Rabbi Jonah Pesner blogs about Rabbi Eric Yoffie's final act of leadership of the Union for Reform Judaism, the launching of the Campaign for Youth Engagement (CYE). The Campaign for Youth Engagement is a collaborative effort across the Reform Movement that is built upon the foundation laid by many groups dedicated to Jewish youth. This collective was established by a handful of rabbis and volunteer leaders,who called for a renewed commitment by the Reform Movement to NFTY, and, more broadly, to youth work as a whole.
"The goal of the Campaign for Youth Engagement is to transform and strengthen the relationships between teens, their peers, their families, and their congregations. The CYE will dramatically improve the ability of Reform institutions to involve young people in meaningful Jewish life and will strengthen post-b'nei mitzvah engagement and retention in synagogues, day schools, camps, and youth programs throughout North America. We will leverage the breadth and depth of relationships that exist within and beyond Reform Movement institutions and congregations to bring to bear the full commitment of talent, resources, and time at the Movement's disposal in order to make success the norm, not the exception."
"Already the CYE leadership inspired the Union board to expand the scope and reach of NFTY by hiring, mentoring, and training more regional youth staff to increase our capacity to reach the youth of today. The Union's effort is complemented by the new Certificate Program in Jewish Education for Adolescents and Emerging Adults by the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), which is generously supported by a grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation. In addition, the Joint Commission on Lifelong Jewish Learning is exploring new curricula and pilot programs to introduce innovative models of congregational life, and invited Just Congregations, the community organizing strategy of Reform Judaism, to join the growing team focused on transforming youth engagement.
Over the past 18 months, we have greatly expanded the number of individuals, organizations and congregations committed to this effort.
Highlights of the past year include:
- The Union expanded its full-time regional youth program managers from two to seven; by the end of 2012 there will 12 total.
- HUC-JIR has already recruited the first-ever cohort for the new certificate program in youth education, preparing to seed the field with talented youth professionals with a new level of skill and commitment.
- Over 100 URJ congregations are participating in pilot projects designed to engage post-b'nei mitzvah teens.
- The Union has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in new gifts as seed money to hire new staff, offer training, and help congregations incubate new strategies."