Tag Archives: Jewish Teens

Parent Conversations With Teens

Teens sharing earphones, listening music outdo...

We need to tune in to teens

Life is busy, so how do we get the time to interact with teen-aged kids when everybody is literally on the run?

By the time teens are in high school, the time you may get to spend with each other may be less than an hour per day–including dinner.

Try to take that in. That’s an abysmally low amount of time to talk about the big stuff of life….that is if you ever get to it.

The constant pecks of life’s immediacies, like “When do you need to be picked up?” “When is that report due?” “Did you wash my uniform?” “What’s in the frig/freezer for dinner?” tend to take over any paltry time there is in a day.

It’s tempting to put off important conversations until there’s more time, but when does that time come?

In a very short time, they’ll be out of the house.

I remember when my oldest child was going off to college, the reality came crashing in on me when she came ambling down the steps, carrying an enormous amount of stuff and shifting her weight between the backpack and a duffel bag on her shoulder.

She was taking her stuff! She was really leaving—-and for the next four years, at the minimum, she’d have a home base somewhere else.

Questions and self-doubt came pouring in.

Did I use every opportunity to have meaningful conversations with her? Was she really equipped to be on her own? Had we instilled enough Jewish values so she’d have a strong foundation to draw upon in college? Would she select friends who would be equally concerned about values and ethics?  Would she make the right decisions? Would she make those choice through a Jewish lens?

My questions couldn’t even begin to cover the doubts I had, or most parents might have, before sending their teen off to college.

So, how can you capture this very precious time before your teen bounds out of the house for good?

For us, the clock slowed its frenetic pace once a week, giving us an opportunity to capture special time that only Shabbat can allow. It was our time to take a breather, catch up and check in with each other…..on a far deeper level than the trivialities of the everyday permit.

It also taught us to make the most of every single conversation and interaction.

What does it mean to maximize conversation? Don’t let things go in favor of waiting for a ‘better time’. Most likely it won’t come.

The expression ‘don’t sweat the small stuff?’….mostly ignore it. Yes, for sure, don’t dwell on the little details of life that in the grand scheme, won’t amount to much one way or the other….but DO sweat about anything that has larger life implications—like things with moral/ethical underpinnings.

Regardless of your personal observances, having an island of time (as Heschel called it) is almost an essential approach in today’s frantically paced world.  So, you  might want to think about instituting something like it….and the period of time between Friday night and Saturday night is a convenient reminder.

First, when making that decision, you must ignore the eye rolls and shrugs. That’s part of the script that just is. You’ll need to get over it. Let the conversations begin.

Photo credit: wikipedia creative commons 2.0 license


“But I’ve already been to the museum!”

Negotiating with teens when they say "been there, done that!"

Negotiating with teens when they say “been there, done that!”

The entire school was taking a trip to the relatively new National Museum of American Jewish History, located in Philadelphia. The museum, with thousands of historic treasures, interactive exhibits, and multi-media presentations, has caused many people to say that they could spend days there and not see everything.

Yet, we heard that one student, when he learned about the trip, went home and confidently told his mother: “I don’t want to go. I’ve already been to the museum once.” 

The comment above is not specific to the museum. It is a catch phrase for all things that kids think they’ve already done, if they’ve done it once.

I remember working with a student on his course selections for the coming year. I suggested a class that I thought he’d find really interesting, based on his background. He didn’t ask me any clarifying questions, and without missing a quarter-note, told me assertively: “I don’t need to take that class, I’ve already taken Talmud!”

Put in whatever word works for you here, so that the comment would be equally humorous:

“I don’t need to take that class, I’ve already taken engineering.” (architecture, medicine, fine arts, or any area of study that could be endlessly interesting if someone had the interest).

So, how as parents and educators do we get past the “been there, done that” syndrome?

With patience, explanations, and the confidence that we know better. 

We should never assume because someone is in school, that there is a deep understanding of the process of learning.

We need the confidence to communicate that when it comes to learning anything, revisits are important and necessary. Gaining depth of a subject matter, seeing things again from a new perspective, is a good thing.

