Don’t do it. Don’t make the deal.
You know the one I mean – THE DEAL. The one where you tell your kids that they can stop participating in Religious School and youth group after their bar or bat mitzvah.
I know, I know, they’re super busy. There’s soccer, and dance, and tennis, and play practice. Student government, and baseball, and theater. Not to mention the homework, which they’re doing at night when they should be sleeping.
I get it. Really. Things are different now than they were when we were young. Kids are overprogrammed and busy and stressed….and did I mention busy?
A few weeks ago, I was with our teen leaders at Temple Israel as they prepared for the year ahead. These brilliant, talented, kind, loving teens shared stories about being part of our youth community – what an incredible safe space it has been for them, how the relationships they’ve made through our programs are the deepest and most meaningful, and how they’ve grown as humans. They talked about being welcomed with open arms, about feeling the most ‘themselves’ when they’re together, and about the role models they’ve met and become along the way.
There is something so incredibly special about being part of a youth group – part of a sacred community. In a time and place when we’re running kids ragged, and they’re spending much of their down time staring at their phones, we give them this amazing opportunity to BREATHE. To be Jewish. Together. With a safe, warm, welcoming community guided by wonderful mentors and staff.
Your teens (well, most of them) are never going to be professional soccer players or dancers. But given the right foundation and the right opportunities, they will be conscientious Jews, good people, and strong leaders for the rest of their lives.
So send us your kids. Let us borrow your teens. We promise it will make a difference, not only in their lives, not only in your lives, but in the landscape of American Judaism for generations to come.
– Rabbi Lader