As part of the inaugural national launch of Moving Traditions’ program for teen boys, Shevet Achim: The Brotherhood, 25 men gathered for a training seminar in New York. In the mix were professional Jewish educators (rabbis and rabbinical students, teachers, directors of teen programs and summer camps) and men that work in the wider world (two lawyers, a pediatrician, a sommelier, a yoga instructor, a film editor and a sportswriter) who are willing to serve as mentors for local Jewish teens. The point of the gathering was to ask the question: Given the high post-bar mitzvah dropoff rates for guys, how can the Jewish community do a better job of reaching out to teen boys?
In 2011, Moving Traditions is launching a new eight-session program for boys in 8th and 9th grades. The Brotherhood is based on their research and has been tested with multiple groups of boys in a variety of Jewish educational settings.
The informal curriculum is presented in two-hour sessions that can be incorporated into on-going programming or offered on a stand-alone basis.
The curriculum includes:
- Enjoyable activities that create safe space and enable boys to engage in meaningful discussion.
- Content that draws on Judaism and gives boys the opportunity to explore issues they care about, such as friendship, sex, power, money, and work.
- Resources to help educators and youth workers facilitate meaningful conversations with boys.
Rabbi Daniel S. Brenner, director of initiatives for boys and men at Moving Traditions, described the Brotherhood training session held in New York:
"Our goal is to train mentors to use play, critical thinking and storytelling to engage teen boys in the question of what it means to be a mensch. We see this effort as an inherently Jewish activity, focusing on the ongoing character development and values education that we have traditionally done on a weekly basis through the cyclical study of Pirkei Avot.
During the training, we delved into Maimonides’ ideas about extreme personalities and how these energies are balanced through self-awareness and discipline. We shared Chasidic teachings on maturity, and we traced the last 3,500 years of Jewish men, unearthing multiple models of strength, kindness and courage…
After Rosh HaShanah, these men will begin to meet with teens in their communities and develop ongoing forums where teen boys can meet, hang out, play games and talk about what it means to be a man. The programs will take place in six metropolitan areas, with plans to expand to additional cities in the coming year."