Ready for Change
by Dusty Klass
I am so full of emotions that I am finding it hard to begin this post. My brain is full, my heart is full, and good gracious have the rooms been full – even overflowing, with grown men and women settling down on the floor, sitting cross-legged in their business-casual attire.
The excitement, the readiness for change is in the air. It is palpable, it is vibrant, it is damn near explosive. We are ready for this, we have BEEN ready for this.
And by this, of course, I mean the Campaign for Youth Engagement.
Even before this afternoon’s forum, Wendy Mogul spoke so much truth in such a inexplicably entertaining way that I spent the session feeling like a voice-enabled bobble-head doll from all of my head-nodding and “mhmmmm”-ing – it was all I could do to keep from an “amen, sister!”
What did she say that was so validating? She said we need to provide teens with a place to go, a place to be, a big couch in a room that is not in their home but belongs to THEM. She said teens need respect and teens need access. She acknowledged the hard stuff, that teens are simultaneously “incredibly narcissistic and sensitive and real”, that effective work with teens requires a real monetary commitment, because “adolescents are like etrogs – slightly misshapen, very important, and strangely expensive.” She raised up youthworkers as the brave fun caring friend/mentor tightrope-walkers they are and acknowledged their profound impact on teens lives and the necessity of their role.
How wonderful to move from this inspirational and validating speaker into a 90-minute pump-up session championing what so many of my colleagues and friends and I have known for years: that youth are massively important and that it is time to make a concerted effort to recognize that and facilitate their participation in Jewish life in new and innovative ways.
I left the Campaign for Youth Engagement forum physically jumpy – I want to go personally allocate all one million (!!) Youth Engagement dollars RIGHT. NOW. I want to go sit down with every single person under the age of 20 and ask them what they want to do, what their vision is, how they want to transform the world and how I can help make that happen. I want to up the salary of every single person I know that works with teens.
I drank the Koolaid. I’m in. Come with me.
Dusty Klass is obsessed with helping teens facilitate the changing of the world. She married NFTY via NW at age 16 and renewed her vows via SOCAL as their regional advisor from 2008-2010 (It’s a lifelong affair). She drinks a lot of tea, recognizes that change is rough, unavoidable, and incredibly important, and is a 2nd year rabbinic student at HUC-JIR LA.