Creating a thriving youth culture -- 2009 to 2011
Adopted by the Board of Trustees – October 15, 2009

Creating a thriving youth culture
Our youth are our future. We have a sacred responsibility to pass along our Judaism so that the chain continues unbroken into the future. For each age (along a continuum of birth to high school graduation), we must create a climate that invites our youth to engage with their Jewish identity, learn about our history and values, make Jewish friends and lay the foundation for the practice of mitzvot of Torah, Avodah, and Gemilut Chasadim.

  • General Principles
    • Our success depends on our ability to connect youth socially.
    • We need to impress upon our youth and their families, that being actively engaged in synagogue life is as much a part of the formal Jewish lifecycle as Consecration, B’nai Mitzvah, and Confirmation.
    • Across this spectrum, teachers and youth leaders need to be of extremely high quality and talent in order to engage our students.
    • We need to help our members understand the benefits of getting involved at a young age
  • Preschool: Our Preschool is the gateway for many young families in our community.
    • Connecting Parents: Social connections continue throughout a families’ experience at Bet Shalom. Today, children and families need a reason to attend events other than just religious experiences. Stronger connections will make for a more committed family. There is no better place to start than Preschool. While this may not be the focus of one single initiative, we see this goal as a backdrop for everything we do.
    • ECFE: Families are attending ECFE classes in other places. Why not do them at Bet Shalom? It could increase Preschool attendance. Parents like to do things with friends and strong connections form in these classes. With selection of the right teacher, this program can be a terrific success.
    • Tot Shabbat: Tot Shabbat has proven to be a good connection for families. Not all families can send their children to our Preschool. Hours and distance is an important part of their choice. This is another way for families to establish a connection. It also reinforces the meaning of Shabbat. We need to find new ways to reach people who are not currently participating. While nothing about this program needs to be changed, we have realized that the original core group who made Tot Shabbat so successful has outgrown the program and we need to market it to the demographic who now should be attending.
  • Religious School: We need to begin to blur the lines between religious school and informal youth programming. The opportunity to become part of a community both inside and outside the classroom is a key component to continuing our children’s Jewish education. Community building will allow our students to feel more connected to each other and therefore, to the synagogue. The more time our children spend at Bet Shalom the more comfortable they will become. The more connections our kids make, the likelier they will be to want to continue to attend religious school. And, this could also lead to their realizing the importance of cultivating Jewish relationships. Our children want to feel as if they belong to a “group.” This sense of belonging is not only beneficial throughout their youth but will serve them well as adults.
    • Family Retreat/Parent and family opportunities: It is also important to help parents feel connected to the synagogue. One way we can facilitate this is to sponsor a Family Retreat. This would be an offsite program where we would have families of all ages attend a weekend retreat. The Rabbis would help facilitate the program. There would be activities for the families and children both Judaic and secular in nature. There are many ways we can bring parents together at Bet Shalom, such as family social outings each semester. Programs such as these will help parents make connections with one another.
    • Continued Development of “Responsive Classroom:” This program establishes a community within each classroom. It helps to develop a sense of security and allows the students to get to know their fellow classmates. This is an ongoing initiative that helps us create community within the classroom.
    • Community-wide collaboration: We strive to proactively collaborate with other Supplemental Schools in the community to foster innovation, improve the quality of education while reducing cost and program duplication.
    • Experiential Programming (Get kids out of classroom): Mitzvah in Motion, Judaism in Action. This is something we strive to do in every program in the religious school.
    • Connecting kids from different sessions (kids might never meet other kids the same age as them because of the sessions.)
  • Informal Youth Activities: Our informal youth group programming continues to be a place where our students make significant connections to each other and to Bet Shalom.
    • Develop a volunteer led youth program to compensate for the diminished youth budget: Room parents will plan and facilitate four (4) grade level social gatherings outside of school (per grade level). Programs might include: Jewish Cooking Classes, Saturday Night Movie Night with Havdallah, game nights, bowling, Ice/roller skating , Laser Tag, Sledding, Movie/game night at synagogue, Holiday party, swimming, Mini Golf, Attending a play, Pottery making.
    • Use social media (facebook, twitter) to reach young adults.