Tag Archives: Jewish college students

Non-Day School Jewish Teens: Orphans in the Field?

photo courtesy of ePublicist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost every day I experience a huge disconnect between my reality and the world of foundations and philanthropy.  

I would like someone to take note that the Jewish community consists of more stakeholders than students at  Jewish day schools and summer camps. 

 I am not always in the mood to respond, but I have to, because I believe that I’m speaking for those who are not speaking for themselves: Jewish teens who are not attending day schools.   

Really, do any teens, let alone Jewish teens, need someone to speak out on their behalf? Since when are teens quiet? On the contrary,  teens are usually outspoken and full of comments about everything

But it’s not their job to keep up with the Jewish educational world, it’s mine.  So, I apologize if this post seems redundant and quite similar to things you’ve read before.  I am not dropping this issue, even if it means no one will read about it any more.

I do need to advocate for the thousands of Jewish teens out there that are not currently enrolled in day school.  I think day schools are a fine option for those families who have made that choice.  As Jewish educators we generally believe in the ‘more is better’ axiom. 

But for those teens who have opted for a different educational setting, there is little attention/money/support paid to them.

This is how my online experience usually goes: I might get a Google Alert. Or I read about a new program/initiative/study/ that is usually directed toward day school students/Jewish camps/Israel trips. 

For example, today I read about a great program, supported the Legacy Heritage Fund Limited, that along with Yeshiva University, places young and innovative teachers in day schools and mentors them for a few years with workshops, additional training opportunities, and other support systems. 

This is a great idea, no?  Who would say that such a thing is not necessary?  It is what the Jewish community should be doing to support young and motivated educators so that they stay connected to the Jewish community and act as role models for those yet in school.

Okay, so here is how I see it:  there are thousands of students in supplementary Jewish high schools, and many who graduate in twelfth grade are teaching in those same schools when they get to college.  The harsh reality, is that most receive very little support and/or mentoring.  Often, they leave after just a few years, burnt out and never to return. 

These are often the best, brightest, and most Jewishly committed students who may have held regional board positions in their youth groups, may have chosen to attend Jewish camps for the summer, and may have been on several Israel trips.  Their downfall is that they haven’t attended a Jewish day school. 

Sometimes I get tired of sounding  the same note in an unbroken melody post after post.  One thing hasn’t changed: the number of American Jewish students attending Jewish day schools outside the ultra-Orthodox community has barely budged, yet the Jewish community has not re-oriented itself. This has been reported in numerous places.  Even Michael Steinhardt was quoted as saying that the lack of growth in the day school population is “sad, sad, sad.”

So, what do I want? I want these Jewishly committed teens to get the attention they deserve. Do we really think we’re building community by not paying attention to these ‘orphans’ in the Jewish educational field?

 

Jewish Programs that Miss the Mark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last month a new blog  from the Mandel Center for Jewish studies at Brandeis University said  that ” Some of the most talented, passionate and deeply knowledgeable members of the Jewish community do not have the opportunity to share their passions and knowledge.  We have not linked the silos, smoothing the path for young Jews from our schools or synagogues to find  Jewish studies experiences when they arrive in college.”(italics mine).

The irony here, is that there are so many silos to be linked! The author was talking about academicians connecting with college students and announced a new program to meet that need.  It sure sounds like a great idea, but why stop there?  When thinking about silos within the Jewish community, the list is so much more extensive.  Specifically, the lack of programming for entering college students is gargantuan.  Is there a way to be pro-active and link those silos before students actually get to campus?

We need to create programs that connect college students to the greater Jewish community before (or when) they arrive in their college town. What about developing mentorship programs for Jewish studies majors who are interested in working in the Jewish community?  How about creating support systems for the hundreds of college students working in synagogues as teachers and youth group advisors?  Shouldn’t this be a priority? 

We need to develop an internet-internship hub for students majoring in business, marketing, and non-profit management ( a partial list of relevant majors) so motivated students can find placements in Jewish organizations.

Briefly, we need to worry about the big picture and not just one remedy–and more than just linking silos, we need to craft a web of connectedness.

We should be planning out an entire meal instead of focusing on the appetizers.  As  Jewish non-profit organizations we often take an a la carte approach to issues, hoping that a ‘quick fix’ will suffice. Since non-profits can’t get funding for what we really need (the whole meal) we try to get by with discrete programs (appetizers) and hope that will satiate the hunger.  

A co-worker of mine says “We’re not that rich to be so cheap!”  when frugal solutions are used instead of  a more costly but durable option.  Patchwork programs work in similar ways, tricking us into thinking the problem is solved.

So, why be content with tapas tastings? Because for the moment, it stays the hunger–which makes us feel a lot better.

But really, we’ve missed the mark.