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My meeting with Rabbi Rick Jacobs

By Scott Rubenstein, NFTY-SW

Kutz Camp teens with URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs

As part of my incredible experience at the URJ Kutz Camp this summer, I had the amazing opportunity to meet with Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Union for Reform Judaism President. The Kutz leadership selected a diverse group of 18 participants for an open forum session with Rabbi Jacobs, and I am very fortunate to have been selected to represent my NFTY region and my home congregation, Temple Chai in Phoenix, AZ.

As an active NFTYite, I am a full and passionate supporter of the URJ’s Campaign for Youth Engagment, and I immensely enjoyed being able to talk about it with the head of our Movement himself. My fellow participants and I expressed our concerns about the lack of youth engagement, as well as potential reasons why we believe this is occurring. We talked about the Bar and Bat Mitzvah Revolution, eliminating the stigma that a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is an ending point in Jewish involvement rather than a step along one’s Jewish journey. We also realized that no matter what youth movement Jewish teens choose to affiliate with, we are all Jewish, so we in NFTY should be partnering with other movements to ensure deeper and broader collaboration towards youth engagement. One participant in the conversation is a Teen Engagement Intern at his temple, and suggested a similar position be created in other communities.

The group also spent a portion of the session on a topic of youth engagement that I was not aware of – Jewish life on campus. While it is important to raise a child Jewish and make sure they are involved and engaged every step of the way, it’s also important to ensure that they will continue to be involved in Judaism post-high school as well. We discussed how Judaism is currently playing a role in the lives of Jewish college students and the effect Judaism has on choosing a college campus. It was an eye-opening experience for me, because as a sophomore in high school, this is a subject I am only beginning to explore.

Rabbi Jacobs was extremely open to everything we had to say and took copious notes on all we had to share. I appreciated being recognized as an enthusiastically engaged teen and enjoyed being a representative of perhaps 180 of the most invested teens in the Movement, my fellow participants at Kutz this summer.

I am honored to have been selected to speak with Rabbi Jacobs during his visit to Kutz. The fact that he took time to come and visit us showed me how committed he is to helping ensure that Reform Judaism thrives into the next generations. I cannot wait to see all the amazing places Rabbi Rick Jacobs takes the Reform movement during his tenure as President of the Union for Reform Judaism, and I, along with so many of my friends, look forward to being his partners along the way.