Using the ATM (Art, Theater, Music) to Bring Teens to Temple

April 24, 201



At Or Ami, A.T.M. stands for “Art, Theater, Music,” a teen engagement program that is part of our constellation of teen activities. A.T.M. begins with a simple premise: that many young people find expression and relief from stress through arts and music, and we, the Jewish community, need to capitalize on that reality.


A few times a month, a diverse group of 7th-11th graders meet with a talented Jewish musician, and sometimes also with a young actress. Following a semester’s study of trends in Jewish arts, theater and music, our teens explored a variety of Jewish topics, settling on the issue of Jewish identity as their focus. Through class discussions and values clarification exercises, they delved into the multitude of experiences which influence Jewish identity development. Then the teens labored to create their own musical theater production.


As a group the teens wrote and edited a script, and utilized multimedia – music, singing, rap, video and more – to articulate the story of a teen developing her Jewish identity. Background sets were painted, props collected, stage hands selected, and costumes created. Their regularly scheduled A.T.M. sessions were supplemented with extra rehearsals during their free time.


Rabbi Julia Weisz beautifully wove the A.T.M. musical theater production into a teen-led Shabbat service, forming Or Ami’s first Festival of Jewish Arts. Teens from all the Triple T tracks, joined parents and temple leadership, for this multimedia service.


Throughout the service, teens led prayers after introducing them with kavannot (inspirational creative writings) on the theme “What prayer means to me.” We were particularly inspired as one teen, whose father is fighting cancer, shared his interpretation of the Mi Shebeirach prayer for healing and then led us in the healing prayer. The musical theater production, a modern drash if you will, was engaging and inspirational.


The kvelling began as the curtain came down. Our teens, their parents, and our entire temple community kvelled continuously that night and in the nights that followed, as each tried to capture the essence of the Jewish experience that embraced their teenage children.


In the midst of the scripts and the sets and the rehearsals, our teens utilized their artistic and musical talents to grapple with what it means to be Jewish. All within the context of a Jewish night for teens. Although we did not pay them to participate, they each came away with something even more valuable: A deeper understanding of their Jewish identity.


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Updated: May. 16, 2013