Jewish learning What is Old is New Again: Reimagining Teen Education for Our Time

By Sydney Gross

As we celebrate our 100th year, Hebrew College is enhancing its signature high school program, Prozdor, to meet Greater Boston teens where they are—in their own communities, with courses they want, and with flexible options that fit into their busy lives.

Hebrew College is offering Prozdor Teen Learning Circles or “PTOC,” named after Hebrew College’s successful adult learning Open Circle Jewish Learning discussion-based series, five-to-nine-week classes on topics ranging from history to Israel, arts to halacha, and social justice to Tanakh. Teens can choose to take these courses on Sunday mornings at Hebrew College or with a cohort of friends from synagogue, youth group, camp, or day school, at a time, day, and location that works best for them.

“Prozdor Teen Open Circle courses are the next generation of Prozdor—courses designed with and driven by teen input, paired with master faculty and rabbinical student educators, and available at a time that works for a teen’s busy life,” said Rabbi Laura Bellows, Director of Prozdor and Teen Learning at Hebrew College. “We’ve had interest from groups of teens who all went to their K-8 Jewish day school together and want to stay connected through learning and we’ve had interest from congregations that want to reinforce connection to their home community. It’s a great option for teens who haven’t been able to access our Sunday morning program.”

Hebrew College was founded in August 1921 and has offered high school programs since 1923. More than 5,000 learners with varied backgrounds and experiences have graduated from Prozdor over the past 100 years. This year, in addition to new Prozdor Teen Open Circle’s Judaic Studies courses, Hebrew College will also offer a new Hebrew Teen Institute, where students from 8th through 12th grade can study Modern Hebrew in novice through advanced levels on Sunday mornings at Hebrew College or online during the week. They can combine Prozdor Teen Open Circle classes in Jewish thought, practice, history, politics, social issues, arts, and social justice, with the Hebrew Teen Institute, or register separately for these programs.

“In this next generation of Hebrew College teen Hebrew, we are investing in growing our modern Hebrew classes,” Rabbi Bellows said. “Like Prozdor in the past, we will continue to offer a solid two hours of Hebrew learning. We’re integrating more of a mix of classroom academic learning and interactive Beit café chugim-based experiential learning models into those two hours.”

Hebrew College also offers several other teen programs that can be combined with Prozdor Teen Open Circle and Hebrew Teen Institute or taken independently:

Gesher Israel: A discussion-based Israel Studies Seminar for 10th to 12th graders organized through the Boston-Haifa Partnership where teens learn with master educators about Israeli politics, culture, current events, history, and social issues, as a Boston cohort and side-by-side with teens at the Reali School in Haifa.

Teen Beit Midrash: An in-person or online dive deep into Jewish texts, contemporary issues, and a dedicated, inclusive, fun community through weekly Talmud study for 8th to 12th graders. Virtual information sessions will be held at 8 p.m. on August 19, and September 1 and 14.

Jewish Teen Foundation of Greater Boston: A year-long program for teens to develop strong leadership and communication skills, learn the ins and outs of professional philanthropy and grant-making through a Jewish lens, and allocate grants to effect real change for the causes about which they care most.

“For nearly 100 years, teens have come from schools and congregations throughout Greater Boston to learn, connect to Judaism, and build lifelong friendships at Hebrew College,” said Dr. Susie Tanchel, Vice President. “Our teens are engaging with one another in learning our texts, traditions, and culture, and creativity building a culture of menschlichkeit. Together they are developing a commitment to tikkun olam, and are becoming empowered to grow as leaders in their communities. As we mark our centennial year, we are thrilled to offer new and updated opportunities for them to do so.”


View Hebrew College’s fall teen programs, course descriptions, and registration information

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