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What's in it for Me? -- Shabbat Message 11/14/14

Posted on 11/14/2014 @ 01:00 PM

In the spirit of the incredible amount of quoting others that takes place in parshat Chayei Sarah, I wish to share two important pieces that came out this week. Taken together, these offer inspiration, motivation, and a challenge for the work we do, every day, with all fibers of our being.

The first comes from Jack Wertheimer and Steven Cohen, two significant researchers of contemporary American Jewry:

… the most effective initiatives share three critical features. (1) They create social networks that enhance interactions among Jews centering on matters of Jewish interest. (2) They target individuals in the same stages of life, enabling them to heighten their involvement in Jewish life along with their peers. And (3) they communicate Jewish content by exposing learners to sacred texts and the cultural heritage of the Jewish people.

As a response, Rabbi Daniel Smokler, Hillel’s new Chief Innovations Officer highlights the importance of education, and more specifically, content-rich education:

...Once engaged in content-rich Jewish learning, moreover, Jews of all ages can come to know and to possess a sense of transcendent purpose at once life-giving and defiantly at variance with today’s faddish and often deadening emphasis on self-centered experience. Encountering the accumulated wisdom of a civilization with its own highly developed, deeply principled, and time-tested views on the largest existential and ethical issues faced by human beings, they can come to know and to recapture for themselves the bedrock courage and conviction that have differentiated and sustained both Judaism and the Jews through the ages…

As BBYO staff and stakeholders across North America and the world, we should take heart that our programs—from a chapter meeting in Akron, Ohio to a Shabbat dinner in Atlanta with over 2,500 global Jewish teens—give our teens that ‘transcendent purpose’ of belonging and involvement. We should also take Wertheimer, Cohen, and Smokler’s challenge to heart: how are we sharing Jewish content that also provides that inspires that feeling of ‘being part of something bigger’ than themselves?

Looking for a dose of easily accessible and meaningful Jewish content? Join BBYO’s first Global Day of Jewish Learning Online Event on Sunday November 16th at 3PM Eastern. Click here for more details!

This Shabbat message was written by Rabbi Zac Kamenetz, Director of Jewish Enrichment for the Western Hub

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