Darchei Noar / Pathways for Teens

I have spent the past year completing an action research Master’s project in Jewish Educational Leadership at JTS, attempting to answer the question “How can I develop a Jewish teen curriculum driven by students’ genuine interests?” At the completion of this study, I have some interesting results — all of which are part of developing our ongoing Jewish educational opportunities for teens.

Adat Shalom truly has an engaged Jewish teen population which cares about both their own education and the community’s well-being and growth. In total, 70% of the Jewish teens at Adat Shalom are regular participants in Jewish education and/or engagement. The teens surveyed were overwhelmingly in favor of regular Jewish learning. They asked for more education, more points of connection, and more depth. Furthermore, they want to be part of the development process. Asking the teens for their input and evaluations throughout the year led to a process of ongoing research, as well as a plan of action for the coming academic year. Teens’ interests reflected a wide range of content areas, and included topics related to social connectivity, family, life skills and personal goals. In addition, teens expressed interest in serious Jewish knowledge, especially in how to connect it to issues and concerns of the modern world.

Overall, teens want quality Jewish education but also have very limited time. They want to develop trusting relationships with their teachers. These positive relationships provide the backdrop against which teens can feel comfortable asking difficult and challenging questions about Judaism, relationships, and their own personal growth. An example of this occured when students asked if we could rename our program (at least for an evening) “Couches and Conversations” and just ask me all of their Jewish knowledge questions! For ninety minutes that is exactly what they did; questions ranged from “how do we celebrate Shavuot?” and “why isn’t chicken pareve?” to “how do I know if I’ve met the right person?” It was powerfully telling that the students were not embarrassed to ask their questions and were respectful of each other. We had succeeded in creating a trusting, safe learning community. We are excited to welcome new students to join our learning community. — Melissa Ser

Pathways for Teens / דרכי נוער / Darchei Noar is our umbrella for teen educational and engagement opportunities and includes

Formal Educational Programs

Dr. Melissa Ser

  • Nosh & Drash
  • Madrichim Teen Leadership
  • Dual Enrollment Hebrew

Informal Educational Programs

Jodi Gross

  • Teen Volunteer Corps – Service Learning
  • Madrichim Teen Leadership
  •  Annual Teen Trip

 

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