Let’s think about that, and let that very thought bring sweet smiles to our faces when we meet at our Seder tables and hear “But we did this last year!”


Doing a 360 on Attendance in a Part-Time School

Cover of "Class Clown"

Class Clowns: Not That Funny

Recently, I participated in a webinar, sponsored by JESNA, on issues related to complementary (supplementary, part-time) schools.

This was an unusual experience. I was asked to facilitate a group of about ten online participants and discuss the topic of declining attendance. Aside from one familiar name, I didn’t know any one. We examined the issue from the point of view of these stakeholders; Education Director, Parent, and Teacher, and we brainstormed a list of issues surrounding the topic.

It was interesting that this online group of educators and school directors, representing schools from all over the country, mentioned a familiar list: conflicting activities, less parental engagement, too few class expectations, too much school homework, class management issues, social pressures, plus other reasons that were sound and thoughtful.

I’m sure many of us approached this issue of declining attendance in a variety of contexts and perhaps came up with similar but expanded lists of reasons and issues. So, what’s the news here?

I’m not sure what anyone else took away from this online discussion, but for me, there was a particular enlightening moment.

When I suggested we view this issue from the vantage point of the student, I was literally overwhelmed with all of the emotional baggage that our students have to deal with when they attend erratically.

To be clear, these are not going to be things that haven’t come up in conversations before.

It’s just that listed all together, I felt such compassion for that poor kid having to attend any program in this way.

Would any adult be able to handle such a thing? “Kind of” attending a program? Participating “now and then”?

Really, just think about this for a minute. How comfortable would you be in this situation? Think about the social and academic implications.

Now, think of how you might experience this as an adolescent:

You are lost most of the time. Most likely, you haven’t kept up with the work. You don’t really know everything the teacher is referencing, but you pretend because you don’t want to ask questions or ‘stick out’. You may be out of things socially. You may cover up this inadequacy with acting out behavior. You need some sort of role in the class, and class academic is out. So the other roles available that unconsciously suit you may be class clown, troublemaker, blocker, etc. Other kids may resent the fact that you’re not there regularly, as they are. You  haven’t really formed a connection with the teacher.

Though you’ve been absent often, it actually becomes harder to attend.  So you think of reasons not to go. Like complaining a lot. Finding excuses to do other things. Begging your parents not to send you to that ‘awful’ place.

No surprise then, that declining attendance begets a further attendance drop.

I was totally overwhelmed with what students like this experience when they don’t attend Jewish education programs on a regular basis and the challenges they probably face as a result.

How can we use this information?

I know that as a teacher, I’ve often expressed frustration/guilt when my students did not attend regularly. It’s not that I was ever harsh, I just wanted them to know that I missed them and wanted them to be part of the class.

I’d change that now and say something a little different.

I’d make a real effort to show much more compassion for what they’re coping with, maybe privately even get a reference check about the unique challenges they must feel, and help ease their transition into the classroom world any way I could.

They’re dealing with enough.


Writings About Jewish Teens: Annual Review

The WordPress.com team sends me a summary e-mail at the end of the year (complete with fireworks!) that help me learn about what you find interesting to read about Jewish teens.

There is a list of the most viewed blogs–can you think of a better motivator?  Even in my very, very small niche world, this list gets compared (ready?) to the number of climbers of Mount Everest! See below.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest last year. This blog got about 8,900 views. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 12 years to get that many views.

See what I mean? Here’s the list:

A Few Top Posts

1. From Jewish Camp to Synagogue: Five No Brainers

This post talks about the chasm experienced by many campers when they return home after a summer injection of Judaism, and what synagogues can do to bridge the gap.

2. Judging Jewish Education by Fun

What are the trade-offs between programs that offer fun and those that offer content?

3. Five Things Parents Should Know

I know what you may be thinking. People seem to like the number five. (See number 1.) Interesting, no? These are things that parents should know about Jewish education for their teens.

4. Hiring Teen Aides? (Full disclosure: this title had the number five in it too, but on my end, it’s just how many tips I wrote at the time).

