Archive | August 2016

What is your wish/prayer for the Birthday of the World? How will you put it into action? A Rosh Hashanah press inquiry

 

Hayom Harat Olam – Today the world stands at birth

If Rosh Hashanah is the World’s birthday, then what do you wish for it?

Can you help me out?

I am sleuthing for good sources for another feature on a tight deadline (September 15) for the High Holiday issue of the Detroit Jewish News. And, if you help me out and write to me about your wish, in turn, you are helping yourself focus on the meaning of the High Holidays:

Kids and adults: What is your special individual hope, prayer or wish for this world?

And, what, in the New Year, will you to do to work towards making that wish come true? Will you volunteer? Tutor a child? Check in on an elderly neighbor? Collect food and water for the hungry? Start a whole new organization for your favorite cause?

 

According to Genesis, when God created the world, God knew it would be incomplete. Imperfect. That’s why he created us: humans, to enter into a partnership with Him to keep the earth and repair it.

These days, the Earth – from the global to the most local levels, needs lots of healing. From the broken schools in Detroit where only 47 percent of adults are functionally literate to our polarized and ugly presidential election cycle.

From the fires in California, floods in Louisana and Zika in Florida.

Genocide in Syria and Iraq.

In the Jewish world, we face growing anti-Semitism from the college campus to a global level as the world grapples with growing radical Islam.

Indeed, the problems are overwhelming.

Are we truly up to the task of being God’s partner in a time like this?

But we must. Today’s problems provide us with plenty of food for thought as we approach the month of Elul and we prepare spiritually for the Jewish New Year of 5777

How can we as one individual live up to the task of being God’s partner in a time like this? But we must. Today’s problems provide us with plenty of food for thought as we approach the month of Elul and we prepare spiritually for the Jewish New Year of 5777?

So, let us, you, Jewish Detroit, and I,  start this conversation together.

Ask yourself and ask your children: What do you hope/wish/pray for this Rosh Hashanah for the world’s birthday wish?

And, how will you plan to fulfill this wish? Leave me a reply in the comments, 100 words or less, and your contact information. If I select it, I will let you know and will need a photograph of you for publication in the DJN.

Email me at stacy.gittleman@yahoo.com or leave me a reply in the comments, 100 words or less, and your contact information. If I select it, I will let you know and will need a photograph of you for publication in the DJN.

And, if you choose to act on your wish, as prayers should lead to action, I will feature you and your social action cause further this new Jewish year as a mensch of the month.

I look forward to reading, and writing about, your birthday wishes for the world.

 

 

 

Weaving Magic – Teen Network Weavers energize and engage Detroit’s Jewish teens

Another school year is off to a running start. Let us make a New Years Resolution of keeping our Jewish kids connected to their Judaism beyond Hebrew School and their coming of age Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony. 

For me, Hebrew school is where I learned, but Jewish Youth group is where it all came into play. And meet my partner for life, there’s that too. 

So, find ways to get your kids involved – whether it be USY, NFTY, BBYO or NCSY. These are the ties that bind for life.  It was a pleasure to speak to so many committed young staff committed to nurturing our Jewish youth. 

Weaving Magic: Teen engagement initiative aims to nurture the community’s next generation

By Stacy Gittleman, Contributing Writer

Posted on August 25, 2016, 10:35 AM . Filed in Uncategorized. Tagged , ,. Be the first to comment!

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Jake Provizer of Farmington Hills remembers being “anti” Hebrew school. After his bar mitzvah at Temple Israel, the incoming Michigan State University freshman begrudgingly attended Monday night school. It was not until he found himself encircled by his newest friends during Havdalah at his first NFTY convention in Chicago that he felt his Jewish identity taking hold.

“I was in the eighth grade, and it was my first youth group experience,” recalled Provizer over a phone interview from Camp George in Canada, where he is spending his second summer as a counselor. “Then and there, I realized there was no place I would rather be. I went to every NFTY event all through high school. Involvement with Jewish youth is the best way to build your Jewish identity while you pick up the skills to become an independent adult.”

Temple Beth El youth are out with their Teen Network Weaver Joseph Unger, right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jake Provizer of Farmington Hills, an active, committed teen, at Camp George in Canada during a Shabbat service

There are about 4,400 Jewish teenagersin Metro Detroit, but only about 1,000 — or 25 percent — think like Provizer and are active in Jewish living. The rest of this age group, though they value things like Jewish holidays and being with Jewish friends, are pulled in different directions in a post-religious society that values secular pursuits as they look to build their college application portfolio.

