and Brandon’s guide dog. Settling into the services, sitting in the front row, they […]
  • What the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution Is (and Is Not)

    Last month - on the front page of the New York Times, no less - there was a lengthy article on the state of b’nai mitzvah ceremonies in the United States. This coverage came just days after the latest example of an over-the-top celebration outside Las Vegas, which featured an ostentatious display of dancers, lighting, and more. Perhaps you saw the video on YouTube. The newspaper article questioned - as we all do, I believe - how this rite of passage can become as meaningful and as moving as our ancestors intended. The article proceeds to highlight and applaud what is being termed the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution, a program run by the Union for Reform Judaism, which aims to inject thought and scrutiny into the broader process of becoming b’nai mitzvah.
  • “Reinventing The Bar Mitzvah” on HuffPost Live

    On the heels of last week’s New York Times article on the Reform Movement’s efforts to revamp and reinvigorate b’nai mitzvah, HuffPost Live recently ran a great segment on the same topic, featuring the URJ’s own Rabbi Bradley Solmsen on a panel of guests. As Director of Youth Engagement, Rabbi Solmsen heads the Reform Movement’s […]
  • The New Bar Mitzvah: Read All About It!

    Just before Rosh HaShanah, the New York Times ran a story titled “Bar Mitzvahs Get New Look to Build Faith.” The piece introduces readers to the Reform Movement’s new B’nai Mitzvah Revolution, an initiative to reinvent the bar and bat mitzvah that began with 13 pilot congregations. The American bar mitzvah, facing derision for Las […]
  • You Say You Want a (B’nai Mitzvah) Revolution?

    We are hearing regularly from congregations who know that bar and bat mitzvah have tremendous potential and are thinking about challenging the assumptions of traditional b’nai mitzvah in search of more meaningful and transformative experiences and to help reduce the staggering rates of post-b’nai mitzvah dropout. The B’nai Mitzvah Revolution was launched a year ago […]
Israel
  • Learning to Love? Exploring Our Role in Israel Engagement

    On Tu B'Av, the Jewish day of love, the URJ hosted a conversation on Israel engagement. I walked away with a new understanding of two potentially misdirected phrases: fostering a "love of Israel" and practicing "Israel engagement." On a day that promotes loving partnership, the question was on the table: how are we meaningful partners with Israel?
Inclusion
  • Starting the Journey: Guiding Principles for Making Our Communities More Inclusive

    When I first began my tenure at Temple Beth-El, I met David, a student in grade 5 with a significant learning disability and attention issues. Members of the Child Study Team at David’s public school suggested that David not attempt to learn a foreign language as it would be too overwhelming for him. This wasn’t acceptable to his parents, who wanted David to both learn and love Hebrew so that he could become a bar mitzvah. We met David’s academic needs by individualizing his instruction, and his bar mitzvah was a highly meaningful experience. But for me, this is where David’s story begins. I always knew that David could learn Hebrew and become a bar mitzvah; we just needed to meet his needs appropriately.
The Field of Youth Engagement
  • Teen Talk: What We Can Learn from the Marketing Techniques of the Ice Bucket Challenge

    The enormously successful ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has a few takeaways to offer us to boost teen participation and open the door to long-term engagement.
  • The NFTY Alumni Gap

    When we think of young alumni as “former NFTYites” rather than “active leaders,” there’s a gap between what we have envisioned for our young people beyond high school and what we have delivered.
  • It Won’t Work If Congregations and Educators…

    Is there any congregation that doesn’t want to engage their members, including the youth? Is the importance of building relationships within your community a new concept? After you answer, “No”, think about what has changed and why we’re all looking for new ways to engage our youth. What will help you and why are we all writing and reading about what everyone else is doing?
  • When Numbers Aren’t Everything: Defining Qualitative Success

    In our field, the number of participants that we serve is something that is constantly being scrutinized. We’ve all heard the numbers. 80% of teens leave our movement after b’nai mitzvah. The Campaign for Youth Engagement began with a goal that defines the quantity - that we see a four-fold increase in the number of Jewish youth engaging in Jewish life by 2020. When we look at our best youth-friendly congregations, we often refer first to the number of participants that are coming through our doors.
  • Slam Dunk: Fantasy Sports as a Portal to New Youth Group Models

