URJ Launches Details of “Inspired Engagement” for Jewish Youth

The URJ unveiled a new strategy for engaging youth at its Biennial Convention in San Diego this past week. “Inspired engagement” – what the URJ is branding as its distinct way of engaging youth – emerged after an eight-month strategic planning process that included voices of more than 700 stakeholders from across the Jewish community and beyond.

The goal of the planning process was to develop a strategy to meaningfully engage the majority of Reform Jewish youth in Jewish life by 2020. On Thursday, December 12, URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs announced that the URJ committed an additional $1 million in funding between January – June 2014 to drive participation in youth engagement strategies. The URJ funding has been leveraged to secure an additional $1 million by outside donors.

Rabbi Jacobs said last week,

Currently there are around half a million young Jews between the ages of 13 and 18 in North America. Most of them are not actively involved in Jewish life. When we were together in Washington, D.C., two years ago, we squarely faced the staggering statistic that 80 percent of our Movement’s young people are out the door by 12th grade. I pledged to you then that our number one priority would be to turn that wide scale disaffection into deep engagement. So what are we doing? The innovative and influential Jim Joseph Foundation funded a rigorous process of mapping the field of Jewish youth engagement, testing our new thinking with leaders from across our Movement and beyond. Our new Jewish future is underway.

The new strategy will open NFTY to any teen who wants to participate, regardless of whether the teen is a member of a Reform synagogue. Said URJ Senior Vice President Rabbi Jonah Pesner,

Our goal is to minimize the barriers that inhibit teen participation. Being open allows teens to invite their friends to participate. Once they connect to our inspiring communities we know they will want to stay involved . . .and bring their families along with them!

Starting in fall 2014, NFTY will begin offering programming to 6th graders. This age-appropriate programming will come at a critical time for teens who often become less involved in the Jewish community following b’nai mitzvah.

The new strategy puts in motion a year-round, integration of all of the URJ’s youth work including camps, NFTY, Israel, and Mitzvah Corps, and, will invest in upgrading the infrastructure of its URJ Kutz Camp as a flagship center of Inspired Engagement.

In honor of NFTY’s celebration of its 75th year, the URJ is reconnecting with 75,000 alumni of all of its youth programs between now and February 2015 to reengage adults as mentors, advocates and supporters of our young people.

Collaboration with Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), the Reform Movement’s seminary and higher education institution, emerges as a priority of the new strategy. In 2014, the URJ’s New York based youth staff will move to the New York campus of HUC-JIR providing for on-site collaboration with the educators of the Reform Movement’s leadership. Three joint URJ/HUC-JIR professional development training seminars for congregational based youth professionals were announced at the Biennial’s closing plenary on Sunday. Said Rabbi Pesner of this partnership,

If we have more and better trained adults working with our youth we will have more youth engaged in our communities in meaningful and lasting ways.

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From the URJ

2 Responses to “URJ Launches Details of “Inspired Engagement” for Jewish Youth”

  1. avatar

    I just wanted to remind those interested in recruiting Jewish youth for Jewish programming that there is a variety of scholarship funding sources available across the country, other than local temple or URJ sources. As an example , the Jewish Children’s Regional Service(JCRS), which covers the states of Alabama, Arkansas , Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas, funds Jewish youth , on a financial needs basis to attend Jewish non-profit camp. URJ Camps Greene(Texas) and Jacobs(Mississippi) have a significant number of their campers funded by JCRS , and JCRS has also funded kids to other URJ camps such as Goldman Union(Indiana), Coleman(Georgia) and others. Finding potential scholarship funding takes some work , but money is there for youth who makes their needs and potential known . In the case of JCRS , residency in one of the states listed above and real proof of financial need , are the biggest factors used in allocating funding to a child. Go the JCRS website: http://www.jcrs.org to learn if you are eligible for camp or college aid, or any one of a number of additional JCRS services. Ned Goldberg JCRS Executive Dir.


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