Synagogues use/hire teen aides in the classroom for all sorts of reasons. Here are some reasons to think about the intentions of these efforts.

5. One minute, three reasons why Jewish education helps teens focus on what’s important.

The title pretty much says it.

6.”Please feel free to contact me….”Advice for #Jteens and others

I wrote this in response to an e-mail I received from a job applicant, and found the comment an ironic one from a person wanting to make a favorable impression.

7. “Wow, You’re Soooo Jewish!”

I wrote this post after hearing a student tell this to another student in a Jewish values class. It’s interesting to see the students’ take on just how “Jewish” things are.

One more thing, a 2011 post made the list, and you can read that here:

What I learned about marketing from working at a Jewish community high school 

You might have missed some of the ones above, or want to read more about Jewish teens. Hit the subscribe button, and you won’t miss a thing!


A Q & A : with a Jewish teen’s cell phone

There's an app for that?

There’s an app for that?

I recently followed a WordPress blog that offers a daily dollop of inspiration to bloggers.

What a gift, right?

Today’s challenge: “Write a Q & A style interview with an inanimate object.”

So, with a nod of thanks to WordPress, here goes:

Reporter (R): So, I see that you’re a smart phone, right?

Teen’s Cell Phone (C): Duh, you can see the apps, can’t you? (Did I mention that this cell phone has an attitude and a particularly expensive-looking case?)

R: Okay, point well taken. So, I do see that you have tons of apps. Impressive.

Any Jewish ones?

C: Wha? Jewish apps? Never heard of that. Anywhere. You’re kiddin’ right?

R: Nope. (trying to sound cool). Know what the Hebrew date is? There’s an app for that.

R: Feel like whipping up some latkes? Matzo balls? Check out the Jewish cooking app.

(Gaining traction here). Mood strike you to see when Passover is? There’s an app for that too.

(All of a sudden, C ‘s index finger finds the App store, and the keyboard starts buzzing when C starts to search for Jewish apps.)

C: No way!!!! Jewish rock music? Free??? Jewish Quotes? From the Bible? Cool!!! Live streaming radio from ISRAEL? No way!

R: Yes, way.

C: There should be a class on this! Well, maybe not a class….that’s going, like, way too far. But some way for me and my owner to find out.

(Getting a little sad….) Like in Hebrew school I have to keep out of sight. In my owner’s backpack. Or pocket. Or worse….on the teacher’s desk where I know my owner feels the lifeline is gone.

(Feeling guilty here…) My owner once got in real bad trouble, so I’m off-limits.

But, someone should tell someone there’s all this cool stuff….

R: So  noted.

Photo credit: Patrick Gage


Jewish Culture: Enough For Our Teens?

what will keep Jews marrying Jews?

What Will Keep Jews marrying Jews?

At a recent holiday party, I had been speaking with a Pastor of  the Calvary Full Gospel Church.  He introduced me to his wife who comes from a Greek Orthodox background.

Her choice, to be in a relationship with this person who practiced differently and lived outside her cultural community, set off a flurry of shunning behavior.

Why?

Similar to the themes in the film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding“, her parents felt she was going outside the fold and giving up her Greek culture to marry this man. She would become part of his church. To them and her community, she was assimilating.

Who would continue the cultural traditions? Historical traditions would be lost. Future generations would not know their ways.

Sound familiar? Unfortunately, to many it does.

Here’s just one tiny example, from an article in the New York Times wedding section. Make your own decision about the relevance Judaism has for this couple:

“For Mitch, brought up Protestant, and his wife, Emma (nee Weise, of Jewish descent), religion is best practiced through matzo balls and pickled herring from Zabar’s.”

Here’s what the Pastor told me when he explained that his wife’s parents shouldn’t have been surprised by her choice:

“Culture will never be enough of a pull to keep someone connected to their traditions. There has to be more.”

Becoming very interested in the direction this conversation was taking, I asked:

“Can you describe ‘more’? ”

As he elaborated, his words resonated with me and my work with Jewish teens.

