The Journal of Youth Engagement is an online forum of ideas and dialogue for those committed to engaging youth in vibrant Jewish life and living. Join the discussion and become a contributor. On a Friday night this past spring, 26 families shared Shabbat in 7 homes across New York City. They said the blessings, ate their festive meals, and were joined by synagogue staff, who led the groups in activities and songs. This was the fourth such dinner last year. Remarkably, these families were satisfying their Religious School requirement. A growing number of families at Temple Shaaray Tefila are taking part in MASA (“Journeys” in Hebrew), our Temple’s multi-generational education program, now in its seventh year. It offers year-long family “journeys” centered on Jewish topics, as an alternative to our religious school. As part of the program, parents study both with their children and separately with our education staff and clergy, as well as participate in Shabbat and holiday celebrations together with the goal of enhancing their own knowledge and their ability to teach and model Jewish practice for their children. Shaaray Tefila became engaged in the process of examining Jewish learning for our youth in 2006. While our traditional religious school had high enrollment, there was a growing sense that even those students who learned and enjoyed the program the most were often left without a way to connect the learning to their lives outside of the Synagogue. To tackle this disconnect, we participated in the UJA RE-IMAGINE Project, an initiative created by the Hebrew Union College’s Experiment in Congregational Education (ECE) which focuses on innovation and transformational change in congregational education programs. Over a period of nineteen months, we engaged in a formal, progressive exploration that produced plans for MASA, which was designed for families with elementary school aged children. Through a guided process, with a task force representing a cross-section of the Temple, we developed overarching goals that have held up in the 7 years since implementation:
- Build community
- Provide choice and flexibility
- Engage participants in excellent, life-long, inter-generational Jewish learning and living.
- By devoting appropriate resources to improving the traditional program by dramatically increasing teacher training,
- Creating a more blended experiential environment,
- Developing new and engaging curricula and
- Utilize some of our MASA principles to as a means of engaging parents on a deeper level.
September 21, 2023
As Yom Kippur 5784 approaches, our commitment to making amends and pursuing restorative justice remains resolute. Even as the final shofar blast sounds at the end of Neilah, we will continue to hold ourselves accountable and atone for the harm suffered by victims and survivors. We will never shirk this challenging, morally demanding work.
September 7, 2023
Recognizing that expectations around technology and connection have changed through the years, we have made the decision to move The Tent to a new platform called Mighty Networks, and we think that you will enjoy the new user experience and opportunities to connect and learn together.
September 7, 2023
Just like some of the employees that are spotlighted in Undercover Boss, congregational educators do work that is critical, yet often underappreciated and undervalued for their impact on the community and their role in vibrant congregations.