    Fantasy Basketball. That is how Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation in Reston VA, decided to solve two problems. The league has given us some common ground—a Jewish community for these young teens who do not otherwise participate in one, and an opportunity for me to connect with them, even remotely. The league now accounts for twenty percent of the total participants in youth programming. That is the first problem that fantasy basketball solved.
  • Strengthening the Partnership Toolbox for Meaningful Community Change

    On the second night of Passover, and the beginning days of the Christian Holy Week, a bus filled with 38 teens and eight chaperones from Beth Emet Synagogue and Second Baptist Church departed Evanston, IL, for six days of dialogue on race. We called the trip Sankofa*, a West African Akan word translated to “go back and get it.” Sankofa – the idea, and the trip – implores us to look to our past to understand our present and build our future.
Mentoring
Holidays
  • A New Vision for Youth Shabbat

    Moving monthly Tuesday lounge nights to Friday evening Shabbat programs was a giant risk – and the rewards have been even greater. Here’s how one congregation took the leap.
  • It’s Never Too Late To Engage Our Teens

    During Rosh HaShanah this year, one of “my” teens was invited to give the High Holy Day appeal during services. The board and professional staff of Temple Beth-El in San Pedro, CA, where I work, recognizes the power that teens hold and understands that they are the future of the temple. The teen they asked was someone who had felt disenfranchised from the synagogue and was pulled back in by his peers, youth programming and the idea of building his own youth group community.
  • The High Holidays are Coming: Don’t Arrive with Empty Pockets!

    As adults who work with the youth of our congregations, we often dream about that incredible event when we open the doors and kids start flooding in. We look up and it seems as if every child on the temple’s roster has shown up – all at the same time, in the same place. And although we may think such an event is just a far-off dream, in reality, it is coming to every single congregation across our Movement -- and beyond.
Niche Programming
  • “Ruach Rock” Tefilah: Engaging Teens in Creating Meaningful Prayer Experiences

    How one educator turned what is sometimes a dreaded part of religious school into something that is meaningful, personal, and engaging.
  • How to Get Youth Into Your Synagogue

    The secret to ensuring a strong Jewish future is to provide opportunities for young people to engage deeply in an important part of our tradition.
  • Why We Made Our Junior Youth Group Event Less “Like NFTY”

    The congregation I work for has been hosting the JOSTY Shul In, a region-wide 7th and 8th grade junior youth group event, longer than I have been alive. After the event last year, I was disappointed to hear from some of my own students that they spent most of the shul in feeling uncomfortable, overwhelmed and bored, or worse - that they never wanted to be at a NFTY event again. And this was coming from the kids who already knew where the bathroom was when they got to the event.
  • Kashkesh – A Hebrew Immersion Program for Young Children

    Picture this scene: 3rd gradeStudents learning about the Negev desert as part of their Israel unit enter a classroom, which has been transformed into a Bedouin tent. They practice the Mitzvah of welcoming others by handing out tea and acting out short conversations welcoming others in Hebrew. The students hear the biblical story of Abraham and the visit of the three angels at his tent in Hebrew, and learn about Ben Gurion moving his whole life to a small kibbutz in the desert to make the desert bloom. They finish by making their own tiny greenhouses and planting sprouts in them to learn about Negev culture – in Hebrew.
  • Even Better Together

    When we were growing up in NFTY, the only thing better than being with our temple youth groups was when our advisors would plan an event with other youth group advisors. This gave us the opportunity to see our friends outside of our temple walls. Still today, teens in our congregations enjoy seeing their friends outside of regional events and outside of their own congregations. Teens today are looking for the “congregation-to-congregation” interaction.
  • Tivnu: Building Justice

    Tivnu: Building Justice is a new organization based in Portland, Oregon. Tivnu is proud to partner with URJ’s Mitzvah Corps Portland this summer, and, this fall Tivnu is launching the first stateside Jewish gap year program.
 
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