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August 31, 2015 | 16th Elul 5775

The Power of Collaboration [11/14/2013]

It has been so encouraging to see so many turn their focus and attention towards youth engagement.  In recent days alone, young women from NFTY had a voice and presence in our mission celebrating the Women of the Wall 25th Anniversary, the Camping and Israel Programs volunteer and staff leadership held its annual meeting, and youth professionals in the New York/New Jersey areas gathered for a Shabbaton of prayer and learning:
  • Initiated by the teens themselves, 5 NFTY leaders joined more than 100 clergy and lay leaders as part of the North American delegation marking the 25th Anniversary of Women of the Wall, (the organization seeking women’s rights at the Western Wall in Jerusalem). This trip modeled NFTY’s commitment to youth led experiences, diverse program content, Israel engagement, and immersive experiences for creating meaningful, transformative engagement opportunities.

  • More than 80 lay and professional leaders representing each of our 14 URJ camps and our Israel programs gathered together to share best principles, hear from experts, problem solve, and plan for the future. This lay-professional partnership is a model for creating an environment that fosters innovation and experimentation. New camping models like URJ Harlam Day Camp and URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech, and opportunities to integrate experiential education in congregations through the Jewish Service Corps program will engage new youth, teens, and families.
  • Close to 50 clergy, educators, youth professionals and lay leaders from New York and New Jersey gathered for a professional development Shabbaton on youth engagement. Organized by NFTY's New York and Garden Empire Regions, this day of deep learning, professional networking, and skill building serves as a pilot for professional development opportunities that will be offered to congregational based youth professionals throughout North America.
  • NFTY and BBYO are partnering to sponsor previews of the movie Hunger Games: Catching Fire in multiple Pennsylvania locations. The book series opened doors to real discussions about food, feeding those in need and how families are starving right here in America and we’re using the medium to share a message and purpose.
Each of these events models elements of success identified in our youth engagement strategic planning process. I hope you’ll join us at the Biennial in San Diego to further the collaboration and understanding into what makes for successful youth engagement and the exciting launch of our new youth engagement strategy.

As we begin the roll-out of this new strategy that will position us to engage a majority of our youth by 2020, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Senior Vice President; Miriam Chilton, Director of Strategy, Operations and Finance for Youth Programs; Paul Reichenbach, Director of Camp and Israel Programs, Daryl Messinger, URJ Oversight Committee, and I will continue to work as an integrated team. You will hear from each of us in the coming months as we move from strategy to implementation.
Rabbi Bradley Solmsen

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

Rabbi Todd Markley (Temple Beth Shalom - Needham, MA) was just named a 2013 recipient of The Convenant Foundation's Pomegranate Prize for exceptionalism as emerging professionals in Jewish Education.

I was excited to see a mainstream thought-piece in The Atlantic magazine touting Youth Group and Camp as the defining experiences that foster enduring connections to Judaism.

This year's issue of the prestigious Slingshot guide recognizes the work of NFTY Southern's Camp Dream Street Mississippi, a five-day camping program for children with disabilities.

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