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August 31, 2015 | 16th Elul 5775

Serving Our Youth: March 2011

Serving Our Youth
Website | Subscribe | Donate March 22, 2011 / 16 Adar II, 5771

This newsletter provides information and resources for Jewish professionals and lay leaders working with youth in URJ congregations.

From the Union Youth Specialists

> Teen Engagement
> Teen Engagement Network
> Reform Youth
Professionals Association
> Webinars
> Youth Department
> Israel Programs
> Camps

Spring is the season of rebirth – as we move from Purim to Passover we take time to examine past programs and look ahead to the future. Among the new initiatives, we share information about the Teen Philanthropy Pilot program and discuss Teens and Technology. We also are pleased to announce the formation of the Reform Youth Professionals Association (RYPA). In addition, you can find information about our upcoming webinars and on the new Living NFTY Initiative, GLBTQ Teen Inclusion. We also take a look ahead to the summer as our Camp and Israel Departments are busy preparing for another great season ahead. As always, our youth specialists are here to help you. Please call on us if you need help as you plan for the future!

In addition to the information below, we also want to remind readers that this month the URJ is highlighting its many resources for helping congregations with their Outreach and Membership efforts, particularly as congregations prepare to “welcome the stranger” during Passover. Visit to access these great resources, and visit to learn more about youth Outreach efforts in the form of the Teen Engagement Initiative.

We’d like to make a special note here to honor Rabbi Michael Mellen as he leaves his position as Director of NFTY to pursue new opportunities. During his tenure, Michael has guided NFTY to new heights and was instrumental in crafting NFTY’s strategic plan for the future. We thank him for his leadership and friendship, and wish him much success. Subie Banaszynski has been named interim Director of NFTY, and we are very excited to be working in partnership with her.

For more information or assistance contact one of our Youth Specialists:

Margie BogdanowMargie Bogdanow

Craig RosenCraig Rosen

Rabbi Laura Novak WinerRabbi Laura Novak Winer

Dana Sheanin Dana Sheanin

Teen Engagement

Teen Philanthropy Pilot

We are particularly excited by the launch of our new Teen Philanthropy pilot. During this two-year pilot, the URJ is partnering with the Jewish Teen Funders Network (JTFN), to tap their expertise in Jewish teen philanthropy. Beginning this month, our cohort of congregations will collaborate to create a model for congregation-based teen philanthropy.

Participating congregations will have access to best practices training through JTFN; consultation with URJ specialists on the unique needs of their teen population; and the opportunity to participate in the shaping of a curriculum for 9th and 10th graders exploring the Jewish case for giving, values clarification, communal need, service, fundraising and effective grant making.

Teens will begin using the materials this fall. There are still a couple of spaces remaining so if your congregation is interested in joining us, please contact Dana Sheanin, Youth Specialist at, or visit our website at

Teens and Technology

A quick Google search of “teens and twitter” produces 114,000,000 results, many with the same theme: teens don’t tweet. Although that may be the current trend for the majority of teens, it’s not necessarily the case among NFTYites, as Brett Lubarsky, a youth worker from Massachusetts, observed during NFTY Convention: Visit NFTY’s blog for his reflections on the recent convention.

Teen Engagement Network

It is not too late to be a part of the first gathering of the Teen Engagement Network. We will be meeting as part of the East District North American Forum in the Boston area April 8-10. Come join us as we explore issues of teen development and communication while providing you with tools to enhance your youth program, and we’ll learn together about issues facing teens in your community. In addition, we will rejoice and sing together as we honor the life and music of Debbie Friedman.

This promises to be a wonderful Shabbat experience and we hope to see you there.

If you can’t be there, you can still join the Networking Group and connect virtually with others across North America who care about youth. By joining the Teen Engagement Networking Group you become subscribed to our listserv, on which you can share with and learn from others. Just send a note to and join the conversation!

Reform Youth Professionals Association (RYPA)

At the Youth Workers Conference in Dallas last month, the Reform Youth Professionals Association (RYPA) was introduced and greeted with a rousing applause. A group of youth professionals from throughout North America have crafted a charter and are establishing themselves as an official affiliate of the Reform Movement. They have three task forces (Professional Development, Administrative and Communications), and are recruiting more members. If you or someone you know may be interested in participating, please visit the RYPA website and complete the volunteer form, or contact Craig Rosen, URJ Youth Specialist.


Webinars are free, live web presentations that allow you to learn from experts in areas of importance to youth. REGISTER TODAY!

March 23, 2011 2 PM EDT
Creating Youth Policies for your Congregation

Presenters: Craig Rosen, URJ Youth Specialist, and Subie Banaszynski, Interim NFTY Director
Does your congregation have written guidelines and policies for your youth program? Together, we will explore areas to consider when crafting a youth policy for your congregation. We will touch upon topics such as youth group membership, driving for and during events, chaperone ages and ratios, technology, kosher vs. non-kosher food, Shabbat activities, smoking, illegal substance use and discipline procedures.

