BOSTON — Nationally, some 80% of today’s Jewish teens do not opt in to the Jewish experiences offered in their communities.
Because young people who engage in Jewish learning as teens tend to be more involved in Jewish life as adults, Combined Jewish Philanthropies hopes to improve that statistic through the launch of a four-year comprehensive initiative to engage teens in the Greater Boston Jewish community, with the support of a $1.4 million matching grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation.
The community-based “Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Initiative” will be led by CJP’s Commission on Jewish Life and Learning and a coalition of Boston-based partners. The objective is to give teens the tools to be the creators of their own Jewish experience.
The grant by the Jim Joseph Foundation, a California-based philanthropic organization dedicated to fostering compelling and effective Jewish learning experiences for young Jews in the U.S., is the first in what is hoped to be a series of major investments in similar initiatives in communities across the country.
“Through collaborative efforts with CJP and other similar funding partners around the country, we believe these initiatives will help generate new teen education and engagement models that will further increase the depth and breadth of Jewish learning experiences for this age cohort,” said Al Levitt, president of the Foundation’s Board of Directors.
According to Reuben Posner, CJP’s Director of Youth Engagement, the initiative will be focused on four strategic priorities:
• Developing and implementing “The Design Lab,” currently a pilot program created by the Office of High School Programs at Brandeis University in partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism, and intended to empower Jewish teens to become more deeply engaged.
• Building communal infrastructure to increase the awareness and variety of options for teens. Successful programs such as the North Shore Teen Initiative may be adapted and replicated in other locations.
• Supporting the growth and development of all teen education professionals.
• Deepening CJP’s current investments in effective teen education programs through synagogues and other Jewish organizations.
The four-year grant works as a 1:1 match. This year, the Foundation will match up to $268,000 raised by CJP, and the money will fund programs slated to begin this fall.
“We are so excited about this opportunity because it gives us the ability to maintain and deepen our current investment in teen education and engagement, while experimenting with new models that enhance infrastructure and offer new entry points,” said Posner, adding that the grant will allow CJP to undertake research about what engages teens. CJP hopes that the focus on teens will help the entire community stay engaged Jewishly.
“Historically, CJP has been a great partner for the Jim Joseph Foundation. They have a track record for producing positive results,” said Josh Miller, a senior program officer for the Foundation, adding that the four elements of CJP’s plan will work together and will enhance one another. Miller is particularly interested in following the development of the innovative and experimental Design Lab.
“It has the potential to help change the way the Jewish community in Boston thinks about creating Jewish experiences for teens, and could have ripple effects to other communities as well,” he said.
Contact Reuben Posner at ReubenP@cjp.org.