New Website Allows Jewish Teens to Customize Shabbat Services Online
February 17, 2010
No More Scissors And Paste!
For anyone who has spent hours photo copying prayers out of the siddur (Jewish prayer book) and pasting them onto sheets to make custom services for a youth group or camp setting, a new tool has arrived. BBYO, Inc., the world’s leading pluralistic Jewish youth movement, has recently launched Build a Prayer, an online space where Jews of all backgrounds can connect on a deeply personal level with prayer and Shabbat.
Open to the entire Jewish community, Build a Prayer (buildaprayer.org) allows users to design a service with Hebrew, English and transliterated text; select prayers based on traditional, pluralistic and custom options, add one’s own pictures, poetry or commentary; and share or print the service for use with their community. The site also includes links to peruse educational content about Shabbat in the Resource Center and videos demonstrating the chanting of prayers. The content for the Resource Center was developed in partnership with MyJewishLearning.com, a trans-denominational website of information about Judaism.
“If we expect young people to explore Jewish rituals and prayer, then we have to give them a forum where they can own the experience,” said Matthew Grossman, BBYO’s Executive Director. “We hope Build a Prayer will be a valuable tool for the entire community; it is available to any organization, educator or teen who wants to produce creative worship experiences.”
With the most recent National Youth and Religion Survey reporting that the frequency of religious service attendance tends to decline between eighth and 12th grades by nearly 20 percent, religious organizations are scrambling to find modern ways to connect with today’s autonomous teens. Build a Prayer purposefully brings prayer to a space where teens already spend much of their time – online, and with the added benefit of allowing self-expression and personalization in their worship experience. Teens are given the ability to personally connect and grow with specific prayers that they seek out, while learning about their history, background and meaning.
“The teens to whom I have shown it are impressed with how easy it is to use and how much control we have in creating our own Shabbat experience,” said Adam Bloom, BBYO’s International President. “We will be using Build a Prayer to create and enhance Shabbat services in all sorts of settings including weekend conventions, our summer leadership programs and our experiences in Israel.”
The development of Build a Prayer was made possible by a grant from the Jewish Funders Network upon the recommendation of an anonymous donor who hopes that it will serve as an example for how the entire Jewish community can work together to create and share resources.