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April 25, 2015 | 6th Iyyar 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
  • Why BBYO is Our Partner

    What is the role of the synagogue in the “multiplex” of compelling local offerings for teenagers? One rabbi shares his congregation’s strategy for ensuring that there’s an option for every teen.
  • Questioning the Essence of the B’nai Mitzvah

    How might we imagine a bat mitzvah that developed from student learning rather than dictated by a set of prayer requirements? One congregation shares their insights and strategies from experimenting with the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution.
  • What do Robotics Have to do With Israel and Judaism?

    How do we bring alive ancient Jewish texts and long-gone maps for young children? One congregation uses programming, code and 3D modeling to help students bring Jewish history to life.
  • Values in Action: A Service-Learning Program for Teens

    Imagine a community service program for Jewish teens that does not once teach about, or mention, tikkun olam. One congregation embraces its imagination to create an innovative and enduring understanding of Jewish values brought to life through action.
  • Youth Engagement in the Jewish Day School Recording Studio

    Given the cost, the resources, and the time it takes to produce a studio album, one Jewish day school makes the case for why it’s worth it to keep recording.
  • How We Brought Camp Into our Religious School

    Ellen Fox describes how her congregation embraced the best that camp has to offer to ignite change in her religious school.
Partnership & Collaboration
  • Why BBYO is Our Partner

    What is the role of the synagogue in the “multiplex” of compelling local offerings for teenagers? One rabbi shares his congregation’s strategy for ensuring that there’s an option for every teen.
  • 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
  • How We Tapped Into The Potential Energy of Jewish Leadership

    One group of teens re-envisions how they meet their goals, and shares what we can learn from them.
  • 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.
B'nai Mitzvah
  • Questioning the Essence of the B’nai Mitzvah

    How might we imagine a bat mitzvah that developed from student learning rather than dictated by a set of prayer requirements? One congregation shares their insights and strategies from experimenting with the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution.
  • Five Lessons Learned: How the URJ’s Communities of Practice Strengthen Congregations

    by Amy Asin and Lisa Lieberman Barzilai Two years ago, the Union for Reform Judaism launched its Communities of Practice (CoP) initiative. We began with five separate cohorts, comprising lay and professional leaders from congregations throughout North America: Pursuing Excellence in Your Early Childhood Centers Engaging Families with Young Children Engaging Young Adults Reimagining Financial […]
  • 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 […]
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
  • This Month in The Tent: Being a More Welcoming Congregation

    Membership specialists and committee chairs will tell you the three tenets of congregational membership are recruitment, integration/engagement, and retention. In all three areas, one key to success is making people feel like your congregation is a place for them – in other words, being welcoming. What, specifically, can you and your fellow leaders do to […]
  • Striving for a Self-Determined Quality of Jewish Life for Jews with Disabilities

    by Shelly Christensen “There comes a moment when you realize that what you’re advocating for is more than just accommodations. You’re really advocating for someone’s quality of life. That’s the moment you realize you won’t give up.” (Dyslexia Training Institute) Sometimes Facebook produces surprises, like this quote I recently found while scrolling mindlessly through my […]
  • 10 Ways to Celebrate Jewish Disability Awareness Month in Your Synagogue

    With the start of February, so too begins Jewish Disability Awareness Month. Of course, there is nothing uniquely Jewish about disabilities, nor is there a greater need for inclusion in February than in any other month. So why observe Jewish Disability Awareness Month 2015 this February? We encourage Reform congregations to observe and participate in […]
  • Camp Chazak: Fulfilling God’s Plan for Kids with Disabilities

    by Emily Gergen and Stephen Weitzman According to Jewish tradition, the number three has special significance implying completeness and stability. Examples of this importance include the expression “and God blessed,” which occurs three times in Genesis; the word “holy,” which is recited three times during kedusha, the priestly benediction which consists of three sections; the […]
  • 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
  • Understanding Teen Brains, Creating Jewish Adults

    In our work as youth professionals, are we trying to create a youth community, or plant the seeds for vibrant, lifelong Jewish living? Understanding adolescent neurology can help unlock secrets for successful youth engagement.
  • Drinking From the Fountain of Youth at the URJ Youth Summit

    Today’s studies and statistics provide proof that engaged youngsters become actively practicing Jewish adults. While practicing remains a matter of degree, anyone who has worked with young people recognizes that relationships built during these formative years facilitate engagement long after the conclusion of temple youth group days. Creating those relationships requires incredibly dedicated adults who […]
  • Hanukkah’s Lessons Apply to our Work with Jewish Youth

    As we approach the eighth night of Hanukkah, I know I’m not alone when I say I’ve almost reached my fill of latkes! Still, I can never get my fill of family and community gatherings that are bursting with joy, spirituality, and a sense of awe for the enduring, illuminating light of the menorah. Of […]
  • The Most Useful Things I know About Outreach…I Learned as a Stockbroker

    Rabbi David Gerber shares his secrets from the financial world and how he’s used them to retain more than 90% of post b’nai mitzvah teens.
  • 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.
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
  • Values in Action: A Service-Learning Program for Teens

    Imagine a community service program for Jewish teens that does not once teach about, or mention, tikkun olam. One congregation embraces its imagination to create an innovative and enduring understanding of Jewish values brought to life through action.
  • Youth Engagement in the Jewish Day School Recording Studio

    Given the cost, the resources, and the time it takes to produce a studio album, one Jewish day school makes the case for why it’s worth it to keep recording.
  • “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.
 

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