First published by the Jim Joseph Foundation ›

Teens today are impacted by monumental sociological forces and challenges. With this understanding, and powered by research and data, the Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative develops, nurtures, and scales innovative new approaches to teen engagement. In this unprecedented collaboration of national and local funders, ten participating communities are united by a paradigm shift in the approach to this work that demands that teen educators and leaders now ask, “how can our work help this teen thrive as a human being in today’s complex and challenging world?”

The Funder Collaborative and its communities look to answer this question every day. They come together—virtually and in person—to share lessons learned with each other and to identify the most relevant lessons to share with others. Recently, 20 implementers and professional development professionals came together in Austin, TX for three days. They wanted to learn directly from that dynamic city, a hotbed of creativity and entrepreneurship. Participants had a private workshop with the founder of Storybar to learn what makes a great story and to learn how they can integrate storytelling into their work. The Collaborative also met with Shalom Austin to hear about Jewish life in Austin and to share highlights about the experiences of the ten communities, so that their learnings go beyond the Collaborative.

What I value most about the Implementer Convenings is the opportunity to network with my fellow Implementers. The relationships, both personal and professional, we are forming because of the opportunities we are given to get together are crucial to the success of our work, in my opinion. Because of the convenings we are more than a group of implementers we are a community. No matter the location, our time together always inspires and motivates me to take our learnings and try new strategies in San Diego. Out of all the learnings I took away from Austin, I am most excited to experiment with influencers and campaigns to drive traction and awareness to the awesome work we are doing!
– Rebecka Handler, Director of the San Diego Jewish Teen Initiative

While the communities each have unique characteristics and singular elements of their engagement efforts, certain trends are prevalent across all the initiatives and highlight their important work:

Communities put teens in the driver’s seat of their own experiences because today’s teens are comfortable finding and using their voice to make change. Funder Collaborative community initiatives enable teens to architect their own journeys in a variety ways: by creating programming for their peers, in reaching out to their friends to make sure they’re aware of opportunities, and even making decisions about major grants for teen programming.

Discovery is a critical part of engagement. Teens, parents and even Jewish professionals say it’s difficult to find out about local Jewish opportunities. By developing online portals and searchable digital databases, the communities are amplifying the marketing power of all local organizations who post their events, and creating genuine value for the community.

Success means building and nurturing an ecosystem. The Funder Collaborative communities see first-hand that a dynamic ecosystem surrounds the teens themselves: community partners, supervisors, lay leaders, professionals and parents all directly and indirectly impact teen engagement. Especially in their the early teen years, parents require targeted marketing and outreach. Critically, the teen initiatives recognize that parents themselves often seek a supportive community to support their parenting, and many of the initiatives now offer workshops and community-building activities for parents.

Creating lasting change requires skilled and capable educators. After uniting around a new paradigm of teen-centric engagement, the initiatives quickly understood that developing a cadre of knowledgeable and capable educators and youth professionals would be critical to achieving their desired outcomes.

Wellness is fundamental to achieving positive outcomes for teens. Focusing on

Jewish Teens in Atlanta Alt Text
Jewish Teens in Atlanta

the whole teen, including their mental health and overall wellness, is emerging as foundational to effective Jewish teen education and engagement. Several communities offer workshops or conferences on adolescent development and family systems, deeper understanding of the social forces impacting teens today, and specialized training for educators in youth mental health first aid. By addressing and elevating teen wellness, Funder Collaborative communities are pioneering a new, holistic view of engagement work, with healthy, balanced and resilient teens at the center.

More than five years ago, the ten communities and funders came together to co-invest in teen engagement efforts that would be informed by up-to-the-minute research and data. As the initiatives evolve and continue to be informed by learnings, the landscape of teen engagement continues to grow—and the outcomes are increasingly positive.

Want to learn how your community can get involved? Contact Sara Allen, Collaborative Director, at sara@teenfundercollaborative.com ›.

The Jim Joseph Foundation is one of many funders invested in the Collaborative. For more information, visit teenfundercollaborative.com ›.

I recently had two amazing experiences that changed my beliefs on failure.

Kelly Cohen, JumpSpark Director

The first week of October I traveled to Austin to meet with leaders and representatives from the nine other Jewish Teen Initiatives that make up the Jewish Teen Education & Engagement Funder Collaborative. Together we participated in a Failure Lab that’s led corporate failure training for companies such as Steelcase, Dell, Goodwill, and the University of Michigan.

Monday, October 15th JumpSpark Professional hosted a Creativity & Collaboration workshop led by Dad’s Garage. Using very low-stakes improv games and not putting anyone on the spot, our facilitator Whitney led us in exercises to wake us up and shake off any case of the Mondays while also practicing creative thinking, listening, and partner/group collaboration; she expertly weaved in anecdotes and actionable steps we can take to integrate these learnings into our everyday work. As Whitney demonstrated at the workshop, in improv when you fail everyone claps, celebrates your courage, and moves on.

Three things I took from both these programs is that:

  1. Everyone fails
  2. Failure is necessary for growth and innovation.
  3. The real test is how we respond to it and how we tell our failure story.

Not only do we need to fail, we need to shorten our failure cycles, moving quickly from failure to trying again. Shortened cycles lead to more learning and ultimately more innovation. JumpSpark, as a hub of teen innovation in Jewish Atlanta, has to be telling its failure story not only so we can better serve our community but also so we can model vulnerability.

Our last JumpSpark Professional event – the Creativity & Collaboration workshop mentioned above – was dangerously close to being a “failure”. We didn’t get the turn out we’d hoped, and was nearly canceled. In order for us to better serve you, we need to know why.

