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Journal of Youth Engagement

Move Confirmation to the 12th Grade Now!



If the road to lifelong Jewish learning begins with religious school, then the widespread practice of ending formal Jewish education with tenth-grade Confirmation is a dead end. 10th-grade Confirmation prevents our teens from integrating their religious schooling with other key Jewish teenage experiences including local Tikkun Olam efforts and serving as religious school Madrichim or counselors at a URJ camp.

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Journal of Youth Engagement

An Intergenerational Shabbat Experience: Experimenting Toward Our Future



As a new clergy team, we have spent the last year listening to laypeople and collaborating on values-based goal-setting as we plan for our future. One area that has emerged as a priority is Shabbat worship.

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Why We Made Our Junior Youth Group Event Less “Like NFTY”



The congregation I work for has been hosting the JOSTY Shul In, a region-wide 7th and 8th grade junior youth group event, longer than I have been alive. After the event last year, I was disappointed to hear from some of my own students that they spent most of the shul in feeling uncomfortable, overwhelmed and bored, or worse – that they never wanted to be at a NFTY event again. And this was coming from the kids who already knew where the bathroom was when they got to the event.

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Kashkesh – A Hebrew Immersion Program for Young Children



Picture this scene: 3rd gradeStudents learning about the Negev desert as part of their Israel unit enter a classroom, which has been transformed into a Bedouin tent. They practice the Mitzvah of welcoming others by handing out tea and acting out short conversations welcoming others in Hebrew. The students hear the biblical story of Abraham and the visit of the three angels at his tent in Hebrew, and learn about Ben Gurion moving his whole life to a small kibbutz in the desert to make the desert bloom. They finish by making their own tiny greenhouses and planting sprouts in them to learn about Negev culture – in Hebrew.

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Even Better Together



When we were growing up in NFTY, the only thing better than being with our temple youth groups was when our advisors would plan an event with other youth group advisors. This gave us the opportunity to see our friends outside of our temple walls. Still today, teens in our congregations enjoy seeing their friends outside of regional events and outside of their own congregations. Teens today are looking for the “congregation-to-congregation” interaction.

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Starting the Journey: Guiding Principles for Making Our Communities More Inclusive



When I first began my tenure at Temple Beth-El, I met David, a student in grade 5 with a significant learning disability and attention issues. Members of the Child Study Team at David’s public school suggested that David not attempt to learn a foreign language as it would be too overwhelming for him. This wasn’t acceptable to his parents, who wanted David to both learn and love Hebrew so that he could become a bar mitzvah. We met David’s academic needs by individualizing his instruction, and his bar mitzvah was a highly meaningful experience. But for me, this is where David’s story begins. I always knew that David could learn Hebrew and become a bar mitzvah; we just needed to meet his needs appropriately.

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Tivnu: Building Justice



Tivnu: Building Justice is a new organization based in Portland, Oregon. Tivnu is proud to partner with URJ’s Mitzvah Corps Portland this summer, and, this fall Tivnu is launching the first stateside Jewish gap year program.

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Stronger Together: The Story of a Community’s Regrowth



The Journal of Youth Engagement is an online forum of ideas and dialogue for those committed to engaging youth in vibrant Jewish life and living. Join the discussion and become a contributor. By Ivy Cohen Five years ago, the three Reform Synagogues in the Metropolitan New Orleans Area, each with their own unique, rich and glorious histories faced a […]

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It Won’t Work If Congregations and Educators…



Is there any congregation that doesn’t want to engage their members, including the youth? Is the importance of building relationships within your community a new concept? After you answer, “No”, think about what has changed and why we’re all looking for new ways to engage our youth. What will help you and why are we all writing and reading about what everyone else is doing?

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Journal of Youth Engagement

When Numbers Aren’t Everything: Defining Qualitative Success



In our field, the number of participants that we serve is something that is constantly being scrutinized. We’ve all heard the numbers. 80% of teens leave our movement after b’nai mitzvah. The Campaign for Youth Engagement began with a goal that defines the quantity – that we see a four-fold increase in the number of Jewish youth engaging in Jewish life by 2020. When we look at our best youth-friendly congregations, we often refer first to the number of participants that are coming through our doors.

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Journal of Youth Engagement

It Happened After Two Full Years (Genesis 41:1)



The Journal of Youth Engagement is an online forum of ideas and dialogue for those committed to engaging youth in vibrant Jewish life and living. Join the discussion and become a contributor. By Rabbi Jack P. Paskoff (While this article reflects the experience of my congregation, proper credit should be given to Rabbi Bennett Miller at the Anshe […]

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Journal of Youth Engagement

MINCHA: Committing to the Whole Teen



The Journal of Youth Engagement is an online forum of ideas and dialogue for those committed to engaging youth in vibrant Jewish life and living. Join the discussion and become a contributor. By Ellie Klein Goldman In the fall of 2013 Temple Shalom in Newton, MA launched a new weekly program for 7th and 8th graders called MINCHA.  […]

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Journal of Youth Engagement

Slam Dunk: Fantasy Sports as a Portal to New Youth Group Models



Fantasy Basketball. That is how Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation in Reston VA, decided to solve two problems. The league has given us some common ground—a Jewish community for these young teens who do not otherwise participate in one, and an opportunity for me to connect with them, even remotely. The league now accounts for twenty percent of the total participants in youth programming. That is the first problem that fantasy basketball solved.

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Strengthening the Partnership Toolbox for Meaningful Community Change



On the second night of Passover, and the beginning days of the Christian Holy Week, a bus filled with 38 teens and eight chaperones from Beth Emet Synagogue and Second Baptist Church departed Evanston, IL, for six days of dialogue on race. We called the trip Sankofa*, a West African Akan word translated to “go back and get it.” Sankofa – the idea, and the trip – implores us to look to our past to understand our present and build our future.

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