What We’ve Learned from the Consultancy on Youth Engagement



Last fall, the URJ received a matching grant from The Jim Joseph Foundation to support the development of a strategic plan for youth engagement. Over the past four months we have been intensively working with two consulting firms to develop this plan: BTW informing change and The Center for Leadership Initiatives.

The first phase of the consultancy was the learning phase, which brought extensive data collection from across the movement including:

  • A review of both internal and external documents
  • Two days at the NFTY Convention/Youth Engagement Conference in Los Angeles conducting focus groups with teens, youth professionals, and camp directors, interviewing key stakeholders, and observing the proceedings
  • A Reform youth professionals survey that was distributed directly to 1,275 professionals with over 450 respondents to the survey
  • Inviting 42 individuals from across the Reform Movement and beyond to serve as advisors for the consultancy

Last week was a significant week for the consultancy. Thirty-four of our advisors gathered at locations in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York for half-day sessions with our consultants. The consultants shared their learnings to date and continued to test potential strategic scenarios with the advisors. These conversations were thoughtful, creative, and challenging. We know that to reach our goal of engaging a majority of our youth will require many exciting new opportunities and some hard decisions. This process of idea-testing with our advisors has been enormously valuable for assessing the potentiality for change throughout the system.

In the coming months, we will be developing the final strategic planning documents based on all the learnings, conversations, and feedback.

We are grateful to the many people who have informed this process to date: the 450 youth professionals who completed the survey, those who participated in focus groups, the 42 advisors who were part of our idea-testing, and especially those whose generous financial contributions to this matching grant made this process possible.

Together, we will be able to achieve our goal of engaging our youth to live inspired Jewish lives.

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Rabbi Bradley Solmsen

About Rabbi Bradley Solmsen

Bradley Solmsen serves as the North American Director of Youth Engagement for the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ). For eleven years Bradley served as Director of Brandeis University’s Office of High School Programs which includes BIMA, Genesis, and Impact: Boston. Rabbi Solmsen was ordained at The Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York and received a masters degree in Jewish education from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Bradley is currently pursuing a doctorate in Jewish education at the Jewish Theological Seminary’s Davidson School. He has extensive experience as a Jewish educator in Israel and North America working with teenagers and college students and training Jewish educators. Bradley is married to Aliza Kline and is the proud abba of Ela, Gila and Nomi.

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