April 28, 2011 2 PM EDT
Social Emotional Learning: What is it and why does it matter in my congregation?
Presenters: Rabbi Laura Novak Winer, Director of Teen Engagement, and Dana Sheanin, URJ Youth Specialist
A focus on social emotional learning, also called character education, has become important in the field of secular schooling. How can teaching your students to manage their emotions, develop positive relationships with peers and make responsible, ethical choices enhance the classroom experience? What is Jewish about this idea? We will explore the principles behind social emotional learning, introduce resources to enhance it in your classroom and discuss how using this can increase your ability to retain students beyond the middle school years.

URJ Webinar Archives
Webinars can also be accessed anytime through the URJ webinar archives. Some of the archived webinars include: Youth Worker 101 – What You Need to Know for a Successful Year; Strengthening Your Youth Committee; Integrating Youth Professionals into your Community; What Does a “Youth Friendly” Congregation Look Like; and Sacred Choices Training for Facilitators of the Middle School and High School Curriculum.

URJ – Youth Department

NFTY Convention/Youth Workers Conference
The Fairmount Hotel was literally bouncing up and down from the nearly 1,000 people enthusiastically dancing and singing to the music at the NFTY Convention and Youth Workers Conference (YWC) last month in Dallas, TX. Participants from across North America came together for five days of praying, learning, networking, seeing old friends and making new ones. Participants were inspired by the people they met and the learning that took place throughout the week. The magic that was created during the five days together will have a lasting impact on those who were there and ultimately on our Movement for years to come! Visit for the NFTY Convention Rewind, including videos, photos and other testimonials.

GLBTQ Teen Inclusion
NFTY continues our Living NFTY Initiatives with the recent launch of GLBTQ Teen Inclusion. This collection includes a variety of materials to help broaden our understanding and heighten our level of inclusion of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered and Questioning teens. It is our hope to raise awareness so that all of our teens better understand sexual orientation from a 360 degree perspective, and to ensure that NFTY continues its commitment to GLBTQ teen inclusion.

Will Kutz: NFTY’s Campus for Reform Jewish Teens become home to your congregational teens this summer? The value of having a teen from your TYG attend Kutz is exponential. Your teen will return home a more confident leader, a more connected Reform Jew and a more resilient human being.

If you know a highly-engaged teen (entering grades 10-12 in the fall of 2011) from your congregation who might be right for Kutz, please nominate them.

URJ - Israel Programs

Join JewGlee, a singing tour of Europe and Israel, in which teens perform with an audition-only choir of 30 elite NFTY singers. Participants will see the birthplace of Reform Judaism in Europe, perform with international artists in Israel and tour Israel. Auditions are now underway for this new program.

The URJ Israel Programs provide meaningful and engaging experiences for our young people. For general information about our programs, visit We have also launched a new website dedicated to our Israel programs for the 18-30 cohort:

There are six different programs that serve our community:

  • NFTY in Israel provides short term summer programs for teens 15-18 who have completed 10th grade but not yet started college.
  • NFTY-EIE High School in Israel is a four-month, semester-long residential high school in Israel program during which 10-12 grade students study Hebrew and Jewish history; travel in Israel and Poland; and take all their classes and exams from schools in their hometowns. Alongside the spring and fall semester options, there is also a shorter summer version of this amazing program.
  • Taglit – Birthright Israel KESHER is a 10-day free trip to Israel for 18-26 year olds who have never been to Israel on a peer educational program.
  • Netzer Year is a gap-year leadership training program in Israel for high school graduates. It includes eight months of volunteering, studying, living on a kibbutz and touring Israel.
  • Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv-Jaffa is a service-learning program for college graduates in which participants work on fostering coexistence and engage in hands-on community service.
  • Kibbutz Lotan runs two long-term programs for university students and graduates – the Green Apprenticeship, a hands-on Jewish environmental sustainability program, and Peace, Justice & the Environment, an international development program that teaches about environmental solutions for international problems.

As always, the experience of traveling with friends in a safe and healthy environment is the hallmark of the NFTY in Israel programs. For more information about any of these programs, visit or email

URJ – Camps

Spring is blooming which means summer is right around the corner! Congregations across the country celebrate and acknowledge the families who are about to embark on a summer of fun and immersive Jewish life as they prepare to attend a URJ Camp or Israel program. See how Shaaray Tefila in NYC does it.

The Foundation for Jewish Camp just published Camp Works study, which gives quantitative proof to what we know to be true: Jewish summer camps have a profound effect on Jewish identity. We see this every summer with the 10,000 children who attend URJ Camps. We have seen thousands of URJ campers grow up to become involved in Jewish life in a variety of ways and we have seen countless URJ camp romances turn into marriages and future generations of URJ campers. Read about and join in the lively discussion regarding the value of camp.

In addition to the fabulous regional camps and Israel summer program options, excellent specialty programs for those who want to perfect a special skill set are available:

6 Points Sports Academy- Held at American Hebrew Academy in North Carolina
Chalutzim – Hebrew intensive program
Tiferet - Combines study of the arts with a focus on Jewish themes and Jewish living
Tour La’Agam – Bike trip around Lake Michigan
Kutz Mitzvah Corps; Mentorship and Advocacy - Earn community service while working with teens with developmental disorders

Special Needs Summer Programs
The URJ Camp and Israel Programs are committed to providing a Reform Jewish summer experience to all children, including those with special needs. Download the special needs flyer or view the press release to learn more about these opportunities.

Visit for more information on our camps and specialty programs, staff opportunities, news updates, research and more!

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