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May 24, 2012 - Image 27

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-05-24

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Engaging The Next Gen

The organized Jewish community works to build young leaders.

anelists lead a discussion

young adult engagement at
the JCPA Plenum.

Ben Falik
Contributing Writer


outh is not wasted on the
young, at least according to the
presenters at "Engaging our
Young Adults," a workshop during the
Jewish Council for Public Affairs Plenum
in Detroit May 5-8. Nor is engaging and
empowering a new generation of Jewish
young adults a simple task. The workshop
highlighted three efforts that are engaging
young adults, on their own terms, to build
community and cultivate leadership.
For the purposes of the workshop,
young adults" (a term that can very
widely to the section of the library with the
Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew to the graying
young at heart") included college through
late 30s. And in the generational spirit of
the event, we were asked not to turn off
our phones but to use them — to post, to
tweet, to connect — preferably with the
ringers off.



Reaching Out
ReachOut! is a service-learning program
run by the Boston Jewish Community
Relations Council. ReachOut! develops
opportunities to volunteer across greater

Boston, building community through
shared learning and Jewish experiences.
The substance, structure and style of
ReachOut! reflect extensive interviewing of
its core demographic to create a program
that, according to steering committee
chair Campe Goodman, would, "engage
young adults in a new
way, support meaningful
community service and
provide an avenue for
leadership opportuni-
ReachOut! mobilizes
young professionals who,
busy as they may be,
make time to serve.
Groups of six to 12 par-
ticipants volunteer one
night a week for 10 weeks and contextual-
ize their experience through four service-
learning sessions and two shabbat dinners.
With a glow-in-the-dark screaming
slingshot monkey stuffed animal as its
mascot, ReachOut! has a sense of humor
as strong as its sense of mission. The take-
aways, as described by Jordyn Rozensky,
Boston's Director of Service and Young
Adult Programming:
• Not all service sites are created equal.

The excitement of community partners
does not ensure a high-quality volunteer
• Socializing should have a purpose.
Bar nights are a panacea for young-adult
• Jewish learning needs a balance. Jewish
content should not make you feel like
you're back in Hebrew School but rather
connect your experiences to your Jewish
• Growth needs to be organic and
thoughtful. Thus far, 70 percent of
ReachOut! participants have been female.
• Good food and gathering spaces are
important. Young professional volunteers
are eager to get their hands dirty but not to
eat cold pizza in dank basements.

Israel On Campus
Jeff Dawson is the campus coordinator for
American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, a
member of the Israel on Campus Coalition,
working to counter the Boycott, Divestment
and Sanctions movement on college cam-
As Dawson describes the landscape, "Are
the campuses really on fire? No. But there is
a steady drip of negativity that leads many
students to ask Is Israel really the liberal

democracy it claims to be?' We are working
to teach Israel beyond the conflict."
While he focuses on fighting the dele-
gitimization of Israel, the lessons from his
work speak more broadly to the oppor-
tunities and challenges of young adult
engagement. According
to Dawson, working with
college students can be
very successful but is
time consuming, requir-
ing full-time staffing.
The wisdom he shared
from his experiences
Jeff Dawson
•You need to under-
stand the community
— and understand that communities can
change rapidly.
• The success of an event should be
judged by the relationships that flow from
the event.
• Social media is more effective for
maintaining relationships than building
• Always invite and encourage people to
bring friends — Jewish or not. Even if they
don't, the gesture will set an inclusive tone.
• Don't try to change the values of your

Engaging on page 28

May 24 • 2012


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