In what seems a long time ago, I wrote a post about the Jewish community’s ‘in-the-box-thinking.’ As a novice to the blogging world, I feared the worst because it was the first time I shared my dissatisfaction about how my local Jewish community was functioning.
Well, sometimes the blogosphere can be eerily silent. I didn’t receive a single comment or e-mail about it (though who did I think was possibly reading my blog anyway???)
Helping teens figure out their connection to the Jewish community and general direction in life is a worthy goal for those of us in the Jewish communal world. After all, if we don’t clarify our mission, we’re like a broken compass. No directional pull, no navigational tools–just spinning like crazy.
So, I’d like to create a short wish list for what I’d love to see happen in the Jewish community.
These things would help teens navigate better:
1. Define the Alphabet Soup. Ready? Do you know the differences between the JCC, JFCS, JCRC, JFGP. Great. Do you think our teens do? How about AIPAC, ZOA, or AJC? Wait, it gets more complicated, how about these fundraising organizations: AFMDA, FIDF, AFHU? Or these viable options for semester abroad programs in Israel: EIE, TRY, MUSS? Well, you can see the challenge. We either could use an app, or a catch-all portal to make all this accessible and understandable. Whether we agree with an organization’s politics or not, Jewish life should be approachable. Doing this one thing could prompt all kinds of things, from learning the scope of needs the Jewish community deals with, to seeing how responsive the Jewish community is, to thinking of Jewish jobs beyond the synagogue.
2. Invite a teen to sit on a committee where communal activities are discussed. How can we get our teens invested in the future of a community in which they are not real stakeholders? I’m not talking about teen versions of funding and allocations committees, who do a great job of getting teens involved in what it takes to raise money and make decisions about where it goes. I mean positions at the table. It’s called influence. Teens know and appreciate when they ‘re offered it and when they have it.
3. Match Jewish teens with Jewish professionals in the field who can give them a sense of what it means to work in the community. Their knowledge of professional positions in the Jewish community is limited to perhaps these careers: Rabbi, Cantor, Education Director, Youth Advisor, and Teacher. BUT they won’t have an idea that an interest in business, management, marketing, or any number of other careers may find a place in the Jewish community. There are teen mentorship programs that are for a select few, but we need to think broad and wide. There are many teens who are unaware of the many job opportunities in the Jewish communal world. Here, I’m not focused on the dentist or lawyer who happens to be Jewish. I’m specifically talking about connecting teens with Jewish professionals. Again, does our mission match our actions? We want Jewish leaders….how are we growing them?
4. Most Jewish students don’t have a clue about what the local Jewish community near their college campus has to offer, and don’t have a way of connecting with it for jobs, internships, mentorships, etc. College internships. Somehow, we leave the college population to Birthright, Hillels and Chabad, and less visible, Meor and Aish. Yet, students are looking for real life experiences. Jewish communal organizations should do recruiting on campus. In a time where extra staffing is needed, we can provide teens with the job experiences they need.
Let’s stop the spinning and begin to help teens navigate.
image courtesy of pds photostream