Source: HaYidion Spring, 2017
Shira’s religious crisis was only one in a series of events that led to the creation of the religious guidance program at Kohelet Yeshiva High School. After repeated conversations with disheartened students and discouraged faculty, it seemed as though more and more students were floundering as they mindlessly went through the motions of a religious lifestyle and yet failed to find meaning. Frustrated with Judaism and disillusioned with religion, these students were struggling with deep questions while longing to connect to someone and something beyond themselves.
The program we established revolves around fostering relationships between teachers and students, as well as providing opportunities for adolescents to cultivate their beliefs, articulate their purpose, and join with others in a growth-oriented community. However, it is important to note that one reason why our religious guidance program has experienced success is because it was not created in a vacuum. Since those initial conversations with Shira and the limmudei kodesh faculty, there has been a conscious effort to focus our energy on cultivating a culture where religious evolution and development is the norm. Over the past two years, in addition to the implementation of the religious guidance program, our shabbatons, yemei iyyun, advisory and special programming have all focused on creating this reflective community. The synergy between these programs has resulted in a culture where our students are continuously encouraged to contemplate their own religious beliefs and ideology and where many of our students have started to re-engage.
At this point, we have not yet collected data to support whether we are reaching these numbers, although a survey is planned at the end of this year. Anecdotally, students and faculty alike have commented that there has been a noticeable shift in the tenor of the school’s culture. Stronger relationships between students and staff have emerged, and a significant number of students know who they are, where they are headed, and what they believe. We are confident that in the coming years the program will continue to grow stronger as our teachers become more adept facilitators and as the culture of reflection becomes even more pronounced.
Shira is a few years older now. These days she speaks openly about her own evolution and growth, alongside her renewed commitment to Jewish beliefs and practice. She still has questions. But through the religious guidance program at Kohelet Yeshiva High School, she found an avenue in which to ask her questions and, in the process, she found her voice.
Read the entire article in Hayidion.