The latest local version of a bonding and Jewish-identity program for girls will start up in January, offering ninth- and 10th-grade girls in Morris, Essex, and Sussex counties a chance to meet monthly and talk about issues like relationships, competition, stress, and family.
Rosh Hodesh-It’s a Girl Thing is being adapted by the Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life of MetroWest, whose assistant director of teen initiatives, Michal Greenbaum, will facilitate the group.
“Fostering women’s leadership and self-confidence is a passion of mine,” Greenbaum said. “This is a great opportunity for girls to share time together in a safe space.”
The group will meet in participants’ homes.
Launched in 2002 and run by the Philadelphia-based Moving Traditions, the program counts 320 groups nationwide, including 19 in New Jersey.
Congregation Agudath Israel of West Essex in Caldwell was the first area synagogue to embrace the initiative in 2003. The Moving Traditions website lists programs at Temple Sholom of West Essex in Cedar Grove, Morristown Jewish Center Beit Yisrael, Sharey Tefilo-Israel in South Orange, and Temple Har Shalom in Warren.
Rabbi Rachel Gartner, who served briefly at Bnai Keshet in Montclair, coauthored the curriculum. Trained facilitators use arts and crafts projects, drama, and discussion to examine teen issues incorporating Jewish perspectives. They meet on or around Rosh Hodesh, the “new month” holiday that has become a focus for women-centered activities in many synagogues.
Although the curriculum usually begins with the sixth grade, the Partnership is adapting it for girls who start in ninth and 10th grades.
Deborah Meyer, executive director of Moving Traditions, “loves” the idea.
“At that age, a lot of kids are not doing much Jewishly. And ninth and 10th grade is a time of life when girls really need this program,” she said. “Rosh Hodesh helps girls juggle the many competing and conflicting messages they get about what they should be.”
The group has room for 12 participants.
“I hope the girls who participate gain new friends, a stronger commitment to Judaism, and a greater sense of self-confidence,” said Greenbaum.