ATLANTA, GA – The Atlanta Kesher Teen Engagement Fellowship, the exciting new peer- to- peer engagement opportunity for Jewish teens in grades 10-12 offered by the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), has officially kicked off its second year. The 25 fellows participating in 2020-21 represent 14 high schools, 7 synagogues, and 11 zip codes across the metro Atlanta area.
Based on successful models in other parts of the country, the Atlanta Kesher Fellowship brings a different engagement experience to Atlanta’s Jewish teens. Tailored training on peer to peer engagement allows teens to strengthen their relationship building skills, understand the importance of face to face communication, and learn a new way of engaging their peers.
Funded in part by a JumpSpark grant through the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, this fellowship doesn’t involve a strenuous amount of hours, rather it is created for the busy teen and allows them the to create their own schedules strengthening time management skills. Teens will develop a variety of practical business, social, and leadership skills throughout the fellowship and receive expert mentoring and support to create meaningful Jewish engagement for their peers. At the end they receive a $200 stipend for all their hard work! New for 2021, a cohort of teens from The Temple are participating in a modified version of the fellowship with mentorship from Temple staff.
“The Temple is proud to partner with the ATL Kesher Program because we share the same goal of working to connect our teens through peer-to-peer engagement. Our hope is that teens who are connected to The Temple’s teen community will plan a variety of events for their peers while strengthening their own leadership skills, management styles, and ability to build relationships.” – Elizabeth Foster, Jewish Identity & Experiences Educator The Temple & Breman Education Center
The fellows are tasked with planning three small events (3-10 people) throughout the school year. These events include things, like a Shabbat dinner, Havdalah hike, or a philanthropic father and son basketball game. This year the task is to create exciting events in a virtual setting. These events include things like a virtual Hanukkah cookie decorating class, virtual Jewish Jeopardy night, or a virtual Shabbat Dinner or Havdallah service. The idea is to create small events relating to Judaism that have large impacts on the teens who aren’t as engaged in Jewish life in Atlanta. Creating more ways for teens to positively interact with Judaism will allow them to pave their own Jewish journey and lead to a greater impact on their lives.
At the inaugural fellowship on September 13, the teens learned the importance behind the work they are doing, why face -to -face communication is beneficial, and the power of inclusivity. This year’s training also focused on how to engage your peers in this new virtual reality. “We are training these fellows to plan meaningful experiences in any setting they can.”- Jessie Schwartzman, Atlanta Kesher Engagement Coordinator. The fellows left the kickoff ready to take on Jewish Atlanta!
Matthew Hirsch (17) reflected after meeting his fellowship peers at the kickoff: “I’m excited to be a Kesher Fellow because I want to make a positive impact in the Jewish Community by bringing people together that would not want to otherwise be involved.”
The 2020-21 Kesher Fellows Include:
Ali Becker, Temple Sinai
Courtney Caplan, The Temple
Tali Cohn, Temple Sinai
Dylan DeSimone, The Temple
Danielle Faulhaber, Temple Kehillat Chaim
Isabelle Fishbein, The Temple
Harrison Frank, Temple Emanu-El
Alexa Freedman, Temple Emanu-El
Matthew Hirsch, Temple Beth Tikvah
Emma Hurwitz, Temple Beth Tikvah
Katie Hurwitz, Temple Beth Tikvah
Caitlin Kilinc, The Temple
Andrew Levingston, Temple Sinai
Jordy Levy, Temple Emanu-El
Tali Lipton, Temple Sinai
Jaron Pearson, Temple Emanu-El
Ben Ragals, Temple Emanu-El
Lily Ragals, Temple Emanu-El
Amit Rau, The Temple
Elisa Rosenthal, Temple Sinai
Sara Serrano, Chabad of Gwinett
Hunter Siegel, Temple Sinai
David Strauss, Temple Sinai
Deirdre Weissman, Temple Kol Emeth
Noa Young, Temple Sinai
“We’re incredibly grateful to JumpSpark and the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta for their support and partnership in creating and funding this program. Year 1 was a success despite a challenging spring, and while Year 2 is certainly not what we had planned for, I have no doubt that our teens and staff will continue to be creative and thoughtful in engaging Atlanta’s Jewish teens.” – Adam Griff, Business and Program Manager, URJ Youth Southeast.
In addition to the peer-to-peer fellowship, the URJ is planning to expand the Atlanta Kesher fellowship to train teen songleaders. Future programming could also support teens engaged in social justice work.
The Union for Reform Judaism’s youth programs instill a sense of joy, compassion, and pride in being Jewish while nurturing a young person’s innate desire to make a difference in the world. Central to the URJ’s strategy is collaboration with Reform congregations, other Jewish organizations and individuals who are committed to youth engagement.