Our Kids Just Cannot Get Enough of Temple Beth El
It is the beginning of the school year. It is time to get your kids up in the morning and to make sure they are safely home from school. It is time to start arranging car pools and babysitters. It is the beginning of fall sports, ballet, after-school tutoring, marching band, AP classes, and tons of homework. There are so many reasons why our kids cannot make it to Temple Beth El for Religious School, for youth group events, for madrichim hours. There is no extra time in anyone’s schedule while we are in this back-to-school mindset. Yet, we simply cannot keep kids of all ages away from Temple Beth El.
Things have changed since I was a kid in the Northeast. When I was growing up, the first day of Religious School did not entail give-aways and fun assemblies. Youth group meant playing foosball in a tiny lounge for an hour with five other kids. There was no teen band or teen vocal ensemble. After 7th grade, most people saw no reason to remain enrolled in Religious School. In fact, most people chose not to renew synagogue membership after their kids’ B’nai Mitzvah. Yet, we simply cannot keep kids of all ages away from Temple Beth El–especially post-B’nai Mitzvah aged teens.
To exemplify this TBE phenomenon, let’s shine the spotlight on a special group of teens who refuse to “graduate” out of Jewish learning and involvement after their B’nai Mitzvah: our Temple Beth El Religious School madrichim. I am thrilled that this year 100 8th-12th graders have registered for our madrichim program. That means I have the pleasure of managing 100 madrichim who volunteer in Religious School classrooms, song lead with Ms. Patty for the music specialty, help Yonatan with art projects, assist Sean White in the technology lab, babysit for our Religious School teachers, tutor Religious School children during class time, work with Susan Jacobs and Tracey Lederer in the Religious School office and at carpool, and help out with concession stand. These madrichim are required to be registered for Hebrew High until 10th grade, and 11th-12th graders are required to be involved in a Jewish teen group (such as LIBERTY, BBYO, Teen Band, Teen Vocal Ensemble). The value that these madrichim fulfill is crucial to the mission of Temple Beth El youth programs: the value that Jewish learning and involvement never ends.
Take the LIBERTY board, as another example. For two days during summer break, the seven teens in charge of ALL programming for our senior youth group buckled down in the TBE youth lounge to start planning events for the school year. It was sunny and warm outside, a perfect pool day. But the LIBERTY board preferred to stay indoors to make sure that they could organize the best possible events for LIBERTY 8th-12th graders this year. The LIBERTY board meets several times each month and puts many hours into their role as youth group leaders. I am proud to be an advisor for the youth-led LIBERTY senior youth group, and to give support to the LIBERTY board.
Take the LIBERTY board, LIBERTY song leaders, and LIBERTY grade representatives, as a third example. All of these hard working LIBERTYites had a long week of school last week, yet on Friday afternoon they boarded the bus to the Liz Leadership Training Institute to gain the skills necessary to be effective Temple Youth Group Leaders. Instead of sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday, these leaders were working hard in break-out networking sessions to learn how to plan and implement meaningful youth group events at Temple Beth El.
How does Temple Beth El support the masses of kids who cannot stay away from our Jewish community? I want to highlight the invaluable work of the Youth Engagement Committee (YEC), led by co-chairs Liz Morgan and Carissa Schlesinger, with direction from myself and Rabbi Freirich. Our committee meets once a month to work on different aspects of youth programming that benefit TBE kids of all ages. If you are a new member of Temple Beth El, it is only a matter of time before the YEC Member Outreach coordinator, Brian Yesowitch, shoots you an email to tell you about our incredible youth programs. Several of our committee members volunteer to serve as junior youth group “liaisons,” where they help facilitate the programs so that all of the activities run smoothly during the event. If you have a teen who is involved in NFTY, the Youth Engagement Committee will be responsible for organizing layleader volunteers to house, supervise, and feed about 350 teens during Spring Kallah, the NFTY regional convention, at Temple Beth El in April 2015. If your teen is graduating high school this year, they will be invited to a Graduation Shabbat ceremony and service organized by YEC Graduation Shabbat co-chairs Liz Morgan and Holly Gainsboro. Once your teen leaves for college, Nathalie Malter, the YEC College Connection chair, will keep them connected to their Beth El families by mailing care packages and by organizing TBE College Connection reunions. Our plan to consistently and reliably promote youth events is being spearheaded by Beth Lewis, the YEC Communications Coordinator. Our committee also serves the vital role of fundraising for youth scholarships, so that cost is never a barrier to participation in our youth programs. What are some examples of YEC fundraisers? Nathalie Malter is an expert at coordinating our fall Autobell fundraiser; Brian Yesowitch and Rabbi Freirich take the lead on our March Madness brackets fundraiser; this year Andrea and Mara Gose will take charge of the January Bingo fundraiser; finally, you can thank the Youth Engagement Committee bagel chairs Alison Levinson and Janna Stein for those bagels that we sell at Religious School every Sunday.
With the year-round dedication of this committee of parents and lay leaders, the success of Temple Beth El youth programs is guaranteed. It is no wonder that our kids never want to leave Temple Beth El with such a strong support for our outstanding youth programs.
How can you support Temple Beth El Youth programs to start the New Year off right? Come to the K-7th Grade Bingo Tournament and Ice Cream Social on October 11th, from 3-5 PM to learn about youth group, meet other youth group families, and learn how you can become involved. Support our fundraisers throughout the year to help us raise enough money so that cost is not a barrier to participation in youth events. Stay updated by reading the upcoming events on the weekly congregational emails and by reading bi-monthly “News for Jews” e-newsletters. I am so grateful for the way our community supports youth programs, and I am looking forward to a fantastic year at Temple Beth El.