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October 13, 2015 | 30th Tishrei 5776

Serving Our Youth: August 2011

Union for Reform Judaism Serving Our Youth Newsletter
Website | Subscribe | Donate August 16, 2011 | 16 Av 5771

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

>Campaign for Youth Engagement
>Teen Engagement Network
>Social Emotional Learning Network
>Reform Youth Professionals Association
>URJ - Youth Department
>URJ Camps

From the Youth Specialists

The long hot summer is winding down and we are busy gearing up for what will be an amazing year filled with enthusiasm about the URJ’s Campaign for Youth Engagement. In this issue of Serving Our Youth, we feature another one of our exciting pilot programs as well as new initiatives, like the youth engagement program bank being housed in the URJ’s Communicate! program bank. To learn more about these and other opportunities, join us in Washington, DC, for the Education Summit on Youth Engagement as part of the URJ Biennial.

With a new school year approaching, we look forward to opportunities to attract teens to our programs. The most successful youth programs allow teens to form relationships with each other, the adult staff and the community. Plan on offering mixers and icebreakers at each event to ensure your teens get to know one another and to make your group warm and welcoming. Take time to learn about your teens’ interests, talents and skills, and to create more meaningful ways of engaging them in your congregation.

We wish you all a successful year ahead!

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

Margie Bogdanow

Margie Bogdanow
Phone: 212.452.6777

Craig Rosen

Craig Rosen
Phone: 212.452.6738

Vicky Farhi

Rabbi Laura Novak Winer
Phone: 212.452.6733

Stephanie Fink

Dana Sheanin
Phone:  212.452.6732

Campaign for Youth Engagement

Virtual High School
Do you have 11th and 12th grade teens in your congregation, but don't have an educational program available for them? This may be the answer for you!

One of the many pilot projects of the URJ Campaign for Excellence in Youth Engagement is a Virtual High School (VHS). It is intended to provide programming and learning for all eligible students, but is specifically marketed to congregations that do not currently have 11th and 12th grade programs.  

We expect nearly 100 students from across North America to participate in the program, beginning in late September. The program will include one online class per semester and an in-person retreat at one of two URJ Camps. 

Visit to register today! If you are interested in being a pilot congregation for this program, please email Debbie Niederman.

For more information on this and our other pilot projects, visit

Education Summit on Youth Engagement at the URJ Biennial
As a subscriber to Serving Our Youth, you are the type of congregational leader who will both benefit from and add a great deal to the Education Summit on Youth Engagement taking place at the URJ 2011 Biennial Convention outside of Washington, DC. (The Education Summit will take place December 14-16, and the Biennial will continue on to the 18th.)

As our most committed colleagues and partners, please join us as we work to change the status quo of youth and family engagement in Reform Jewish life. We will hear from esteemed scholars Dr. Wendy Mogel and Jonathan Woocher, PhD., and celebrate the innovative youth work you are doing. Together we will join with members of the entire Reform Movement in launching our Campaign for Youth Engagement.

New Youth Engagement Program Bank
Our youth are engaged in many exciting and innovative programs within our congregations and our Movement. We are delighted to offer an opportunity for you to both share and learn from one another. If your synagogue, religious school, day school, camp or other Jewish institution runs a program that you think others might want to adopt or adapt, we encourage you to contribute to our updated youth engagement section of the URJ’s Communicate! program bank. Click here to complete the submission form.

Teen Engagement Network

Last spring, the East District Forum brought together individuals from around North America to learn, network, sing, pray and be inspired. During these sessions, we learned about today’s teens – who they are, how they communicate and ways our congregations can engage, inspire and learn from them. There are many Forum resources online, and you can use them either as follow up to what you learned at the Forum or to find out what you missed. If you are not yet part of our Network, please join us. We welcome your involvement and look forward to learning together.

The Social Emotional Learning Network

The URJ is pleased to offer a new networking group for educators interested in learning more about social emotional learning (SEL) theory, and how it can be used to enrich both classroom and experiential education.

In recent years, many secular educators have increased their classroom effectiveness by using the principles of SEL. SEL theory (also referred to as character education, or building emotional intelligence) focuses on the whole child and their total experience in the classroom or school.  Educators trained in SEL learn how to develop classroom community, and help students resolve conflicts, make responsible decisions and work effectively in groups. In short, the focus is on building critical life skills while making the classroom a more nurturing environment. 

Our SEL group will hold quarterly conference calls and share existing resources from the world of secular education. We have already begun adapting these resources for the synagogue environment. If you are interested in joining us or learning more, please contact Dana Sheanin.

To learn more about the principles of SEL, please visit our webinar archives and find the session “Social Emotional Learning: What is it and why does it matter in my congregation?” in the Youth section.

Reform Youth Professionals Association (RYPA)

Throughout the summer, the RYPA Leadership Team has been discussing how to become the newest URJ affiliate. They have discussed membership eligibility and benefits; what success might look like; and issues surrounding funding and fundraising. To prepare for RYPA’s launch, the leadership team has created a survey that will help build membership and collect important data. Please add your voice to this project and complete the survey today. RYPA currently has three task forces that need more members (Professional Development, Administrative and Communications). If you or someone you know may be interested in participating on a task force please contact Craig Rosen.


Webinars are free, live web presentations that allow you to learn from experts in areas of importance to youth. 
Sept 8, 2011 8:00 PM EST
Building and Rebuilding Your Youth Program (for URJ South District Congregations)
Presenter, Craig Rosen, URJ Youth Specialist
This webinar, part of a pilot project for the URJ South District, will address how to advocate for youth programming in your congregations. We will offer tips for budgeting for, implementing, promoting and marketing your youth groups, and we’ll also ask participants to share best practices.

Sept 13, 2011 1:00 PM EST
Finding New Ways to Engage Parents of Teenagers
Presenter, Margie Bogdanow, URJ Youth Specialist
After their children become bar or bat mitzvah, parents of teenagers sometimes feel left out of synagogue life. Learn more about this population and discover new ways to include them in congregational life.

URJ Webinar Archives
Missed a webinar? No problem! Webinars can be accessed anytime through the URJ webinar archives.

URJ Parenting podcasts cover a broad range of topics and feature renowned experts. They are short and easily downloadable so you can take them anywhere. Take a listen and tell us what you think—we welcome your ideas for future learning.

URJ – Youth Department

NFTY Leaders Assembly at the URJ Biennial
From December 15-18, 2011, teen leaders from across North America will join together in Washington, DC, for the NFTY Leaders Assembly at the URJ Biennial. Teens will have the opportunity to participate in learning and plenary sessions at the Biennial, while also attending exclusive NFTY programming facilitated by NFTY staff. The NFTY Leaders Assembly is open to high school age youth who are members of URJ affiliated congregations or temple youth groups. Registration (covering hotel, meals and full program) is open through November 1st on a first come, first served basis. Limited scholarships are available.

As teen leaders gathered from across North America and around the world, the magic of URJ Kutz Camp was recaptured once again for the NFTY Leadership Experience. During our three and a half week program, we posted over 60 blog entries. Read participant perspectives on majors and programming; staff reflections on highlights from camp; and faculty musings about being an adult at camp for part of the summer. We’re already gearing up for next summer, and hope to see you as we take our recruitment efforts back to the NFTY regions later this month. For more information about the URJ Kutz Camp, please visit us online at

URJ Camps

An experience at a Jewish summer camp can have a long-lasting, positive impact on both our campers and staff. Read about some of their experiences on the camp blog and learn how our URJ summer camps have inspired so many of us.

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

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