Combine youth group board installations with a celebratory banquet. The consecration of new leadership is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on what your youth group has accomplished, inspire younger students to see themselves as future leaders, share memories, and celebrate your community. Use NFTY’s generational leadership resources.
Invite graduating seniors to leave their mark (literally). Do you have a dedicated teen space? Is there a wall in your building to include photos of youth group alumni? If space permits, create a ritual around placing handprints, signatures, or photos in your physical space. Inviting seniors to leave their mark creates a ritual that younger students can look forward to and an incentive to stay connected to youth group through senior year.
Celebrate Havdallah, the separation ceremony. “We do a seniors-only program and we do a Havdallah service; we discuss the fact that Havdallah is about separation and that this is a ceremony to mark their separation between youth group and college," says Josh Simon of Temple Kol Ami Emanuel in Plantation, FL. Find Havdallah blessings and resources on ReformJudaism.org.
Recognize seniors in front of the whole congregation. “We recognize our seniors with a blessing and a book inscribed by our senior rabbi, who teaches the post-Confirmation class. He reads the inscription aloud from the bimah to dote on each senior publicly. It’s nice for the congregation to know who our teen leaders are and the good they are doing,” says Carly Cera of Congregation Beth Israel in Austin, TX
Don’t wait until 12th grade. Create rituals at the beginning of the journey, too. “At our annual Purim Lock-in, we do an 8th grade initiation ceremony with Havdallah, part of which includes having seniors share their words of wisdom with the whole group, but directed at the eighth graders," says Ira Miller of Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, D.C.
Engage the “village." Tap partners to get involved. Know where your seniors are headed? Ask their campus Hillels if they have any swag to contribute. There’s probably also a Reform congregation in the cities where they are headed. Connect with the membership staff at those congregations to let them know your alumni are headed to their city and might be looking for Reform connections.
Encourage them to stay connected and join the NFTY Alumni Network. The NFTY Alumni Network has resources for graduating seniors, as well as the Campus Connectors program to help them connect with Reform Jews on their college campuses. Encourage them to join the NFTY Alumni network before graduating by adding themselves to the NFTY Alumni campus map.
Thanks to the following youth professionals for sharing their ideas!
Carly Cera, Congregation Beth Israel, Austin, TX
Erica Santiago, Temple Sinai, Stamford, CT
Ira Miller, Washington Hebrew Congregation, Washington, D.C.
Josh Simon, Temple Kol Ami Emanuel, Plantation, FL
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.