Spark Note: Helping Jewish Youth Find Joy and Connection in Challenging Times

In 2019-20, Moving Traditions has been thrilled to partner with JumpSpark to bring our innovative programs to the Atlanta Jewish community to build the wellbeing and Jewish identity of youth.

Now, our lives have been interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.  We face isolation and fear for the health of those we love.  Jewish youth especially are seeing their social lives shut down, as they are confined to their homes with their parents and behind their screens.

Moving Traditions is taking steps to help parents and Jewish educators address the needs of the moment.

In mid-March, Moving Traditions began to release a series of COVID-19 resources, including a new session for our Rosh Hodesh, Shevet and Tzelem teen groups, Teens and Coronavirus: Living Life During a Pandemic, focusing on balancing self-care and the responsibility to care for others; avoiding scapegoating in times of fear; touch and consent; and the importance of seeking out joy.

The session follows Moving Traditions usual approach, combining ancient Jewish wisdom with the latest in social-emotional learning and teen culture to explore the important issues of the day. As always—and even in our online adaptations—we use a variety of modalities to create safety, intimacy, fun, and meaning-making. And we are training our educator-partners to adapt to our new online world through webinars and one-to-one coaching.

As a synagogue educator recently wrote, “We have taken our Rosh Hodesh and Shevet groups online and the families and teens are really thankful. In fact, our 10th-grade boys’ Shevet group has requested to meet twice a month while we are all at home, and we have agreed and that’s what they are doing.”

In late April, we just released another new session, this time for parents and their preteens and teens. Entitled,  “How to Connect When You’re Never Apart,” the session is designed to be implemented with a Zoom platform, and is available to all Jewish educators.

With families spending more time together under one roof than ever before, the “How to Connect” session gives parents and children the opportunity to come together—even if on their own screens—to talk to one another in real-time about the gifts and challenges of this new normal. The session provides the opportunity for each person to reflect on and share with their family members their communication styles and needs and explores strategies for truly connecting with one another.

Looking ahead to the next 3-6 months, the Moving Traditions team is conducting rapid needs assessment interviews in order to revise and clarify how we can best meet the needs of Jewish youth, educators, and institutions going forward, given how our lives are so fundamentally changing. 

We look forward to continuing to partner with JumpSpark and the Atlanta Jewish community, as together we support Jewish youth and families through this crisis—and into resilience, wellbeing, and connection.

Please join us for our Taste of Moving Traditions Webinar: Join JumpSpark virtually on May 13 at 1 pm for an experiential webinar to learn about Moving Traditions and the impact that, together, we can have on Jewish youth in Atlanta. During this “Taste of Moving Traditions,” we will give you insight into their Pathway of programs, including B’nai Mitzvah programs and Teen Groups. This is a great opportunity to learn about bringing this flexible community-building program to your community in a time when teens need that sense of connection. Moving Traditions programming can be implemented online or in-person.

Register here: http://movingtraditions.formstack.com/forms/tasteofmt

Established in 2005, Moving Traditions launched with a Teen Group program for girls, Rosh Hodesh, and has since created Shevet for boys and Tzelem for transgender and non-binary teens. Our new B’nai Mitzvah program helps 6th and 7th graders and their parents develop strong communication and empathy as they prepare to become and parent a teen, and the Carol Lowenstein Moving Traditions B’nai Mitzvah Training Institute prepares clergy and educators to lead meaningful, Jewish conversations to help families navigate this important “coming of age” time of life. Together, the Moving Traditions B’nai Mitzvah program and Teen Groups comprise the Pathway to Flourishing Jewish Teens.

Their latest training initiative, CultureShift, prepares camp leaders to train their counselors and staff to challenge sexism, sexual harassment, and assault at camp, and to promote healthy relationships rooted in safety, respect, and equity.

To date, Moving Traditions has emboldened 25,265 teens, trained 2,023 adults as B’nai Mitzvah program leaders and Teen Group mentors, and partnered with more than 400 congregations, JCCs and other Jewish entities across North America. We operate six staffed regions in Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, and Philadelphia.

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