2016 in Review: URJ Engaged More Young People In Meaningful Jewish Life Than Ever Before

December 22, 2016Elena Paull

More than 20,000 youth, teens, and young adults participated in a URJ Youth program here at home, in Israel, and around the world, setting a record for the 9th year in a row.  These programs instill a sense of joy, compassion, and pride in being Jewish while nurturing a young person’s innate desire to make a difference in the world. The essential skills of empathy, creativity, and collaboration cultivated by our programs are more important than ever before. Here are just a few of the ways that the URJ’s youth programs engaged more youth, teens and young adults.

  1. Teens took agency to make a difference. In Fall 2016, Lilith Magazine featured NFTY’s gun violence prevention efforts. Teens in the Northeast Teen Collective received funding to bring their social justice ideas to life. And, after the U.S. elections, teens initiated a campaign to spread positivity which reached more than 2,100 people.
  2. URJ Camps continued to reach deeper into our movement. Our 16 summer camps welcomed counselors from Uganda and campers from Israel. We launched our 3rd specialty camp, 6 Points Sports – California, making Jewish camp accessible to more young people than ever, with two more set to open in 2018!
  3. Youth programs embodied audacious hospitality. Our programs cared for Syrian refugees, welcomed transgender campers, and embraced the diversity of the Reform Movement to create a space for every young person to explore their connections to Judaism.
  4. Participants and staff modeled the change they wish to see in the world. Camp director Anna Herman advocated against a discriminatory bill in her home state, using her buying power as a business to stand up to anti-LGBTQ legislation. Staff from URJ Jacobs Camp and NFTY Southern assisted with flood relief in Baton Rouge. Teens lobbied their state representatives on issues of importance to Reform Jews with NFTY New York Area’s advocacy day and the Religious Action Center’s L’taken Seminars.
  5. A transformative gift will make Israel education more accessible than ever. The EIE High School in Israel program received a $5 million gift to offer more scholarship dollars than ever before. In honor of this gift, the program has been renamed Heller High – EIE High School in Israel.
  6. Youth professionals have more support than ever before. 50+ congregational youth professionals are participating in Youth Professional 101, a cohort for early career professionals learning and planning together to deepen their congregation’s youth programming.
  7. We expanded partnerships with congregations. Together with congregational leaders and volunteers, all 19 NFTY regions introduced NFTY678, bringing NFTY’s signature brand of leadership, friendship, and community to 6th – 8th graders everywhere, and URJ Camps welcomed more than 600 clergy, educators, and youth professionals as summer faculty. 
  8. Teens took initiative to make these experiences available to everyone. Recognizing the life-changing power of NFTY’s community, teens launched a giving campaign to raise scholarship dollars for their peers.

2016 was a great year – and 2017 will be even better!

Thank you for making this all possible. By donating now, you will help continue to bring meaningful Jewish experiences to more than 20,000 youth, teens and young adults in the new year.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful end to 2016 and an even better 2017.


The URJ Youth family of programs

Know someone who is ready to join a community of youth, teens, and young adults changing the world? Registration is now open for NFTY Convention, the biennial gathering of Jewish teens, in February and our summer social justice and travel programs. Early bird discounts available through January 5th


Have something to say about this post? Join the conversation in The Tent, the social network for congregational leaders of the Reform Movement. You can also tweet us or tell us how you feel on Facebook.

Related Posts

Staying Connected with Our Loved Ones Even When we Disagree 

November 15, 2023
Hamas’ brutal attack on Israel on October 7th and Israel’s ongoing response has stirred emotions both within and outside the Jewish community. Over the next weeks, as family and friends gather for holiday celebrations, there may be differences of opinion. Here are a few tips from Jewish sources to help maintain loving relationships while disagreeing.