Sunday, September 29, 2013

NFTY Leadership Training Institute or why staying in youth group makes the teen years go a little easier

My congregation, Lakeside was happy to host over 70 High School Leaders from Chicago area NFTY today. These teen leaders ages 15-18 met each other, learned different skills to become a leader, hung out, ate, studied some more skills, had dinner together and then went home.  Lakeside's LCTY group had helped plan this event and did a wonderful job.  I could go on with the platitudes but I know many times I am like a broken record when talking about youth group.

I know in my heart of hearts that these teens are future leaders of the Jewish community and perhaps starting with statement like this will not garner the additional participants that I would like to add to all types of Youth engagement. I realize that it might be better to start with skills that can be gained by becoming involved as a teen.  Here are just a few areas where teens gain expertise from youth group: leadership, communication, social media, making friends, speaking in front a group and planning programs and all of this steeped in Judaism.

I have always discussed with my Rabbi, Ike Serotta, that our kids that stay in Religious School through confirmation and then through youth group and working in our school have a much better chance of, well how can I say this, "staying out of trouble."  We have seen it time and time and time again.  I say it so much that I think I am a broken record or an itune song in a loop.  I know that Youth group be it NFTY, BBYO, Young Judea, fill in your youth group name here is not the answer for everyone.  I just wish more someone's would try it out.

The 70 teens today at Lakeside will become leaders, go on to work at our camps and are wonderful teens.  I hope that we can attract more teens to become engaged.  I have seen with my own eyes the difference it can make when teens are engaged and when they are not engaged.  Engagement can also be at public school, through sports, drama, dance, and the many extra curricular activities.  My passion is Jewish education and that's how I hope to attract and engage students for as long as I can.

If I am really lucky those that we engage go on to become Jewish educators, Rabbis, Cantors, or Youth group advisors and my record so far is pretty good...but it could always be better.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

#BlogElul 13th of Tishri Epilogue

Just an image I found, not done by a child I know

I know that Elul is over but Rabbi Phyllis I think you should consider some type Epilogue to blogging Elul.  I have loved watching facebook posts of everyone's sermons, ones they gave or one they heard, great meals again either served or eaten.  I even liked to see how tired everyone said they  were after said activities.  I think everyone blogging Elul should do one more Blog to wrap up their year.  It would also give everyone discipline to do ONE more Blog.  After blogging Elul I have fallen off the grid as  many of us have.  There is so much to do as a professional Jew, we just don't a minute to ourselves during  Tishri, never mind time to blog.  I do think it would be great to see how Blogging Elul paid off for those blogging and it would  give the discipline for just one MORE Blog.
Sermon Bingo is Genius

I know for me I enjoyed the daily posts and it certainly got me in the frame of mind for the High Holy Days even though Rosh Hashanah was 2 days after Labor day.  I had one friend, (Daniel Shore) who did a sermon Bingo on Rosh Hashanah and he asked friends on Facebook to let him know who had heard a sermon on DOMA, Syria or the 50th  Anniversary of MLK's speech, I have a dream.  Fascinating to see that many people had heard many of these same topics.
After blogging Elul I was in a good frame of mind to listen to wonderful sermons, start writing my weekly Email articles, and was able to get  into the spirit much earlier.

It is not easy to find a Simchat Torah picture with a girl holding a Torah
I know it's almost Sukkot and we are again preparing for not just this holiday but we have Shabbat and Simchat Torah following quickly on its heels.  I liked blogging Elul and it gave me the feeling of what it is like to blog daily.  I would love to hear other peoples' Epilogue to blogging Elul.  I'd write more but I have got to catch up before Pizza in the Hut begins tomorrow.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

#BlogElul 29 Return WAIT, it's Tishri? Now What?

Well I didn't make Quite make it until the end of BlogElul.  It got too hectic, I attended a great wedding and didn't have my computer, I had to get ready to open school, coordinate High Holiday T'filot and OK, Name your excuse.  I hate when people give the excuse they are too busy.  In fact I have been known to tell more than one person, "Don't try to Out Busy ME!"  Whatever my excuse once I stopped blogging I felt that I couldn't even blog some other ideas but I was determined to finish BlogElul in some way.  
Nathan and Shula get married

I am looking forward to next year when not only will the High Holy Days be later but, of course Blog Elul will be later as well.  There will be other obstacles to face next year, school starting, Ethan Ron going to college, (yes you read that right) but I look forward to blogging all of Elul 5774.  If I don't succeed there is always the next year.  I am in this for the long haul.

As we look to return and begin again as the year 5774 comes in there is a comfort in the familiar rituals of the High Holy Days followed by Sukkot and this year the beginning of Religious School.  Returning means to start from where you once were.  
Congregation Knesseth Israel, Elgin

I have very strong memories of hearing Kol Nidre at my home congregation, Knesseth Israel in Elgin as I was growing up.  We went every year and sat in the sanctuary as a dedicated lay person from the choir, Milt Pearlman, would sing Kol Nidre so beautifully.  The entire congregation would be spell bound throughout his renditions.  I tell all my students that their first adult service should be Kol Nidre because of my strong feelings of rembrance.

I am looking forward to hearing Kol Nidre at Lakeside Congregation tomorrow night with Cantor Davis, our beautiful choir and one rendition on the cello; I return to Elgin, I return to sitting in the pews with my sister, parents and Grandmother.  I love the beautiful peace that descends on the service as we usher in Yom Kippur.  I will be thinking about blogging Elul and how good it felt this year and wondering what Rabbi Phyllis Sommer has in store for us next year.

If I have offended anyone, whether intentionally or accidentally I hope you accept my apologies and grant me forgiveness as we enter the new year.  G'mar Chatimah Tovah.

This post is part of #BlogElul, a series of social media posts created during Elul, the month preceding the High Holidays. During Elul, it is customary for Jews to prepare spiritually for the upcoming new year. An annual project, #Blog Elul is the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer.