Let’s Hear It for “Teenwork”!

Posted on March 15, 2021 by Lisa Friedman and Hannah Lafargue

The teen community at Temple Beth-El continues to be a great source of pride for our congregation. From forging informal connections, to madrichim serving as role models, to a grand Purim pivot in the form of a CARnival, to their profound insights shared in meaningful discussions, our teens continue to impress us at every turn. This has been a year like no other, and our pride in these young people is as strong as ever.

Our youth re-envisioned the traditional Purim carnival into one that could be fun, interactive, and safe, coming up with a drive-through experience for families. Everyone had a blast dressing up, playing games from their cars, and laughing together.

We creatively redesigned our high school programs for the online space to maximize connections, while continuing to explore real-world issues through a Jewish lens. We have been mindful of our teens’ technological, social, and emotional needs during this time of physical separation.

In Post-Confirmation Academy (high school juniors and seniors), we have explored topics chosen by the teens and participated in several sessions offered by the Religious Action Center (RAC). We have discussed and put a Jewish lens on issues that our oldest students will continue to grapple with beyond high school, such as civic engagement, racial equity, and the events of the inauguration. We also had a lot of fun with a secret Chanukah gift swap!

In Confirmation Academy our eighth, ninth, and 10th graders enjoy some social time led by our teachers and madrichim before each class. We have played trivia games and charades and have had some intense rock/paper/ scissors tournaments (you’d be surprised how fun these are!). Our 10th graders still have the good fortune of learning with Rabbi Arnie, and the magic of Zoom allows them to work in chevruta (partners), just as they would if we were together in the building. For our eighth and ninth graders, we have built a dynamic series of “units” in which students have the chance to dive deeply into issues that matter to them. Each two- to three-week unit begins with an expert speaker and is then followed by age-appropriate and engaging sessions led by our wonderful faculty. Topics have included climate change, mental health, and the Holocaust so far this year.

Our madrichim (teen classroom assistants) continue to show up and be incredible role models for our younger students in our online spaces. They support our faculty by offering creative games and meaningful ways to help the children connect, bringing a great deal of positive energy, and consistently modeling a “can do” attitude, for which we are so grateful.

Despite this challenging time of separation, our teens take pride in their positive Jewish identities and demonstrate their ongoing commitment to our temple community. Of course, we also can’t wait for the time when we can all be back in our precious building eating pizza together!

Lisa Friedman
Education Director
Hannah Lafargue
Director of Youth Engagement

Originally published in the March-April 2021 issue of the Shofar. For more issues of the Shofar, visit the Shofar archives.