Evan Traylor

Evan Traylor

Inside Leadership
Four college aged friends in colorful clothing sitting on a bench together smiling and making funny faces

It’s that time of the year again: moving into new dorms and apartments, buying pens and notebooks, and double-checking schedules to make sure you get to the right class. While the start of every school year is exciting, it’s also an incredibly exciting time to be Jewish on campus.

I graduated from the University of Kansas about a year ago, and although I loved every part of my experience there, it was the Jewish moments that truly stand out: creating lasting friendships at Hillel events, exploring my Judaism to new depths, working at URJ Kutz Camp during the summers, and the...

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Closeup of a My Name Is nametag with MILLENNIAL where the name would be

A few months ago, I was preparing to give a presentation about Jewish millennial engagement to a group of congregational lay leaders. All of my slides were succinct and crisp, I’d practiced with some coworkers, and I was extremely excited to share strategies for engaging more millennials in Jewish life. Just as I was about to save my presentation and go home for the day, a thought hit me: Do any of them even know who a millennial is?  

My mind immediately started racing. Most of my audience probably had an idea of some of the characteristics of millennials, but were they accurate?...

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Group of smiling young adults on an overlook in Israel with the Jerusalem skyline behind them

Too often, returnees from Birthright Israel trips are bombarded with questions (and many times answers) about the impact of the trip on their lives:

“Are you more connected with your Jewish roots?”

“Did you meet a nice Jewish girl/boy?”

“Did you feel safe while you were over there?”

“You must want to move to Israel now!”

However well-intentioned these questions may be, they fail to provide young adults with the...

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Smiling NFTY members and alumni of all ages pose together in front of a logo banner

Think back to your days in high school. Who were your friends? What did you do on the weekends? How were your grades? All of these questions (except for this last one) bring me back to my time in NFTY, the Reform Jewish youth movement. Whether it was going out of town for a regional event, planning local events at my synagogue, or getting ready for an awesome summer at Jewish summer camp, my NFTY community made me who I am today.

Amidst all of the excitement of 1,000 teens being together in Chicago for NFTY Convention 2017, dozens of NFTY alums also made their way back home to...

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A group selfie of author Evan Traylor and friends from camp and youth group

“And Jacob…left.”

This is how last week’s Torah portion, parashah Vayeitzei, begins. Jacob tricks his father Isaac into receiving the blessing of the firstborn and flees from his rightfully angry brother Esau. We read about the famous dream, during his journey, of angels going up and coming down on a ladder, and Jacob waking up feeling certain that God was there – that it was a holy place. After this realization, Jacob takes the stone he used as a pillow and makes a monument. Jacob adventures, he dreams, and he discovers the holy.

I was in 8th grade when I found myself on...

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