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August 29, 2015 | 14th Elul 5775

The Year in Youth Engagement [9/9/13]

Dear Friend --

As we begin the year 5774, and reflect on the year that has passed and our aspirations for the year ahead, it is a time to check-in on our accomplishments and hopes for all that we want to achieve in youth engagement.
  • Our six-month strategic planning process, funded with a matching grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation, will conclude this month. Details about our new youth engagement strategy will be shared in the coming months and more completely at the Biennial in San Diego in December positioning us to fully realize the vision of the Campaign for Youth Engagement.
  • The B’nai Mitzvah Revolution began with 14 congregations and has grown to almost 90 congregations. This year has focused on building congregational teams and designing experiments which are beginning to be implemented this fall. Just last week The New York Times recognized the work of the BMR and our pilot congregations!
  • The Journal of Youth Engagement was launched. This online forum of ideas and dialogue provides youth professionals and those committed to engaging youth in Jewish life and living an opportunity to test ideas, share best practices, and provoke conversation. The Jewish Portal of Teacher Education recently sited the Journal on its website.
  • An Israel Day of Learning was piloted with congregational professionals. 18 professionals from 14 congregations came together to learn new skills, share feedback and consider new approaches to weaving Israel more deeply into their congregations. Dates for future similar seminars will be announced shortly. We also launched a Kesher Alumni Connection e-mail to create an ongoing connection with Taglit-Birthright Israel alumni.
  • NFTY begins the new year fully staffed with outstanding youth engagement professionals and record breaking attendance at events throughout the country.  HUC-JIR’s Certificate in Jewish Education for Adolescents and Emerging Adults launched its 3rd cohort with a retreat at Kutz, in collaboration with the NFTY staff retreat, providing an important professional development collaboration for both groups.
  • All of our URJ Camps continue to offer the highest quality immersive engagement experiences for youth and their families. With the launch of the Jewish Camps Service Corps, we have the opportunity to bring the best of the camp experience into congregations as we support 25 camp staff as they build meaningful relationships with congregations throughout the school year.
In the year ahead, as we begin implementing the new youth engagement strategy we will to continue to:
  • share what we are learning from the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution experiments
  • engage with Israel in new ways
  • expand Mitzvah Corps
  • provide more professional development opportunities for regional and local youth professionals
  • grow NFTY
  • launch a day camp in Philadelphia connected to URJ Camp Harlam
  • launch the URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy in Boston
Thank you for your continued commitment to engaging the next generation at this exciting time.
All the best for a sweet and happy new year from all of us on the youth team,
Rabbi Bradley Solmsen

P.S. Here are 3 things happening in youth engagement that I want to make sure you know about:

The work of the B'nai Mitzvah Revolution is receiving attention in the national media including a front-page article in the The New York Times and a feature on Huffington Post Live!

This summer HUC-JIR alumni and students joined us at camp, in our NFTY regions and in Israel, helping to engage the future leaders of the Reform Movement in Jewish discussion, learning and community building.

Teens are invited to attend the URJ Biennial with NFTY.They will participate in learning sessions, workshops and plenaries, and have access to exclusive teen-only programming. A new home hospitality option has been added this year.

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