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As we slip into Elul, thoughts about the holidays are swirling in my head. I’m an educator who loves using the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) as a tool to advance self-reflection, interpersonal dynamics, and building resilient teams. For me, this time of year is an especially unique dance between introversion and extroversion, moving in and out of our comfort zones with our Jewish values embracing us along the way. At URJ Kutz Camp, we focus year-round on supporting teen leadership development. During this time of year especially, we are pleased to share resources to encourage conversation between teens and adults.
We begin with Selichot, where we move into a mindset of asking for forgiveness, being introspective, and making intentional plans for returning to our best selves, or re-envisioning the best self we hope to be. Rosh Hashanah brings us together as a community, the sounds of the shofar a call to gather together, and a reminder of Sinai, as we joyfully mark the beginning of the New Year. Yom Kippur and the days leading up to it can move us into a place of solitude that might even feel uncomfortable. The Days of Awe – in name alone – simply place us in a different mindset of internal reflection. And then, perhaps to the complete opposite extreme, we are commanded to rejoice – with people, joyfully, in a small space – for the entirety of Sukkot. As we round out the holidays with Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, we are returning not only to ourselves, but also to the very beginning of our sacred text as we dance and sing and then roll our Torah back to Genesis. The beginning.
This year, we’re also focusing on the importance of self-reflection and the opportunity to write. We’re excited to partner with Reboot, and share the incredible opportunity to partake in a project called 10Q. 10Q is all about being introspective, digging deep, and thinking about aspirational goals for the year ahead. Once you sign up to participate, beginning on Erev Rosh Hashanah, 10Q will email you one question a day for 10 days that focus on goals and what you hope to accomplish over the coming year. Once complete, you send your answers to their secure online vault. One year later, your answers are unlocked and returned and the process begins anew. This tool is for all ages, teens and adults alike. URJ Youth Programs is a proud partner of 10Q.
It’s important to find ways to write out our goals, hopes, and dreams all year long. We do this each summer at Kutz by giving our teens the opportunity to write a letter to their future selves, where they can project about how they hope their summer experience will manifest throughout their lives in the coming year. Rabbi Reuven Greenvald, Director of Israel Engagement for the URJ, was onsite with us this summer during this program. He shared on Facebook:
“At Kutz Camp and watching participants write letters to themselves about their leadership arc they imagine during the year. According to director Melissa Frey they will get these letters in the spring. Most kids are filling up pages - it's inspiring to see such engaged kids. Would love to see what they write but I know it will be more inspiring to hear about what they do as a result of their Kutz experience.”
During these holiest days and holidays, let’s encourage our teens to return to one another with authenticity and meaning, and take the time to be introspective and reflective. Let’s ask them to step away from their computers and cell phones, make eye contact, and put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboards). Let’s ask them to find a balance with homework and extra-curricular activities. Let’s give them the breadth to take a deep breath and simply enjoy being a Jewish teen and being with their friends. And let’s provide them with resources that start conversations with each other and with the adults who work passionately to create safe spaces where they can thrive. It’s our hope that our experiences throughout the year are enhanced because of each of the meaningful personal reflections, interactions, conversations, and relationships we’re able to foster along the way.