Teen Initiative: Creating a movement of youth

This is an article submitted by Betzy Lynch, CEO of the Lawrence Family JCC Jacobs Family Campus, and Darren Schwartz, Chief Program Officer of the Jewish Federation.

As Jewish community leaders, we spend many hours contemplating the future of our local, national, and overseas Jewish community. Much of what we understand as traditional Jewish institution life has changed and will only continue to evolve. Sometimes, this evolution gives us pause – being uncertain for what is next and who will be the group of people that will enrich the richness and vibrancy of our community in the future. 

On August 19th, we met these exact people and we are now more hopeful and excited for our collective future. The Teen Leaders Forum, an annual event hosted by the San Diego Jewish Teen Initiative, convened 50 teen leaders representing 17 different local youth movements and programs. The purpose of this convening was to get all teens who are actively leading youth programs to simultaneously enrich their skills while interacting with other teen leaders throughout the county. 

The program featured speakers flown in from around the country, local professionals, and rabbis as well as the two of us. We spent a few hours teaching, sharing, learning, and reflecting with teens leading the youth movement of Jewish San Diego. We were inspired. As individuals, they are bright, driven, and compassionate; as a collective, they are powerful, passionate, and motivated to be the change our world needs. While they represented several youth movements, it is clear that the individuals who attended these convenings are creating a Movement of Youth. 

The power of the collective is the single most important work of the San Diego Jewish Teen Initiative. Bringing teens and professionals together to better link the broad landscape of Jewish experiences to the specific and unique needs of Jewish teens can create the foundation for lifelong Jewish identity. It is truly a privilege to have a front row seat to watch the future unfold. We have been given the gift of nurturing and empowering the leadership of the next generation and they have accepted this gift with enthusiasm and pride.

The Jewish Teen Initiative is a partnership between the Jewish Federation and the Lawrence Family JCC on behalf of the San Diego Jewish Community. Funding for this partnership is made possible by the support of Federation donors and a generous matching grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation. 

The Jewish Teen Initiative is building a stronger Jewish community for teens by providing professional development for teen educators, helping teens to find their connection and their voice, and reaching them where they are through Motiv, a platform to help all high school teens connect to volunteer service.

If you want to know what is available for Jewish teens in San Diego, visit www.sdjewishteens.org. If you want to find, record, and track volunteer service hours, check out www.motivsandiego.org



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