4 Ways a CLASP Fellow Can Strengthen Your Congregation’s Youth Engagement

Inside Leadership

4 Ways a CLASP Fellow Can Strengthen Your Congregation’s Youth Engagement

Young female CLASP fellow working in a classroom with young children

To help more young Jews embrace Jewish life as a path to meaning, purpose and joy, the Union for Reform Judaism is expanding the URJ CLASP Fellowship (Camp Leader And Synagogue Professional). This innovative partnership model unites the Reform Movement’s 17 Jewish summer camps with URJ congregations to create new jobs and ongoing support for youth engagement professionals.

CLASP Fellows are full-time youth professionals who spend the summer months at a URJ camp and the academic year in a Reform congregation, with the responsibilities and salaries shared. These fellows are charged with bringing “campiness” into their work by leveraging camp relational and programmatic strategies. They spend the summer as senior staff at a URJ camp, bringing young people from their congregation with them and creating a permanent congregational presence throughout the summer. 

In 2019, with the support of an anonymous funder, the URJ will expand the CLASP Fellowship to create 15 new full-time youth engagement positions in Reform congregations.

Are you interested in deepening year-round engagement in your congregation? Are you interested in creating a full-time youth engagement position? Here are four reasons why your congregation should consider applying for a CLASP Fellowship:

1. The data shows that CLASP Fellowships work.

Ninety percent of participating congregations report that this program brought more “campiness” to their congregations and had an overall positive impact. Participating congregations send almost 3 times more new campers each summer to URJ camps.

2. Strong connections between camp and your congregation have lifelong impact.

The recent URJ Youth Alumni Impact Study clearly demonstrates the lifelong impact of Reform Jewish camp in shaping the choices alumni make as adults. A CLASP Fellowship will help connect your congregation more deeply to camp, which in turn drives lifelong Jewish engagement and a strong likelihood that adults will join a Reform congregation.

3. CLASP Fellows are eager for multi-faceted portfolios and can strengthen many areas of congregational work.

We have found that congregations, camps, and the professionals themselves benefit from roles that tap into the professional’s multi-faceted interests and talents. CLASP Fellows bring valuable assets to congregations – facility in relationship-building; logistical planning; and a friendly, high-energy demeanor to name just a few.

4. You can launch a young Jewish professional’s career.

With the professionalization of the Jewish camping industry, there has been an increase in the number of young professionals wanting to be career Jewish professionals. Many don’t know how or where to start. These formative jobs in congregations have created critical entry points into Jewish professional life for Jewish millennials. Creating a CLASP Fellowship in your congregation offers you a chance to launch a young person’s career. Read more about how these fellowships are shaping a microgeneration of Jewish professionals.

Abra Lee, religious school director at Temple Emanuel in Westfield, NJ, has had a CLASP Fellow on their staff for the last three years. Lee says,

“Working in partnership with the URJ and Camp Harlam in employing a CLASP Fellow has brought a new ruach [spirit] to our youth learning and engagement department and our entire professional staff team. Our CLASP fellow brought new ideas to the team, engaged families in new ways, and built enduring relationships among our synagogue community.”

Interested? Learn more about the CLASP Fellowship at URJ.org/CLASP. The application period ends January 3, 2019 with new CLASP Fellows beginning their positions in your congregation in late summer 2019.

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Michelle Shapiro Abraham, MAJE, RJE, is the Union for Reform Judaism’s director of learning and innovation for youth and a consultant for the Foundation for Jewish Camp.  A longtime Jewish educator, author, and speaker, she holds a master’s degree in Jewish education from the Rhea Hirsch School of Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.  Michelle is a recipient of the 2015 Covenant Award for Excellence in Jewish Education and an active member of Temple Sholom in Scotch Plains, NJ, where her husband, Joel Abraham, serves as the rabbi.

Published: 11/13/2018

Categories: Strengthening Congregations, Youth, Camp

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