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Section: Informal Education
The Campaign for Youth Engagement: A Call to Action
Author: Jonah Pesner
February 29, 2012    |   Type: Abstract

Source: eJewish Philosophy

 

Rabbi Jonah Pesner of the Union for Reform Judaism writes about the steps that should be taken by Jewish organizations to keep Jewish youth engaged with their Judaism. Our goal should be that by the year 2020, we will have the majority of Jewish youth active in Jewish life. To achieve this, we need a massive initiative, a focused, strategic effort to ensure that we leverage the full strength and talent of every corner of the Jewish world.

 

He responds to research which tells us that if current trends continue, approximately 80% of the children who become b’nei mitzvah will have no relationship of any kind with their synagogue by the time they reach senior year of high school. And, even fewer will live their lives as active Jews.

 

In order to reverse this trend the organized Jewish world must invest in concrete coordinated steps to substantially increase the number of capable youth professionals involved in reaching out to Jewish youth and engaging them in activities that they value and enjoy.

 

He writes:

"We will add more staff, more training, more mentoring and more support, we will have more full time youth professionals across North America and we will hire the very best youth professionals we can find. We will not only grow our staff, but will also grow their capacity to mentor and train teen leaders through and beyond synagogues to engage their peers. We are also committed to partnerships in order to increase our youth engagement professionals’ reach.

 

We commit to growing our camping and Israel programs. The vast majority of Jewish children does not attend a Jewish summer camp or participate in an immersive Israel program. In the years ahead, we will increase enrollment at our camps by as much as thirty percent and expand the type of immersive experiences available. We will also explore partnerships to send more young people to Israel at younger ages and for longer periods of time. And, we will enhance our service learning work, also in partnership with those who are engaging in this important work now….

 

How will we know we are successful? The URJ will conduct a rigorous process of evaluation and accountability to learn from pilot programs, and consequently to adjust the strategies based on real learning. We also realize the vision will require the broader resources of the wider Jewish community (and learning from the non-Jewish world as well). We welcome dialogue within the broader community. Our goal is not to build the Reform Movement alone; rather is it to play a catalytic role in the creation of the Jewish future."

 

Read his entire post at eJewish Philanthropy.

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