Youth Engagement: The Power of Collaboration



It has been so encouraging to see so many turn their focus and attention towards youth engagement. In recent days alone, young women from NFTY had a voice and presence in our mission celebrating Women of the Wall’s 25th anniversary, our camping and Israel programs volunteers and staff leadership held their annual meeting, and youth professionals in the New York and New Jersey areas gathered for a Shabbaton of prayer and learning:

  • More than 80 lay and professional leaders representing each of our 14 URJ camps and our Israel programs gathered together to share best principles, hear from experts, problem solve, and plan for the future. This lay-professional partnership is a model for creating an environment that fosters innovation and experimentation. New camping models like URJ Harlam Day Camp and URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech, and opportunities to integrate experiential education in congregations through the Jewish Service Corps program will engage new youth, teens, and families.
  • Close to 50 clergy, educators, youth professionals and lay leaders from New York and New Jersey gathered for a professional development Shabbaton on youth engagement. Organized by NFTY’s New York and Garden Empire Regions, this day of deep learning, professional networking, and skill building serves as a pilot for professional development opportunities that will be offered to congregational based youth professionals throughout North America.
  • NFTY and BBYO are partnering to sponsor previews of the movie Hunger Games: Catching Fire in multiple Pennsylvania locations. The book series opened doors to real discussions about food, feeding those in need and how families are starving right here in America and we’re using the medium to share a message and purpose.

Each of these events models elements of success identified in our youth engagement strategic planning process. I hope you’ll join us at the Biennial in San Diego to further the collaboration and understanding into what makes for successful youth engagement and the exciting launch of our new youth engagement strategy.

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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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