Filling the Gap in Teen Years
Shluchim and Shluchos are using a series of classes to connect with Jewish teens and address adolescent concerns.
For most Jewish teens, the years after bar/bat mitzvah are a time of minimal Jewish input. All too often, having "graduated," they leave their knowledge of Judaism at the middle school level while, ironically, they gain intellectual ground in secular matters, and form opinions based on the values of the day.
On the other hand, it isn't easy to connect with this age group: You can't talk down to them and you can't talk at them by lecturing on topics that don't touch their world.
The Rebbe once told an educator that one must be like a hunter who is aware of where his prey is heading and shoot his arrow in that direction.
JLI Teens, a specially tailored program by the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, is filling the gap in Jewish education by providing an exciting, relevant series of classes that address adolescent concerns head-on—and engaging them in a mature way at a critical time in their journey to adulthood.
A full array of curriculum materials and tools enable a Chabad Shliach or Shlucha to connect with this age group on the issues that matter to them: relationships, morals, social responsibility, anti-Semitism, and the importance of the Land of Israel. The classes and discussions challenge them to think, discuss, and debate.
"What's so amazing is the awareness that the Torah and G-d are really there to help them as a guide in today's crazy world. It is not some ancient book that just gives us laws," says Chana Teldon, a shlucha in Commack, Long Island.
In some cases, students are so involved with the discussions at hand that they unanimously agreed to extend the class time so everyone can have a say.
Rochel Flikshtein, shlucha in Wilmington, Delaware, reports that the tools provided by JLI Teens helped them reach far beyond the regulars, to include those who were never involved with Chabad before. These kids began coming to holiday programs and chesed initiatives as well.
Good for Teens, Good for Families
From the parents' perspective, Rabbi Mendy Cohen, a Shliach in Main Line, Pennsylvania, says that they're very happy that there is someone who the teens can speak to when they have issues which they're not going to bring to their parents.
"What's really striking," he says, "is how the parents respect and acknowledge that Chabad can reach the teens in a way that no one else can."
By filling the gap in Jewish education to include the critical teen years, shluchim are forming a new entry point and cementing their relationships with families, creating more opportunities for the entire family to engage with Yiddishkeit and with Chabad through the entire cycle of life.
"The goal is to be "mekarev liban shel Yisrael l'avihen shebashamayim," explains Rabbi Benny Rapoport, Director of JLI Teens. "So, at the end of the day, by engaging them intellectually and allowing them to explore and debate the principles and values expressed in Torah, we're able to inspire them towards a greater appreciation of Yiddishkeit and its relevance in their lives."
New: Trial Membership
To help acquaint shluchim who have not yet offered teen learning programs to their community, a trial membership option, with access to JLI Teens's most popular series, Life on the Line, will be available for a discounted registration fee. According to organizers, this will allow shluchim who have limited resources and staffing to try out the program in a smaller dose, and assess its impact on their teens.
Teen programming is essential in a Chabad center, but since every community is different, each mosad must customize the program to make it fit their own specific needs, the Trial Membership is the perfect chance to do so.
In addition, JLI Teens and CTeen are collaborating to provide Chabad centers with the best in educational and social programming for teens. Shluchim who participate in both programs will receive a discount to apply to towards their registration fee.