As teen free time dwindles, Jewish youth programming needs to be more meaningful to fulfill the teens’ social action desires as well as their need to socialize in a realm outside of social media.

The above findings are from a 2014 study conducted by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit’s Task Force on Jewish Engagement. Recognizing that a robust Jewish community can only continue by nurturing the next generation, Detroit is leading the nation in financial commitment to Jewish teen engagement with its Teen Network Weavers (TNW) initiative. The TNW term was coined by Rabbis Jen Lader and Josh Bennett of Temple Israel.

“It is crucial that we re-invest in our teens to connect them to their rich heritage that can offer so much guidance as they navigate their way through the many modern challenges they face,” said Jeffrey Lasday of Federation’s Education Department.“Success to us at the end of this second year will look like 90 percent of Detroit’s Jewish teens participating in at least one Jewish youth program.”

TNW funding is provided by a $150,000 grant from the Hermlin-Davidson Center for Congregational Excellence. The grant is then split and matched three ways between Temple Israel of West Bloomfield, Temple Beth El of Bloomfield Township and a consortium of local Conservative synagogues. The match calls for congregations and Federation to split the cost of each weaver, an administrator and some programming costs. Each weaver is hired on a two-year rolling grant basis.

The three weavers function at the highest community level instead of the individual congregation level as they are guided by a Teen Network Weaver administrator on Federation’s staff. The initiative strives to keep Jewish teens in the fold by meeting them where they are — both literally and spiritually.

Heading up the TNW team is Barrett Harr, Federation’s coordinator of Jewish teen engagement. Harr moved here from Texas after 15 years of congregational Jewish youth fieldwork and this spring completed the Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.The weavers’ jobs demand a much more proactive expertise than their part-time counterparts of previous generations. TNWs have backgrounds in social work and teen crisis management as well as a depth of knowledge of Judaism.

“Somewhere along the line, society has lost that village where every adult in the neighborhood looked out for one another’s children,” Harr said. “The Federation is determined to nurture more Jewish teens and we, as Jewish youth professionals, are blessed to have such a financial commitment from this community.”

 

Jewish Journeys

Shortly after she graduated college, Jacki Honing, 26, found herself at a dinner meeting with a potential employer on a Friday night.

“As a 20-something, I realized I had some choices to make: Do I opt for the corporate life, or do I want to work in the Jewish world?” said the Las Vegas native who moved to Detroit for the weaver job in January and works with teens in the Conservative movement.

She dropped her corporate ambitions and committed her professional pursuits to the Jewish community. Honig channels her memories attending Jewish preschool, day school and socializing in United Synagogue Youth and Camp Ramah as she mentors teens making personal choices of how to live more Jewishly. Well-versed in the teen mindset, she takes a “one-size-does-not-fit-all” strategy for finding just the right opportunity to spark a teen’s interest in Judaism.

“We realize that what may work for one teen will not work for another,” Honig said. “We are not proprietary to the particular youth groups we represent. What is most important is making these teens realize they are the future of our community by nurturing and mentoring them now. Then, when they are adults, they will want to give back, not only to the Jewish community, but to Detroit as a whole.”


“Without her, who knows where
MCUSY would be, and I’m so fortunate I got to work with her this past year as MCUSY co-president,” said Bloomberg, who has held leadership roles locally  and regionally. “USY has been an essential part of my high school experience. USY has taught me valuable leadership skills, and has introduced me to a plethora of friends I consider family. It has also given me the opportunity to further my Jewish education. I’ve had the opportunity to lead programs regarding lessons in the Torah as well as lead part of Shabbat services at every regional convention.”Allison Bloomberg, 17, of Farming-ton Hills, who will be a senior this year at Frankel Jewish Academy in West Bloomfield, said Honig has been “a huge help” in supporting MCUSY (Motor City USY) during a transitional phase and helped keep the Conservative-based chapter growing in the right direction.
Programs like this over the last year have attracted a core group of 10 kids, plus 35-40 others who have attended at least one program over the year. Other successful programs last year included Havdalah at the William Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse in Detroit with TBE’s Rabbi Mark Miller.Joseph Unger, the only native Detroiter of the weavers, works as the youth adviser at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Township. Much of the NFTY programming at TBE focuses on social justice and volunteering, such as monthly trips to soup kitchens or other work coordinated by Repair the World Detroit.