“If you’re not reaching people deeply, through a spiritual and God connection, commitment will never be there.”

His wife joined in at that point. “Sure, I went to church, but it never really touched me. It was so mechanical. I didn’t feel a reason to be there.”

So, what are the reasons we want our teens to ‘stay Jewish’?

I think every Jewish parent and educator needs to answer this question.

Are the primary reasons cultural?

We all know that ‘bagels and lox’ Judaism doesn’t mean a poppy-seed for the long haul. Epitomizing the height of cultural fluff, has Chanukah been enough of an attraction to stave off assimilation and help young adults stay connected?

Luscious latkes and games of dreidel can easily exist within other frameworks as cultural add-ons.

I’ve read about weddings (between two non-Jewish partners) that have incorporated marriage canopies and glass-breaking ceremonies because it’s a nice touch.

Cultural-isms migrate very nicely. Deeper connections are harder to give up.

We do know this. It’s why the assimilation rate of Orthodox Jews is so much less. Community pulls. So does a belief system.

So, where are we with what we’re providing our Jewish teens? When will we decide that in order to increase their long-term connection we have to go deep?

What spiritual connections are we building that will sustain them through adulthood? What will keep Jews marrying Jews?

What is your feedback? I’ll share your comments and add my own in future posts.

Photo credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Three Jewish Teens: Tons of Time? Not

What clock do these teens use?

What clock do these teens use?

I’ll paint the picture. Last night I chatted with a group of three 9th grade teenage boys, hanging out in the synagogue lobby, waiting for a ride home after attending a community pluralistic supplementary Jewish high school program in suburbia.

What I didn’t know, is that right in front of me, was such a rich representation of Jewish teen life.

Typical teens. Phones in hand, either texting or waiting for one. Yet they were so willing to answer my questions after I introduced myself.

“So, how are you guys doing?”

“Great!”

“How’s your time here been?”

“Cool, we like it.”

“Glad to hear it! So, do you “do” anything else ‘Jewish’?”

“Yea.”

“Like what?”

The three of them proceeded to tell me what they do.

They’re active (hold positions on committees) in the synagogue’s youth group, USY. There’s more.

They also attend a Jewish summer camp sponsored by HaBonim Dror (not affiliated with the synagogue/youth group). There’s more.

They also participate in a once a month boys-only group sponsored by Moving Traditions.

They also just started high school.

How do these boys have the time?

Do they get more hours in a day than the average teen? Are they more organized? Less social? Less academic?

No. No. No. and No.

You can figure it out. It ‘s what sets some families apart from others. We know who they are.

They’re the ones who know that for teens, multiple connection points to the Jewish community is proven to be a good thing—for character, and all those other intangibles I’ve written about previously.

That’s what the studies haven’t been able to quantify.

Who are those parents? What drives them to make the decisions they do? How can we support them? Find more of them?


When You Say “Jewish Community,” Who are You Talking About?

Image

The largest collection of open-ocean animals found in an aquarium

Who is in your Jewish community? Really, start to define who you consider a part of your community.

Do you get a static or lively impression? Are there people of all ages and religious movements in your community? Or is it limited to who belongs where you belong?

What I’ve written about here, is that often “membership” dictates who is in your community. Whether it’s synagogue or JCC, ‘belonging’ seems to define who is in your immediate Jewish community.  Gone from that definition of community are those individuals who have not signed up right along with you, those who tend to be on the fringe.

Not a great way to teach teens that the Jewish community is a fluid, open-networked concept.

With today’s networked world, we really can move beyond the boundaries of walls to begin to define who we are.

I am not saying that belonging is bad, it’s a very good thing to be part of something greater than yourself.

But if your only connection to the Jewish community is where you hold a formal ‘memberships’, you might be missing out on meeting others who haven’t ‘joined’. What are ways that you might connect to the larger Jewish community?

What if every city had a portal to Jewish life, with links to all things Jewish in the area—one that was interactive, and came with a live chat option with a ‘Concierge’? How great would that be? That helpful person would help you navigate through the many options available to you, no matter what your age.

