Engaging Teens Through A Jewish Service Corps

Published: 
Dec. 27, 2011

Source: The Jewish Week

 

Leonard Saxe proposes creating an exciting, attractive program which will attract teens to continue engagement with Judaism after bar/bat mitzvah age. A Jewish service corps, which culminates in a meaningful experience of service learning. Being a member of the service corps would involve a series of short intensive programs that would culminate in a two- to 12-month experience at the end of high school.

 In response to the findings of Amy Sales and colleagues that Jewish teens want to have good friends, want to do well academically, and get into a good college and having a strong Jewish identity, being involved in the Jewish community, and leading a religiously observant life are low on their priority list, Saxe concludes that we must create mega-projects on the scale of Taglit-Birthright Israel to attract Jewish teens.

 The Jewish service program would have universalistic elements and, for example, teach study and leadership skills, but it would also illustrate the relevance of Jewish thought. Being a member of the service corps would involve a series of short intensive programs that would culminate in a two - to 12-month experience at the end of high school.

 

Saxe writes:

"Ideally, the culminating program should include travel and study components and link Jewish youth from communities across the North America with those in Israel and elsewhere. The goal is to make it a major inflection point in the lives of adolescents, as significant as the bar and bat mitzvah. To prepare for the service corps, religious-based youth groups and secular youth movements would take on the role of recruitment and training centers.

 To succeed, the service corps has to be so exciting, engaging, and universalistic in its focus and training that every Jewish teenager and parent of a teen will see participation as a necessity. The service corps will need to provide them with the skills and experience that increase their attractiveness to colleges, while immersing them in study of Judaism’s rich tradition of ethical and practical thought."

 

Read Saxe's full article in the Jewish Week.

Updated: Jan. 10, 2012
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