Journal of Youth Engagement

It seems that every few months, another article, news item, or study presents itself around the issue of teen stress and the pressures our young people face at school. We read about students taking higher level courses at younger ages, staying up increasingly later on school nights and feeling buried under heavy loads of homework. What we don’t always talk about are the ways these pressures impact their moments of joy, the formation of their Jewish identities and their personal growth.

In my role as senior regional director of NFTY Central West and as a senior assistant director at...

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In 1949, Joseph Campbell, a professor of literature at Sarah Lawrence College, wrote a book titled The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he postulated a theory called the “monomyth,” or the “hero’s journey.” In studying and dissecting all the great literature from the Hebrew Bible to Native American storytelling, Arthurian legend, and Greek mythology, Campbell realized there was really only one narrative, and he described it thusly:

“The hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive...

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When I was a little girl, I loved “Camp Shabbat” at my temple. I loved seeing my camp director during the off-season. I loved watching the promotional video and wearing my camp t-shirt. For one night, it felt like a tiny bit of glorious summer had crept into the rest of the year. I loved Camp Shabbat because I already loved camp, but all the magical elements of Jewish camp that make it life changing – the lifelong friendships, cool counselors who make their campers feel cool as well, living in “Jewish time” – cannot be replicated during a Friday night Camp Shabbat program. 


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In the worthy endeavor of making our Religious School programming as meaningful as possible for our children, we struggle with questions. How can we tweak our program to engage more families? How do we compete with other extracurricular activities? How can we afford to make changes? And how do we stay relevant in the lives of our families? From surveys and studies, we see elements that threaten to diminish our enrollment. In response, we have to keep with the times. Although I have no quick solutions, I can share our story.

Every year, as a professional team, we spend the summer...

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The stone passes, from student to teacher and back to the student again. They speak softly and listen well. Seated on meditation pillows in the light of a large candle, they talk about their past week – the blessings they saw, and the challenges they faced. This is how we, at Kulanu – the Cincinnati Reform Jewish High School – begin our time together on Sunday evenings. Creating a sacred space. Rather than one long teacher in-service, we hold hour-long gatherings for our team of staff and student leaders, prior to each session of classes. Every voice matters, every voice is heard.    ...

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Inside Leadership, the blog at, is a source for Reform Jewish leaders to get the latest news and though-provoking articles about Jewish communal life.