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To the Jewish Enrichment Promised Land!

Posted on 02/21/2014 @ 12:21 PM

“Jewish programming isn’t boring. Boring Jewish programming is boring.” --Rabbi Zac Johnson

For many teens, advisors, and staff members in BBYO, and in the larger North American Jewish community, Jewish programming has long been viewed as the least compelling and least fun option. But we will no longer allow this idea to stand unchallenged.

Ladies and gentlemen, let the eXodus Games begin!

Last week at BBYO’s first ever Jewish Enrichment Institute (JEI), our intention was to show over 50 teen leaders from over 20 regions/councils and over 45 chapters what fun, relevant, and meaningful Jewish programming could look like. Dividing into 12 tribes (teams of 4), we held a color war that had a flavor of The X Games, The Hunger Games, the Olympics, and the University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt. The tribes competed for points by completing up to 40 tribe challenges, one challenge for every year that Israel spent in the desert. We had tribes singing the 4 Questions of Passover, performing their own Jewish slam poetry, Tweeting and FB status updating Jewish values, and learning the Hebrew months. We had sessions with Stand with Us on Israel programming, with Ask Big Questions on facilitating meaningful conversations, and with Eric Hunker and Happie Hoffman on leading services and being intentional about mood setting. We also played the Educational Framework games (introduced at Staff Conference) for even more organized chaos!

At JEI 2014: The eXodus Games, our intention was not only to help the teen participants reach the Jewish Enrichment Promised Land. These eXodus Games move us not from slavery in Egypt, but from the confines of the “same old” Jewish program that is no longer compelling or relevant. We are asking all of the JEI participants to take what they learned at JEI to help enhance a Jewish program in their chapter, council, or region. One staff member was assigned to each tribe, and our intention is that the tribes will stay in touch for the rest of the programming year (and beyond) to help each other develop enhanced Jewish programming with deeper Jewish content. Here is the JEI 2014 teen participant and staff roster – we hope you’ll support teens in your region as they work to implement what they learned!

As we set our sights on Atlanta 2015, let’s embark with a renewed commitment to developing even more creative and even more meaningful Jewish programming with deep Jewish content. And by the time that we celebrate our extraordinary Jewish teen movement again next year, may we be able to say that we are even closer to reaching the Jewish Enrichment Promised Land.

(This Shabbat Message was written by Ira J. Dounn, Director of Jewish Enrichment, Northeast Hub)

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