You’re no doubt familiar with the children’s song “The More We Get Together” (but in case you’re not, watch the video here). Other than providing us with a humorous musical reminder of our childhoods, though, it also is a powerful and relevant message relating to our work at Prozdor on the leading edge of Jewish education and engagement.
Last week I joined over 50 of my colleagues in attending a CJP forum for educators outlining a new strategy for teen engagement in the Jewish community. I was thrilled to hear about the new ideas, including greater emphasis on teen Israel travel, a desire for greater engagement with pre-bnai mitzvah tweens and their families, and a renewed push for organizational collaboration to both keep current families engaged and attract new families to quality Jewish experiences.
In further conversation it has become clear that collaboration and partnership are absolutely critical to achieve the shared communal goal of inspiring this generation of teens and their families to participate in our community’s myriad programs and offerings. Only by working together can we not only improve the quality of existing programs, but also create new opportunities with new partners and expand our collective reach.
We at Prozdor have recognized for some time that collaboration and partnership are central to the work that we are engaged in. Yes, Prozdor is about our outstanding Sunday program for teens, but increasingly it also about the various ways we work with other educators, organizations, and volunteers in thinking of new ways to inspire, educate, and engage Jewish teens in high-quality experiences, both at Hebrew College and outside our walls and throughout Greater Boston. Over the past few months, we have been meeting one-on-one with a rabbis, educators, and lay leaders from all over our community to discuss additional opportunities for collaboration and enhancing teen engagement. These discussions have only added to our every-growing list of partnerships, of which the following is only a partial inventory:
- Together with the Cohen Camps, we run an eight-month program focused on both Israel Studies and Leadership for students on the Dor L’Dor Israel and CIT program, featuring six online modules and three in-person meetings, including sessions during the summer at the camps. This past year over 60 students participated in the program and we are planning on expanding the program in year three to include
- We visit Temple Israel of Natick once a month to lead weekday minyan and teach engaging lessons on Israel to students in grades 5-7.
- With Gann Academy and CJP we have successfully launched the Jewish Teen Foundation of Greater Boston, a year-long leadership and philanthropy program for teens, which in its first year attracted almost 40 students. Plans are already in the mix for year two.
- Under the auspices of our Makor program for middle school students, now in its eighth year, we not only teach sixth and seventh graders from Temple Emanuel, Temple Reyim, Temple Emeth, and Congregation Mishkan Tefilah every Sunday at Hebrew College, but partner with those synagogues to teach the students on Tuesday afternoons at both Temple Emanuel and the Ma’or program at the JCC in Newton. We also attract a number of unaffiliated teens who come to Makor for the quality education and unique learning community.
- We work with the North Shore Teen Initiative and run their fall leadership Shabbaton, in addition to our prior work with them in facilitating the Torah Hub For Teens
- We proudly send over 15 volunteers on Sunday mornings to the Gateways Sunday Program to work with students as one-on-one aides. Our students not only get course credit for their volunteerism, but have transformative experiences in the work that they do with their students.
- In partnership with the Shalom Hartman Institute we are preparing for the third year of Hevruta, our unique Gap Year program in Israel, which brings together 20 Israelis and 20 North Americans for a year of intensive learning, volunteering, and conversation.
- This is our third year of working with the Jewish Women’s Archive in running the Rising Voices Fellowship, a year-long fellowship open to female-identified teens with a passion for writing, a demonstrated concern for current and historic events, and a strong interest in Judaism.
- Our longstanding partnership with The Hebrew Reali School in Haifa has led to incredible curricular innovation at both Prozdor and Reali and the creation of a new major and Ministry of Education-approved major at Reali dealing with the American-Israeli relationship. We also have shared our curriculum and best practices in Israel exchange in Boston with partners like Temple Beth Avodah and Congregation Beth El in Sudbury as well as developed asynchronous online learning programs for teens on both sides of the partnership.
- We work together with JCRC on our TELEM program and on service travel experiences, including last year when we brought over 25 teens to New York to do Hurricane Sandy relief work, and this past MLK Day, when over 30 teens participated in a Day of Service.
- We operate a Wednesday evening program in partnership with and at Temple Emunah in Lexington, where teens gather for midweek Jewish learning.
- We are thrilled that both Shalom Learning and Online Jewish Learning will be moving into the office next to us at Hebrew College, and with our new neighbors we will be exploring exciting new ways to engage Jewish learners and families in online learning. Their expertise in the K-7 market, coupled with ours in the teen market, will lead to exciting new opportunities for us both.
- We work with AIPAC to bring teens to both the Schusterman Teen Summit every fall and Policy Conference every spring and in the past four years alone have brought over 50 teens to those two events.
The list doesn’t come close to ending there. We also work with organizations such as the Boston Jewish Film Festival, the Boston Jewish Music Festival, the CJP Hatikvah Officer Mission, and the Alexander Muss High School in Israel. We have taught at Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott, run teen programs at Temple Israel in Sharon, and run programs on Israel for seventh and eighth graders at Temple B’nai Abraham in Beverly.
Our work takes us from Newburyport to Westboro, from Chelmsford to Jamaica Plain, from Easton to Lexington, and everywhere in between. Partnership is what we do. And we’d love to do more of it. The new vision for collaboration and partnership for Boston-area Jewish organizations in an inspiring one, and we are fully invested in that vision and its success. Let us know how we can work together with you in creating the Jewish future.
Dan Brosgol is Director of Prozdor of Hebrew College.