Last week, more than 150 teen delegates joined the URJ Biennial to learn, engage, sing, dance, pray, and explore their Jewish identity at the world’s largest gathering of Reform Jews. They brought energy and excitement to the halls of the Hynes Convention Center, and ensured that we had authentic conversations that created a multigenerational Reform Jewish experience. Within this delegation, we had more than 85 synagogue youth group board members, 30 regional NFTY officers, and 125 alumni of our URJ Youth programs. Read on to hear about what this group was seeking when they signed up for this event, and what they are taking away. Know a teen who attended? Ask them about their experience and partner with them to bring it home!
What teens were looking for at the 2017 Biennial:
- “A stronger connection to my greater Reform Jewish community and to learn from Reform leaders.”
- “Connection with others across the country. Increase my song leading skills to work at URJ camps in the future.”
- “I am hoping to gain new leadership skills in order to continue with leadership roles in my community.”
- “I hope to gain skills and knowledge in order to be a more effective leader and member of my Jewish communities. I want to be reminded of why I love Judaism and want to remain active. I hope to deepen and expand my Jewish knowledge. I want to learn from the wonderful people of the reform movement all in one place and come away with new ideas and topics to think about and work into my life. Mostly, I want to feel the ruach (spirit) of an enormous gathering of inspired Jews.”
- “I hope to have the opportunity to network with adult leaders who are my role models”
- “I am proud to be a leader at Temple and look forward to meeting leaders from around the country. Along with meeting adult leaders, I will meet many other teen leaders and learn how they are engaging teens, and share ideas about engaging teens… As the youth president, part of my job is to learn how to engage the youth community in new, creative ways. I am also an ambassador of the youth community to the greater Jewish people… Attending the Biennial would make me more effective as a leader in this role.”
What teens took away from Biennial:
- "My "wow moment" was the services. As someone that doesn't define themselves as religious and typically does not enjoy services, this was amazing. I held hands with people while dancing through the aisles cheering and chanting to beautiful music. This wasn't something I'd ever imagine myself doing and I loved it."
- “I’ve never experienced such a more meaningful and intentional Shabbat. As the religious & cultural vice president of my Temple Youth Group (TYG), I am SO excited to bring my experience back to my synagogue.”
- “It’s been really refreshing to be learning alongside adults of all ages and get their perspective on things. I’m so glad we had that opportunity.”
- “I’ve always wanted to go into the Jewish field but figured I probably won’t. After this week, the only thing I can see myself doing is being a Jewish professional: I want to be a rabbi!”
- "I believe that I am wiser because of attending Biennial."
3 Questions to ask teens who attended:
- What was something that surprised you about Biennial?
- Who was one interesting person you met while at Biennial? Why were they interesting?
- What did you learn about that is happening in another congregation/region that we might be able to implement here?
More than 90% of the teens who attended did so as part of their congregational delegations. They joined for meals, special receptions, pictures, and more. Thank YOU for the work you did to make it possible for these young leaders to attend and take advantage of the full Biennial experience. Help keep the momentum going by encouraging them to check out upcoming NFTY and youth experiences near you!
Beth Rodin is the Managing Director for NFTY - The Reform Jewish Youth Movement.She has served on the NFTY team for 10 years including time as Regional Advisor for NFTY's Chicago Area and Northern Regions, Program Director, and NFTY Board Advisor. A long time camper, staff member, unit head and faculty member at both OSRUI and the URJ Kutz Camp, she has been an active member of the Reform movement her entire life!
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