From a pluralistic point of view, that means that everyone gets represented in the community stew.

And your Jewish community just expanded into an open, fluid, and networked concept, just right for the web 3.0 world.

 


Does the Jewish Community Connect Teens to a Jewish Network?

Judaism

Are we reaching high enough?

I doubt that anyone would say that mentoring teens during the coming-of-age years is not a good thing. It’s also doubtful that based on the data we have today, anyone would disagree that we need to connect Jewish teens to the community more, not less.

Doing so helps create a sense of community while building connections, awareness, responsibility, self-esteem, problem-solving skills, and gobs more of all the good stuff. So why don’t we do it more?

Relationship building needs to be at the core of any effort to connect teens with Judaism, and though many programs meet those goals, few consistently deliver over a period of time on communal connections beyond the program itself.

Let me give a few examples.

There are many discrete programs, some gender-based, some philanthropically oriented, some at camps, some in synagogues, some not….that connect Jewish teens to each other and their individual mentor/educator/volunteer but don’t build lasting bridges to the larger Jewish community.

Those programs, successful as they are, often function as “Jewish island experiences” (my term) that are wonderful options while teens are there, but don’t build enough bridges for teens to get off the island.  There seems to be little integration between the groups and the greater Jewish community, either in formal or informal ways.

I remember when I was at summer camp, there was a special program in the last week titled “How to Take Camp Home.” That, in itself, was a great idea and a start to help bind the two experiences. The trouble was, no one in my home community had a similar program called “How to Create Camp Here.”

Recently, I accompanied a group of Jewish teens to local college campuses, specifically to check out Hillel and Jewish life.  The students were so appreciative that this world was opened up to them before they had to make decisions about college. Yet, this trip was clearly a one-way effort.  It was in the best interest of these teen’s Jewish education to have them tour Jewish life on campus, but there is no outreach the other way, from campus to community.

Many programs are like that: one-way avenues to Jewish identity.

We need to make sure that the content we’re offering our teens is not limited to Jewish island experiences but instead function as experiences which connect, web-like to other Jewish organizations and future Jewish activities.

Why not encourage the teens in our programs to further their Jewish education into areas that are not explored in the curriculum that go way beyond the specific setting? Information is available on so many topics, in so many venues, that we really have no excuse for not constructing those bridges when students are in our programs or when they’re getting ready to leave.

In order to build Jewish community in an organic and authentic way, as leaders we need to think beyond our own programs and build-in fundamental ways of integrating those experiences into a larger framework. Building programmatic scaffolds to connect and weave the experiences so they don’t stand alone would be an important step to secure Jewish continuity. In addition we would, as leaders, model the very behavior we want our teens to develop.

(Photo credit: Jrwooley6)


SuperStorm #Sandy: Getting Beyond OMG!

OMG

OMG (Photo credit: mac.lachlan)

In our terribly connected world, we’re never really far from seeing devastation up close.  Like unwilling voyeurs, we watch some fantastic yet unreal world that is occurring in real-time right in front of us—-on a screen in our kitchens, dens, and yet the media itself creates an incredible distance to whatever we’re seeing.

It’s like the caricature of a parent eagerly taping her child’s recital while missing the real impact of the performance.

We see instant pictures, read tweets and blogs, hear news updates, and feel others’ pain very acutely. But it passes. Too soon.

At these times I’m sure most of us think about the fragility of life. The thread that holds everything together sometimes feels very slippery indeed. We can take this as adults. What we need to do is open conversations with our teens about what they’re witnessing beyond the OMG! reactions.

How do they feel about the loss of human control these events portray?

What other events have happened in their lives when they felt a loss of control?

What helps them gain a sense of strength?

How can they focus on gratitude for the ordinary?

Do they think about G-d in any of these contexts?

Here’s our chance as Jewish educators, parents, and teachers to help facilitate these conversations.


Jewish Teens: Do you want to be the same or different?

