BBYO: Take a Bow – Jewish World: Stand Up and Take Notice

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 February 2010 09:05 Written by bryfy Tuesday, 23 February 2010 09:05

I should start this blog entry by saying that I’m no expert on prayer. I’ll leave others (including some of the Jewish ritual elitists at Jewschool – you know who you are) to debate the issues of tefillah and pluralist prayer services. What I do know is that something is wrong in the House of Prayer and it needs to be fixed. Many of the hundreds of teenagers I meet really enjoy and gain a lot from prayer services at camp, youth group or on their Israel trips. But they get back to their local synagogues and instead of being the creators, running the spirited services they are accustomed to, they’re often relegated to being shushed by a bunch of Serious Men.

So when something does come around that’s relevant, meaningful, forward thinking, and accessible to the masses, it deserves our attention and admiration.

I don’t think that I’m making any shockwaves by suggesting that BBYO hasn’t always been perceived as an organization where high quality Jewish learning takes place. That said, it’s time to give credit where credit is due.

BBYO’s Build a Prayer is as simple as it is is effective. It takes much of what we know about Jewish teens today and translates it into a web-based program that enables anyone to create their own Shabbat prayer service. (Similar sites are also available and/or under construction (e.g. Tagged Tanakh and Open Siddur) but none has captivated me in the same way as this one.) Even if you’re not into prayer, this website can serve as a prototype for other Jewish educational ventures.

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This site embodies:

  • Choice
  • Individualization based on community
  • Modern interpretations of Jewish tradition
  • A generation of teenagers who are simultaneously consumers and producers
  • Richness in content (albeit with additions that need to be added)
  • Sophisticated technology
  • Interactive capability
  • The ability to build relationships and networks
  • Being motivated and driven by teenage voices

Sounds just right for this generation of Jews.

All that said, I can already hear objections to this site:

  • What does it say about Jewish tradition if everyone can create their own prayer?
  • What does it say about Jewish community if we have become so individualized?
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Food Glorious Food: I have an idea – but I need your help:

Last Updated on Friday, 12 February 2010 02:48 Written by bryfy Friday, 12 February 2010 02:42

I just finished watching Jamie Oliver, the world renowned British chef – and I am inspired. His presentation on healthy eating is something that every educator, parent, grandparent and anyone else who feeds our children, should watch (and it wouldn’t hurt the younger generation to watch it either)

It got me thinking about the obligatory Jewish cooking classes that many Jewish supplementary high school programs offer – and why not?

They’re popular, relatively simple to plan, and you slip in the Jewish content piece without the kids even realize that they’re learning.

But here’s where Oliver challenges us. The real strength of Jewish education in the future – especially for our teenagers – will be offering quality programming, that competes with the many other choices they have, and us seen as adding real value to their lives. If it happens in a Jewish setting, with Jewish friends – that are the bonuses that we know Jewish socialization has to offer.

So here’s the challenge. Let’s design a Healthy Jewish Cooking curriculum. Chopped liver, challah, matzah balls, honey cake all have their cultural importance only matched by their caloric significance. But now is our chance to create a healthy lifestyle that is also Jewishly rich – how much more value added could one ask for?

So let’s hear from you – Please post for us all in the comments below: what are your favorite healthy Jewish recipes? Maybe even add a few sentences about the Jewish significance of your recipe. Let’s see if we can put together a cook book, and perhaps even a curriculum, that leverages the power of the blogosphere.

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I am not a Young Judaean – but it does raise questions

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 December 2010 07:20 Written by bryfy Friday, 5 February 2010 02:09

I am not a Young Judaean – but I am a supporter of the great work YJ does and I think that the (long term) Israel experience is one of the most vital programs that the Jewish community should be investing in. That is why the news of the last week and months has been troubling for me – even as a relative outsider.

A quick summary:

  • Young Judaea, largely because of its strong connections to Hadassah, has been hit hard by the global economic recession and the Madoff scandal. These financial conditions have forced/prodded/allowed Young Judaea to look at how it can restructure itself moving forward.
  • In recent weeks and months there have been several high profile resignations from senior YJ staff, as well as several YJ staff having their jobs cut.
  • Early this week, Keith Berman, former head of YJ long term Israel programs, established his own long term Israel program – Aardvark Israel

Let me just say much of what has happened has not been pretty – as is evidenced by some of the articles, blog posts and comments that have appeared in recent days. Here is a small sampling:

Key staff resignations at Young Judaea and Hadassah

Former Young Judaea head launches rival year program

Young Judaea head blasts predecessor for launching program day after quitting

Aadvark Israel is launched: What does it mean? (comments are essential reading)

But I don’t want to get into these discussions – even though I do have may questions about what has taken place and how it all got to this stage.

I do want to use this opportunity to ask some more macro questions that I think this recent series of events has brought to our attention – and should be asked of many Jewish organizations and the Jewish community at large. It is my belief that if we don’t find ways to adequately answer these questions then the Jewish community will face even more challenges in the future.

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