Posts tagged Jewish Teens
Why Jewish Identity? Doctorate FAQs

My degree will be an EdD in Educational Leadership, with a content area focus in Jewish education. My dissertation research is on Jewish teens, specifically high school students who have completed congregational b’nai mitzvah programs but have not continued with their formal Jewish engagement/education. My goal is to interview these teens about their Jewish identities, and what [if any] value add they see Judaism as bringing to their lives.

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What Teens Are Looking For

The years of adolescence can be many things - tear-filled, beautiful, dramatic, exhausting, hazy, defining. They are the time when individuals grow into who they’re going to be. When they can test out different facets of themselves, push their limits, and look both outward and inward to figure out where their authenticity lies. Of course, it can get messy. My own teen years were full of tears, of emotional toil that would make soap opera writers feel inferior, and massive amounts of awkwardness. But they were also the years that set me up for the life that I have today - they laid the foundation for my career as a Jewish educator, shaped the values that I seek in myself and others, and inspired me to prioritize teens in my professional practice and in my research. Which brings us to the question: what are Jewish teens looking for?

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Introduction to Complicated Conversations with Jewish Teens

I fully believe in the awesomeness of the honor and responsibility of connecting with learners at this formative stage of their Jewish and life journeys. As educators, it’s often hard to figure out the lines, the touch points, and the complexities of some of the most important conversations that we need to be having, and I hope that by providing a space to explore these topics, we can be empowered to be even better at our jobs.

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That Awkward Jewish Moment

There’s the overabundance of really potentially awkward moments that I encounter as an educator.

  • Moments when I’m standing in front of a group that I know includes children whose families are administrators in the Trump White House, and those who were staffers under Obama [an occupational hazard of working in the Washington, DC area].

  • Moments when I’m called upon to make teens feel safe entering Jewish speakers in the wake of the Etz Chayim/Tree of Life shooting, while holding the multiple truths that some of them are passionate about gun control and others may not be.

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Advocacy + Activism + Jewish Teens

I believe that we’re missing a key piece of our mission as educators if we universally avoid tough issues and turn a blind eye to the realities facing our students, particularly high schoolers today. High school students are not the apathetic navel-gazers that so much of society stereotypes them as being. Rather, they’re ‘woke’ sophisticated thinkers, and they’re not waiting for our permission to take a stand on any and all issues. They’re jumping right in, on social media and in person, and we’re not doing them or ourselves any favors by leaving this reality outside of the purview of Jewish education.

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Judaism + Positive Psychology

The brainchild of Martin Seligman, positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life the most worth living, emphasizing the factors that contribute to a well-lived and fulfilling life. Positive psychology has been shown to produce improvements in well-being and to lower depression levels when applied. So as Jewish educators, with the mission of bringing value-add to the lives of our learners, how can we integrate positive psychology principles into our work in such a way that allows Judaism to be the vehicle for wellness and happiness?

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