Figuring out where you stand is the challenge

I believe every Jewish teen has to make a fundamental decision, especially when getting ready to think about college.

Behind that decision are responses to feelings about Jewish identity.

The question begins with: How do I feel about being Jewish?

Is there anything in the way I feel about my heritage that makes me different?

Is there anything I do that makes me feel different?

How do those differences contribute to who I am? Are these differences that I should celebrate or run away from?

Would I rather be the same or different from other students who aren’t Jewish?

Are our Jewish teens getting any guidance about this?

These prompts are either-or in nature, though we know that life is not generally like that.

But in order to really prioritize values, the black-white choices are what helps clear the dust from the corners.

Underlying any choice is the light shining on the things that matter for our teens’ future Jewish involvements in college and beyond.

There are no easy answers to this one.  It depends on what the family has decided to value.

Research and studies have shown that the more multiple connections to Jewish life, the more Jewish identity is secured.

But that only matters if Jewish parents want their teens to maintain their differences.

Right now, the pull seems to be toward sameness.

Are you facing these challenges? Please share your thoughts.

Related articles

Photo source: wikimedia.org


Outcome-Based Parenting for Jewish Teenagers: What Do You Want for Your Teen?

"Parenting"

How are you defining parenting?

A recent blog post called “Parents’ Aspirations for Their Children” in Education week  posed this question and challenged readers to respond with a list of attributes, character traits, values, that parents hoped their child would gain throughout their education.

How would you answer the question?

We focus on results when our teenagers are in education settings, but what would ‘outcome -based’ parenting look like? (if  there is such a term).

How might that inform your daily interactions?

What do you really want for your teenager in life?

My experience when I’ve asked this question of parents is that most respond with “I want him/her to be happy.”

Dennis Prager, famous talk-show host and lecturer, has said that parents often say they want their children to be successful or happy, but the world would be a much better place if  hopes for their child emphasized kindness.

What would today look like if we planned for tomorrow?

What might you do today, that would ensure you’re meeting your list of outcomes for your teenager?

Photo credit: Carol VanHook


These Questions Weren’t Answered in Hebrew School

Jew street

Will Jewish Teens Find Answers Here?

Hebrew School may answer questions like “what do I need to know for my Bar/Bat Mitvah” but there are many questions Jewish pre-teens have about Judaism that most schools just don’t have the opportunity to answer.

I was teaching a class to eighth graders called “What Makes Me Jewish?” and for an opening ice breaker, I asked them (95% of whom ‘graduated’  a typical Hebrew school, 100%  had become a Bar/Bat Mitzvah) to respond to  “A question I have about Judaism is…..” with one of their most pressing questions.

This exercise is interesting on two levels. One, it lets us know what students of this age wonder about. On another level, it demonstrates quite candidly, though from a very small sample, what Hebrew School can and can’t accomplish.  It does help make the case for continued Jewish education.

The questions ranged from the very general to the very specific.  Some are humorous, some reflective, some painfully poignant.

All are worth noting.

I have not left any question out. Here are their questions:

What does Judaism think about Heaven and Hell?

What is mysticism?

Why are tattoos bad (sic) in Judaism?

Why do we bow to the ark/G-d, if we aren’t supposed to worship idols?

How does the Jewish calendar work? When is the leap year and why?

Why are the jews (sic) always the scapegoat?

If we believe in G-d, why does the beginning of B’reisheet (Genesis) use the plural form of G-d? (this questioner clearly has done some studying of the Bible to ask this question)

What are the different values or points of view between the different types (sic) of Judaism?

Why do we have kashrut rules?  (yes, this student wrote ‘kashrut’ instead of kosher!)

What is it like to be a teen in Israel?    (interesting, this student’s question was not exactly about Judaism, but an inference made about Israeli teens).

How do we know that everything in the Torah is true? (notice that the questioner doesn’t write “if everything” but “that everything”)

How many religious Jews are there in Israel?

How many rules of the 613 do we actually follow these days? (immense credit is given for knowing the number of mitzvot –   commandments!).

Why are we looked down upon as Jews?

