When I was a teen in the 1960s, such Zionist youth groups as Betar, Habonim Dror, Bnei Akiva, and Hashomer Hatzair were popular. All had the goal of inspiring in teens a closeness and commitment to the Land of Israel. Some were politically to the left, others to the right. But it was all about loving Israel.
When my kids were teenagers, in the 1990s, the popular (and still relevant) youth groups were NCSY (National Conference of Synagogue Youth), Young Judaea, Hillel, BBYO, United Synagogue Youth, and many others. These are all meant to inspire closeness with other American-Jewish kids since we all share a common religion and culture, and, quite frankly, most of us want our kids to “stay in the fold” and marry Jewish, do we not?
Now, in 2018, when the intermarriage rate is soaring, the big news reported in NJJN is the formation of teen chapters of a Jewish-Muslim friendship group (“Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom pilots five teen chapters,” April 17). Cute idea, most probably. But NJJN cannot continuously give top billing (front page) plus multiple pages inside to the Salaam Shalom organization. I think it is a disservice to the Jewish community, and many friends have told me they are really getting turned off.
The other Jewish youth groups are seldom, if ever, covered in NJJN (perhaps a photo when a chapter wins a prize). They need all the coverage and good PR they can get. True, they generally don’t have any earth-shattering news, but they quietly do their very important work with our teens. Maybe an article listing all Jewish groups available to teens in the central New Jersey area is in order.
Bella Scharf Zelingher