At 25, Unger likes to be honest with the teens, telling them he wishes he had taken his own religious schooling more seriously. He did get involved with Michigan State University Hillel and traveled with the group on a life-changing Birthright Israel trip.

“That trip really made me think more about Judaism and how I wanted to give back to my community,” he said.

 

Building  Israel Ties
If Ethan Bennett, TNW for Temple Israel, had his way, he would make sure each teen understands the connection to the Jewish homeland — not during Friday evening services, but by taking them on a hike into the Negev Desert and then studying a text that sources the very trail where they had just walked.

Bennett tries to do the next best thing by facilitating informal Thursday night programs at Temple Israel where teens can learn and discuss topics pertaining to Israel.
“Israel has shaped who I am and it is an important part of my work,” Bennett said. “Today’s Jewish teens need resources to define their own relationship with Israel. When they get to college they will be challenged, and that is OK. But they need to be prepared.”A native of St. Louis, Mo., Bennett was active in NFTY and spent a gap year in Israel, where he bolstered his skills in working with Jewish teens. He also finished his studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he studied Hebrew and Arabic and worked on youth partnership programs between Arab and Jewish teens in Israel.

Bennett finds his job as a weaver very fulfilling and says he is very grateful for the wide support he and his cohorts are receiving.

He began his position in October 2015 after working with Jewish teens throughout the country. However, he said he has never seen the devotion and commitment of a community for teen outreach as he has witnessed in Detroit.

“It is rare a community invests so much in its youth advisers and allows us to have so much influence in the community,” he said. “We have been given license to take our ideas and passions and run with them.”

 

What do you Say??

Nathanhopcat

My first short-lived job out of college I worked for a small weekly newspaper in a rural county in New Jersey.  So rural that the grounds for the county fair, complete with livestock competitions with pigs and cows,  was right out the back door of the newsroom.

That weekend, the staff worked a booth to promote the paper and increase circulation. I was in charge of blowing up helium balloons and handing them out to children who stopped by to visit.

With each child I gave a balloon, parents were sure to ask that child in a prodding manner:

“What do you say?”

It seems the thing you teach your kid to say, that kindest phrase, cannot be said enough in life.

Just saying thank you. Showing gratitude for every experience, some good, some not so good, but recognizing that each moment teaches and shapes you.

In addition to nurturing this practice in our children, for saying thank you for getting material things when they are younger, we hope that as our kids grow into adults, they keep saying it for the intangible things too.

So there I was, out at the Crofoot, a nightclub in Pontiac, Mich.,  trying to make eye contact with my 17-year-old son as he opened for touring folk-rock bands The Mountain Babies and The Cactus Blossoms, mouthing the words:

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

Now, I am not saying that he did not say thank you to his audience, or to the headlining band. But you just can’t say it enough.

This is the summer that my 17-year old son, soon to be a high school senior, truly hustled to get out his music as a solo guitarist and songwriter.  The band that he and his mates tried so hard to get off the ground during sophomore and junior year never took off. There were too many conflicts. Too many SAT prep classes and cross-country meets. Too many mothers filling up weekends with family obligations.

This summer, he did not get a job at Kroger, or Old Navy, or a summer day camp. It was not from a lack of trying.

What he did get were a few paid gigs.

So I just want to say, thank you.

Thank you to the Teen Council of Detroit and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit for fostering creativity through your rap and songwriting workshops, your uncensored teen Open Mike nights.

Thank you to the Farmington Civic Theater for letting my son busk  (yes, this is a verb that you learn when you know a starving up and coming musician) on a couple of Friday nights for dollar bills and pocket change, and a free drink and two movie tickets.

Thank you to Goldfish Tea in Royal Oak and all the tea sipping folks there who listened and cheered for my son on open mike nights.

Thank you to The Hopcat who, though he was underage, let my son open up your open mike night a little early at your upstairs bar before he had to get thrown out.  And, of course, thank you for Crack Fries.

And all along the way, I am thankful for the friends here, people I did not have in my life only three short years ago since moving to Detroit, who not only have come out to hear him play, but who ask me when he is playing next.

So, my son, I know you are never more comfortable than when you are up on stage playing, but when you are up there, you know what to say, and you cannot say it enough. Plug the band for whom you are opening. Give praise to your audience. You just cannot do it enough.

While I’m at it, I would be humbly thankful if you check out my son’s music here.

 

 

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