ATLANTA, GA – The Atlanta Kesher Teen Engagement Fellowship, an exciting new peer- to- peer engagement opportunity for Jewish teens in grades 10-12 offered by the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), has officially launched in Atlanta. The 15 fellows participating in 2019-20 represent 12 high schools, 6 synagogues, and 11 zip codes across the metro Atlanta area.
Based on the successful URJ North East Teen Collective’s approach to teen engagement, 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!
“This model is unique in the Jewish teen landscape,” says Bobby Harris, Director of URJ Camp Coleman. “The teen fellows are creating experiences that are fun and meaningful for them and their friends instead of just trying to bring them to large scale programming. Like the chavurah or ‘small circle’ model, this is about friends connecting to friends and building circles of peers living Jewish lives.”
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. 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 November 17th, the teens learned the importance behind the work they are doing, why face -to -face communication is beneficial, and the power of inclusivity. The fellows left the kickoff ready to take on Jewish Atlanta!
Sophie Kieffer (18) reflected after meeting her fellowship peers at the kickoff: “I am excited to be a Kesher Fellow because I believe Jewish Atlanta is relying on today’s Jewish teens to ensure a strong Jewish Atlanta in the future.”
The 2019-20 Kesher Fellows Include:
Lola Bessoff, Temple Beth Tikvah
Adam Boehm, Temple Beth Tikvah
Tali Cohn, Temple Sinai
Danielle Faulhaber, Temple Kehillat Chaim
Harrison Frank, Temple Emanu-El
Nicole Frysh, Temple Sinai
Katie Hurwitz, Temple Beth Tikvah
Sophie Kieffer, Temple Sinai
Simon Klee, Congregation Gesher L’Torah
Andrew Levingston, Temple Sinai
Tali Lipton, Temple Sinai
Lily Ragals, Temple Emanu-El
Deirdre Weissman, Temple Kol Emeth
Sophie Wilson, Temple Beth Tikvah
“Our 2019-2020 fellows are a remarkable group. Not only do they represent a diverse range of Atlanta congregations, schools, and neighborhoods, they are smart, passionate, and excited to be part of this endeavor. We know that building relationships is the key to increasing engagement. I feel confident that this group of teens will help us push the needle and reach teens that until now have stayed on the sidelines of Jewish life,” says Adam Griff, Atlanta Kesher Fellowship Director.
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.