Today is day two of URJ’s three-day “round table” on Jewish teen education. I’m here along with about 70 other Jewish educators (and a handful of lay leaders) to consider what we’re doing right and what we can do better in the realm of Jewish living opportunities for teenagers. The vast majority of participants are Reform synagogue educators, so I’ve got something of an outsider’s view as a community educator with a Conservative background and no current movement affiliation. Also, as Jewschool readers might guess, I have some strong opinions about what we’re doing right and wrong… and I suspect who I include in “we” might be different than many of the other participants.
As far as I can tell, two of us are Tweeting from the conference. (Gah, I feel like a tool for even typing that sentence.) But to the extent that discussions here provoke thoughts more complex than 140 characters, I’ll be posting here.
Right now David Bryfman (newly minted as a PhD – mazel tov, David!) is presenting his research on where our teenagers are at right now. I’ll give you this – the man makes a mean Powerpoint. He began by acknowledging that this piece of the presentation is largely information that many people in this room already know (either intuitively or academically), although I wonder how many of the older people in this room have ever seen G-dcast before… or Gossip Girl, for that matter. Regardless, I’m looking forward to the next step of “so what,” i.e. translating this knowledge into action.
Rabbi Jan Katzew, director of URJ’s Department of Lifelong Jewish Learning, laid out the aspirations of the conference last night:
- This forum will indeed reach high if we are able to translate dissatisfaction with the status quo into a vision for engaging every Jewish teen in Jewish life.
- This forum will indeed reach high if we are able to develop resources that respond to the emerging identities in 21st century Jewish life.
- This forum will indeed reach high if we experiment with new methods in using technology with teens in Jewish settings.
- This forum will indeed reach high if there are some participants who volunteer to serve as mentors — to peers and to teens — because they believe that “somebody has to be crazy about that kid.”
- This forum will indeed reach high if we commit to fostering Jewish experiences that are co-created by teens, by their parents and by us.
- This forum will indeed reach high if you return to the institution that enabled your participation with
- a clear, cogent and compelling array of research findings,
- relevant suggestions for curricular innovation,
- an opportunity for participation in a pilot project,
- the name of at least one new collegial partner, and
- a renewed strategic commitment to the proposition that we can engage in Jewish life far more teens in far more meaningful ways.