How can Judaism help both parents and teens slow down, showing them that the journey up the mountain is more meaningful than reaching the top? Learn how one congregation is designing experiences that help teens slow down enough to live in the present.
Related Blog Posts on NFTY, Summer Youth Experiences, Journal of Youth Engagement, and Youth Engagement
May is a busy month as we wind down the school year and gear up for summer. Build on the energy and relationships you created this year using these 10 suggestions for staying connected to your youth while they’re away.
It was a warm August day and I had shaving cream and chocolate syrup splattered across me. The “Messy Maccabiah” event for our middle schoolers was just ending. Seeing everyone cleaning whipped cream, maple syrup, and other condiments off themselves, I realized I was one of the lucky ones who escaped relatively unscathed. It was the silliest youth group event I had ever run! So how did it come to be?
It is not every day I get to study Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik, a major American Orthodox rabbi, Talmudist and modern Jewish philosopher. Rabbi Esther Lederman shared his teaching several months back on a pasuk in the Torah, set during the time the Israelites trekked through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land:
NFTY recently convened its annual leadership retreat, Veida, to set priorities for the 2016-17 program year. Teen leaders representing all 19 regions came together to vigorously debate and brainstorm new types of programs, the role of teens in shaping peer experiences, and the social justice issues they would dedicate themselves to in the coming year – such as racial injustice, global climate change, and gun violence prevention. And, they elected the next NFTY North American board members who will begin their new roles this summer.
When it comes to teaching our youth about Israel, how do we foster both a deep love and a nuanced understanding of the issues at the same time? How and when do we teach a view of Israel to our children that embraces her beauty and history, her challenges and shortcomings? How do we equip our youth to learn, to enquire, and to develop their own informed understanding of her complexities? How do we teach the full story while fostering a love for our homeland?
How do we teach the full story while fostering a love for our homeland? The Israel I grew up with – the Israel of the 6-Day war, the Israel of the Munich massacre, of Entebbe and the 1977 European Basketball championship – is not the Israel that resonates with young people today. Today’s youth are not as willing to take on Israel “hook, line and sinker” the way many of my generation did. They have easy access to information, form their own opinions, and want to be heard. They demand discourse, diversity and accountability.
How do we teach the full story while fostering a love for our homeland? Recently, I led a URJ Roswell Klal Yisrael Fellowship program Israel trip for a group of international Reform teens. We got to meet Rabbi Noa Sattath, Director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC). Noa discussed how, in some of Israel’s religious neighborhoods, when an advertisement features an “exposed” female model (sometimes the only part ‘exposed’ being her face!), religious men hurry to cover it up.
How do we teach the full story while fostering a love for our homeland? Two years ago, I became a full-time Israeli Shaliach at Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach. For the past three summers, I’ve also served as the head of the Israeli delegation at URJ Camp Coleman in Cleveland, Georgia. My job is to strengthen the bond between Israel and local communities in the United States. Israel is clearly my home, but how can I help others feel closer to it?
How do we teach the full story while fostering a love for our homeland? Growing up in Israel, I visited almost all the places that groups from Birthright, Masa and other organizations visit – many times. During those visits I was with fellow Israelis who, like me, didn't find much significance in being at these historic sites. Masada, the Western Wall and the Dead Sea had always been a natural part of our horizon. That changed when I led NFTY in Israel and URJ Kesher Birthright trips.