Blog  Bridging the Gap: Innovation and BBQ

Bridging the Gap: Innovation and BBQ

Brett Lubarsky, MJEd Student | Hebrew College, Newton, MA
Joshua Laurence, Director of Youth Programs | Temple Beth Am, Pinecrest, FL
Seth Kroll, Youth Educator | Temple Shalom, Newton, MA

We spend a great deal of time talking about innovation, where we want to take our youth programs and what the next big ideas will be in the coming years. Having the opportunity to gather as a community of youth professionals to study, learn, dream, play (and eat!) creates a space for fresh ideas and creativity. The ruach that has been present throughout this year’s NFTY Youth Workers Conference has been palpable, and many great things are coming from it.

od lo giliti eych: I have not yet discovered how.
yovil oti haderech ule’an ani holech: show me the way and where I am going.
Naomi Shemer

Where are we? While synagogue youth programs across the country come in different shapes, colors and sizes, there are a few constants. We strive to engage our teens in meaningful learning (both formal and experiential) opportunities, build community and offer multiple entry points for our teens as they discover and develop their Jewish identities and navigate their Jewish journeys. We must keep in mind while it’s important to plan for tomorrow, what’s happening today is just as (if not more) important.

Where are we going? With the advancement s in technology and communication tools, we look to incorporate new strategies in reaching our congregations, while developing programming and curriculum that integrates these new tools and speaks to a wide range of participants and students. The evolution and professionalization of the “youth worker” is exciting. Our programs are expanding and being held in multiple settings.

How do we get there? In the spirit of being in Texas, we’d like to suggest some BBQ…

Beyond our comfort zones: We each bring our individual talents, skill sets and passion to our jobs. The challenges of gaining new skills, pushing ourselves to think “outside the box” and integrating new approaches in our work are not easy ones. In order for our programs to grow and strengthen, we must embrace change while challenging ourselves to learn and adapt. Being innovative and creating systemic and cultural change is not always easy.

Bridging the Gap: The skills and strategies that we take away from professional development experiences such as YWC are invaluable. The various intensive workshops and elective sessions we participated in will enable us to bridge the gap from where we are (and have been for some time) and where we envision our teens and congregations being in the future.

Q & A: After we all return to our home states and congregations, and get back to the grind, what new step will we take once our bags are unpacked? Do we know where to look for resources and support so we don’t always have to recreate the wheel? What will be our next actions that will take our programs from good to great? Lastly, what’s our preferred type of BBQ sauce?

Thanks for a great week. It starts now!