During our roundtable discussion this week with participants in various local teen leadership programs (see story), the students were asked, “What don’t adults get about teens?” All the students laughed, and the adult moderator braced for the typical responses: We nag them. We don’t listen. We just don’t understand.
Instead a few of them said a version of the following: Adults don’t appreciate what kids are capable of, and don’t believe they have the ability to do something for themselves. Kids act as leaders at school, run programs at camp. But when they come home to their Jewish communities, adults only want to know what we can do for them.
Empowering young people and high school students to take leadership roles in Jewish life is a priority for the Jewish community in North America, and a signature goal of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ. The students in our conversation represented three two-year leadership programs for local teens: Diller Teen Fellows, Iris Teen Tzedekah Advisors, and Write On For Israel. The emphasis of each program is different, but the goal is the same: to give young people the tools and perspectives they need to become Jewish leaders in their own right, and to contribute to whatever Jewish communities they join and create as young adults.
Registration for all three programs is open now through May 24. Whether teens are interested in Israel, philanthropy, social justice, advocacy, or all of the above, there is a program for them. For more information, go to www.jfedgmw.org/teens.
“The whole point of these programs,” said one student, “is to train you to bring what you learn to wherever you are.” And to remind adults of the power and talents of young Jews.