Community Blog Square One? Re-envisioning Jewish Experiences for Today’s Youth
Every year in our towns and neighborhoods, Jewish families fork over thousands of dollars for Russian Math School, Mass Premier Soccer, private SAT tutoring and intensive jazz and ballet dance classes. Yet at the same time they either don’t need, want or are unable to devote similar resources to Jewish activities. While there are exceptions — day-school families and camp attendees, most notably — a large majority of us aren’t buying what the Jewish community is trying to sell.
There are many reasons for this, excellence and value paramount among them. In today’s world, you pay a premium for what you value. At the end of the day, most Jewish things that families pay for simply don’t deliver the value they seek.
I get it.
I actually get it completely.
If your family has limited resources, would you rather pay for a Jewish something that isn’t satisfying, or a secular something that you or your kids love doing?
Jewish families are voting with their feet and their pocketbooks, and the message couldn’t be clearer: they don’t want what is being offered. They want something else.
But that “something else” is not easy to define. We know, however, that it is has to be relevant, excellent and exciting while providing a Jewish experience that students and families both value and are willing to pay for.
For example: Every year, our students participate in theater productions, art shows and dance performances. Why not have venues and studios where talented artists would help guide our teens in developing their skills in-acting, painting, design, mosaics, drawing and more? Imagine an intensive theater program for Jewish teens, or a community art show at a local venue, or a graphic design business being run by teens.
Or what if we could build centers for student production where our kids could come to create movies, or compose and mix music and design apps? This is the age of YouTube, AutoTune, Garage Band and the App Store, and with some inspired teaching and guidance, all of these tools can be used to broadcast or capture a Jewish message. Can you imagine a studio outfitted with production equipment, iPads and other equipment where kids could come to create Jewishly inspired, high-quality work?
And what if we could build centers for sports at which Jewish kids could learn with outstanding Jewish and Israeli instructors, who would infuse their training with Judaism, Hebrew and excellence. Imagine going to a regional Jewish sports academy in Sharon, or Newton, or Lexington or Swampscott, where you could be trained and compete at the highest levels in soccer, basketball and tennis.
Is it beyond the realm of possibility? Maybe.
Is it beyond the walls of our traditions, institutions of belonging and affiliation? Probably.
Would it be expensive? You bet.
But would it be worth it to capture the hearts and minds of Jewish kids who would love what they were doing? Absolutely.