What do kosher Jews (sic) think about Jews who don’t keep kosher?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What do you think of these questions?  As an adult, how similar or different are the questions you have? Did you have these questions as a teenager?

Photo Credit: Flickr JP

Related articles


Can Character Be Taught to Teens?

Character Education: what has your teen learned?

Character Education: what has your teen learned?

 

What are the most important traits to develop in students?

At the end of high school, what would you want your teenager to know?

What character attributes will help teenagers succeed beyond school into the journey of life?

These questions are different from ‘outcome’ based education, which is based on content knowledge.

Instead, they ask the larger, more complicated questions that have no specific answer.

Yet, the quantifiable often gets the nod over those things that are difficult to measure and assess.

In a recent New York Times article, some schools have determined that building character is more important than building curriculum, and are backing that goal up with new initiatives.

What are the essential qualities to build character? Leadership?

Most of us recognize that the turmoil of years past, with ethical missteps and outright criminal behavior being acted out in the public arena, by formerly esteemed individuals, we need to really think about how to instill character-building activities in our youth.

Schools are stepping up to the plate, and regardless of how little or much parents are doing, most see this as a good thing.

One Chicago school professional labeled character traits as “resilience, integrity, resourcefulness, professionalism and ambition” which lead to leadership skills.

But this change will take time. What does exist now, are experiences for teens that work on these very things. Think scouting, faith-based after school education, and informal leadership activities like youth groups.

So, if you agree with this concept, that we need to pay attention to character traits (however you define them), your task as a parent and/or educator is to create opportunities for these traits to flourish. Starting  now is a good idea.

image: wikipedia.org


Parents: Will your teen ‘do’ Jewish in college?

English: Rutgers Hillel

Campus Hillel: Will this be the place where your teen ‘does’ Jewish? 

What is the college campus like today?

How does it differ from when you attended?

Even more to think about are the challenges your Jewish teen will face once there.

A recent article acknowledged what most already know: “64% of  those currently enrolled in a traditional four-year institution reported a decline in religious service attendance….”

For Jewish students, this statistic is probably understated, if based on my own recent anecdotal interactions with college freshmen.

Here’s the reality you might want to think about:

1. Having a Hillel on campus is not a guarantee of  a Jewish connection.  Inclusiveness is not always the name of the game. Each Hillel takes on a different culture based on the campus where it is located. Students may be over or under-represented from a particular Jewish denomination, perhaps causing other students some discomfort.  Students I spoke to were not comfortable going to Hillel based on the above reasons.

2. Even if the denomination leanings are a match, students active in that Hillel might not hang in the same crowd as your teen, making it just as hard to participate as any other activity where like-minded teens are sought. Just because it’s “Jewish” doesn’t mean that participation is a given. Students sometimes labeled Hillel participants as people they wouldn’t ‘hang out with’.

3. Many groups compete on the college campus for your teen’s attention, some of those groups represent other faiths.  Peer pressure is stronger on campus than you’d imagine, students tend to ‘go with the flow’, especially in the early years of college. Some students attend functions sponsored by other faith groups on campus,  if the activity was perceived as ‘cool’.

4. Colleges are becoming less ‘religion-friendly’, not more. It’s a challenge for Jewish students to take time off for holiday observances, and colleges that used to have days off to accommodate  are stopping that practice in favor of being more fair to all religions. (Though more Jewish holidays occur in the fall, and students mostly have off during ‘other’ holidays, Ramadan excluded).

5. Both Hillel, by offering programs out of the typical Hillel building, and Chabad, by reaching teens through a variety of programming as well (some controversial), are trying to involve Jewish students as much as possible. The reality however, by recent studies of Jewish college students, points to the fact that students just are not ‘organization joiners’ in the traditional sense. Affiliation is just not that important to them.

One message you might take from this?

Don’t wait until your teens gets on the college campus to ‘do’ Jewish. Chances are not great that a Jewish connection will suddenly flower. What about Birthright you say? Read a future post about that one.

 

Photo credit: Wikipedia