The students are crowded around the large sheets of paper hanging on the wall, choosing classes. Options include personal finance, resume writing, and interview skills. The most popular course focuses on cooking creative, nutritious meals with both little time and little money.
You might think that this list was developed by a university as part of Welcome Week. It was't. Thin's is just a small sampling of offerings devised and executed by the teen leaders of NFTY-CAR (Chicago Area Region) for Summer Kallah, known fondly as SumKa, attended by approximately 200 teens from Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. I spent four days with these teens a few weeks ago and I was inspired. I'd like to share three reasons why:
Everything is teen led. From planning and leading programs and services to designing and ordering promotional merchandise to quieting a roomful of hungry teenagers so that a meal could begin, juniors and seniors in high school do it all. And their peers listen.
They are passionate. Of course a fair share of romance blossoms over the course of the long weekend, but this is not where the majority of participant attention is focused. These teens are active in promoting voting rights, curbing gun violence, and providing for those less privileged. They can speak articulately and persuasively about these and any number of social justice issues promoted by the Reform Movement.
They know how to have fun. They understand deep down that, no matter how responsible they are, they are not yet grown. Shut off from the world (mostly) in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, these teenagers had a blast making chocolate chip challah, playing mud gaga and finger painting.
I went to NFTY SumKa to cheer on Emanuel's teens, to make connections with youth professionals, and to learn, firsthand, how NFTY is empowering teens. It has been, after all, a long time since I was at SumKa as a member of Emanuel's youth group.
I was quite moved and proud to participate in the ceremony where the new NFTY-CAR officers, including our own Daniel Dodinval, were installed. I was the oldest past board member in attendance and was therefore able to begin the chain that passed the Torah through the generations. As I watched the officers being thrown into the lake -a NFTY CAR tradition - I thought of all of the past NFTY participants and board members I've known through the years and the ways in which youth group helped them launch into the lives they live know. There is a link in the youth group and religious school section of this newsletter for your high-school
student to find out more about, and register for, the next NFTY event in Chicago. I encourage you to look at that with your children.
Back home, we've begun planning a fresh start for our youth groups. Paili Bachrach has already designed a t-shirt and used the skills she learned at SumKa to petition our Board of Directors. We are hoping to encourage this type of leadership among all of our youth group participants this year.
Look for a first event for our junior youth group (EJTY, for 6-8th grade students) and a planning meeting for our senior youth group (ESTY, for 9th-12th graders) in September. Details are being confirmed, but information will be in both the e-bulletin and in your inboxes next week. In the meantime, if you or your children have Facebook, encourage them to search for and join ESTY:Emanuel Chicago. Parents are welcome to join as well. Our youth group advisor, Erin, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please don't hesitate to be in touch.
I'm looking forward to inspiring and being inspired by Emanuel's teens this year.