I invite you to share anonymous feedback about why this workshop or any previous events didn’t pique your interest. Was the location or time inconvenient? Are team-building events not your thing, or did the mention of “improv” sound unappealing? Was cost an issue, or did you not even hear about it? Or is JumpSpark Professional simply not speaking to your needs as a resource to build up Jewish professionals in Atlanta? I value your truthful feedback and perspective about your needs and the needs of the professional community. If you don’t wish to be anonymous, I welcome you to email me directly and have a conversation.

82% of responses to the 2017-18 survey of Jewish Educators & Professionals in Atlanta said JumpSpark Professional added to their job satisfaction and built community. We want to build on that success by continuing to bring teen professionals together for meaningful networking and professional development. Please join us on Mon. Nov. 5th for a Networking Breakfast to unpack the data responses from the survey and envision how to use this data to shape the future of JumpSpark Pro and the Jewish teen landscape.

Thank you,

Jumpspark is proud to welcome 30 female-identifying Jewish teens in grades 9-12 representing 13 high schools and 9 synagogues in metro Atlanta to the inaugural cohort of the Strong Women Fellowship. The Strong Women: Know Them, Be Them Fellowship is a glass-ceiling shattering, educational cohort providing female-identifying Jewish teens in Atlanta with unparalleled access to strong women leaders, thinkers and voices shaping the world we live in today. Each month fellows will meet speakers, tour Atlanta organizations, and engage in relevant and empowering learning that speaks to what it means to be a woman in 2018, helps young women grapple with the obstacles they face, and prepares them to be the leaders they can be today and in the future.

Monthly guests include local female Jewish professionals and rabbis, as well as national female leaders. On October 23rd, Rachel Alterman Wallack, MSW, Founder and Mission Director of VOX ATL, will facilitate the orientation and initial meeting of the cohort. In November, in partnership with the Book Festival at the MJCCA, fellows will meet female Jewish authors Allison Yarrow and Emma Gray to learn how they authentically share their stories. In January, in partnership with SOJOURN, the cohort will explore identity, gender, and sexual diversity with Dr. Joy Ladin, professor at Stern College of Yeshiva University and nationally recognized speaker on transgender issues. For the full itinerary, visit jumpsparkatl.org/program/strong-women-fellowship.

Applicants for the fellowship were asked to answer four essay questions: “Who is a Strong Woman you consider a role model and why?”, “What do you think is one of the main issues facing women today?”, What do you hope to gain by participating in this fellowship?”, and “What will you bring to this learning cohort requiring active participation and input from all members?”. The thoughtful answers submitted by the 30 young women that were accepted demonstrate intelligence and unique perspectives of various backgrounds, regions, and affiliations, representing the diverse Atlanta Jewish community.

The 2019 cohort members include:

  • Mya Artzi, North Springs Charter High School, Class of 2020
  • Lula Barracano, Decatur High School, Class of 2022
  • Téa Barton, Riverwood International Charter School, Class of 2021
  • Meredith Berger, Pope High School, Class of 2019
  • Emma Cohen, Woodward Academy, Class of 2022
  • Lauren Cohn, Riverwood International Charter School, Class of 2021
  • Rachel Cohn, Riverwood International Charter School, Class of 2021
  • Samantha Fitch, Woodward Academy, Class of 2020
  • Aiden Fladell, Riverwood International Charter School, Class of 2022
  • Sydney Fox, Riverwood International Charter School, Class of 2019
  • Marissa Goodman, Pace Academy, Class of 2022
  • Tamar Guggenheim, Riverwood International Charter School, Class of 2022
  • Katie Hurwitz, Johns Creek High School, Class of 2021
  • Rebecca Kann, Pace Academy, Class of 2022
  • Maya Laufer, Dunwoody High School, Class of 2022
  • Stella Mackler, Grady High School, Class of 2022
  • Macy Mannheimer, Milton High School, Class of 2021
  • Emma Nowitz, North Springs Charter High School, Class of 2022
  • Moira Poh, North Springs Charter High School, Class of 2022
  • Lilah Presser, The Weber School, Class of 2021
  • Ariel Raggs, Chamblee Charter High School, Class of 2021
  • Lulu Rosenberg, North Springs Charter High School, Class of 2022
  • Zoe Rosenberg, North Springs Charter High School, Class of 2020
  • Zoe Siegel, Riverwood International Charter School, Class of 2022
  • Lexi Silberman, Dunwoody High School, Class of 2020
  • Lili Stadler, The Weber School, Class of 2021
  • Lily Stoumen, Riverwood International Charter School, Class of 2021
  • Abigail Ventimiglia, North Gwinnett High School, Class of 2020
  • Rene Walter, Dunwoody High School, Class of 2021
  • Anna Wynne, Pope High School, Class of 2020

The Strong Women Fellowship aims to connect female-identifying Jewish teens with a local cohort community that values justice, equality, and girl power while equipping them with valuable leadership skills and resumé-building experience. The fellowship receives local support as an innovation initiative of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, with additional grant funding for the fellowship from the Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta, and national funding from the Jim Joseph Foundation.

JumpSpark, Atlanta’s initiative for Jewish teen engagement, connects teens through immersive, interest-based experiences inspired by a Jewish lens. JumpSpark invests in teens and their ecosystem through resumé-building programs and social events, the “Navigating Parenthood” workshop series for parents of teens, JumpSpark Professional development and networking for youth educators, and community partnerships to boost collaboration and innovation. JumpSpark, one of ten communities in the Jewish Teen Education & Engagement Funder Collaborative, receives local support as an innovation initiative of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and national funding from the Jim Joseph Foundation.

To learn more about JumpSpark visit jumpsparkatl.org.