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The gates of summer camp are closed. The High Holidays recipe books are open. Our days are filled with preparation and meetings and cooking and school forms as the scent of summer lingers on the cooling air.
As we turn the page on our calendars – or swipe to a new month on our phones – we are acutely aware of this moment in time. Our young people are seeing the same tweets and headlines we’re fretting about. They’re grappling with the role of faith in their lives and the complexities of current events. They’re balancing these big, complicated ideas with the joy and fun and self-discovery of adolescence.
As the URJ’s vice president of youth, I spent summer on the road, visiting our programs, meeting with congregational leaders and teens, and immersing in joyous Judaism alongside our participants. But while summer may be ending, the learning, discovery, and growth that each young person experiences – whether at camp, on an Israel trip, or with Mitzvah Corps – powers us all year long.
It spills into the halls of our congregations. It flows through NFTY, connects alumni on college campuses around the world, and inspires hundreds of adults who mentor our youth. And more than anything, it fills me with hope about the possibilities in the year ahead.
During the coming weeks, many young people will enter our midst – sitting in pews, participating in teen-led services, asking questions of their parents and themselves. Let’s make the most of this holiday season by connecting to the voices and needs of our young people.
Here are four ways to strengthen your congregation by intentionally welcoming children and teens into your holiday observance:
Our sacred responsibility to nurture the character of our children is more important than ever. This work – the task of kindling the flame of Judaism until it sparks and gains its own momentum – is privileged work, and I am honored to partner with you in it. Shanah tovah – may it be a sweet new year.