Possibilites Post-B’nai Mitzvah: Let’s Keep Talking

At our Networking Workshop for Jewish Youth Professionals, “After the Big Day: Possibilities Post-B’nai Mitzvah”, a powerful triumvirate of youth-empowerment groups generously shared their projects, their ideas, and their philosophies. As Ma’yan’s mission directs us to do, we heard from the youth themselves about their experiences with their organizations, and were challenged to think bigger and broader about how we engage teens and about where the energy and ideas comes from for our work with teens (their parents, us, or their youth themselves). Hearing about the impressive, impactful, successful work of these groups left us with hope and inspiration for what is possible. For a full report on the presentations click here.

We heard from Erikka Diaz, a youth journalist, and Kaari Pitkin the Senior Producer at Radio Rookies on WNYC, from Emerson Brisbon, a youth leader, and Yasmeen Perez, the Director of Leadership Development at  FIERCE, a membership-based organization building the leadership and power of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth of color in New York City, and  from Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls Executive Director, Karla Schickele and from a veteran camper, Emily Carpenter. We also had in the room Naomi Less of Jewish Chicks Rock and Tehila Wise from Congregation Kolot Chayeinu in Brooklyn who both shared programs they are working on that mirror the youth empowerment, feminist, and social change values shared by the featured organizations from the secular world.

In closing we asked participants what they are taking away with them from the workship and here is some of what we heard:

  • “The power and importance of education for action”
  • “How powerful teens can be – how we can and should tap into their issues and concerns”
  • “ Had the idea to develop relationships with people outside of our community – not just Jews talking to Jews”
  • “It was great to be exposed to programs we didn’t know about and would otherwise never have known about”
  • “The importance of connections and partnerships – that it is ok to use material created by other as long as you give attribution”
  • “The knowledge that there are lots of people to learn from and so much possibility

We ended with possibility which is what we had hoped for when we titled the workshop: “After the Big Day: Possibilities Post-B’nai Mitzvah”!

Part of what participants also shared were the challenges and differences in doing this work within a Jewish community. Some of what we heard included :

  1. Teens aren’t coming to Jewish programs because they want to, but because their parents are encouraging/forcing them to.
  2. We are trying to foster Jewish literacy and identity which is different from doing leadership development work and youth empowerment work.
  3. How can we involve more youth voices and ideas in program planning, not just doing what we think should be done?

What do YOU think?

 I invite you to post your comments below about these challenges and questions—whether or not you attended the workshop. Let’s get  ideas and conversation flowing…

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