There is something happening in our broader Jewish community about which I feel very positively. For many months now, a dedicated group of adults and teenagers has been taking an in-depth look at the scope of Jewish programs for students in 8th-12th grade. Opportunities at Temple Beth Torah and Congregation Beth Emek include working as Madrichim (teaching assistants) in our Religious and Hebrew schools; Midrasha; Confirmation; Mar-Win BBYO; and NFTY.
As a result of receiving a grant from the Jewish Federation of the East Bay, an outside consultant has been working constructively with our congregations to assess how we can best engage Jewish teens. We are fortunate that Shana Silverberg-Rajna has been ably representing our congregation as a member of the design team, the coordinating group that is leading this community assessment.
To date, there have been interviews with teens, parents, and staff from both congregations. Also, there have been meetings with participants from both congregations creating a vision for effective teen engagement as well as laying-out a roadmap how to achieve our objectives. The goals for the next 12 months include:
App/website to coordinate all programs and scheduling
App for carpooling
Interactive and integrated calendar/links to synagogue calendar
Regularly scheduled meetings for all stakeholders
Joint and collaborative budgeting
More unaffiliated teens involved
Planning for teen leadership training
Start more middle school programs
Setting a date for one community-wide big teen event
Finding qualified adult leaders for some programs
More teens involved from membership
Financial plan from synagogues for staff and sponsorship
Explore new sources of funding
Teen-led planning of program content
Are these goals ambitious? Sure. Will every goal be met? We will see. But shouldn’t we want to strive to offer multiple, engaging, dynamic opportunities that engage the hearts, minds, and souls of our youth? The answer to that question is beyond doubt.