Spark Note: Temple Youth Group Adapts to Virtual Reality

“Jewish communal life is as significant for our youth as it is for our adults, so at Temple Beth Tikvah, we strive to keep opportunities for community for our youth going even after being picked up in religious school carpool. Our youth group programming includes a wide variety of age-appropriate activities, some Jewish in nature, some secular in nature. All are fun and serve to bring our children together as Jews. We offer youth events for every age, divided into appropriate groups in order to personalize events to be engaging, entertain and educational.” -Temple Beth Tikvah

In the middle of March, I was about three-quarters of the way through my term as my youth group’s (House of Tikvah Temple Youth, or HOTTY) President, and, as a senior in high school, I was looking forward to my last few events as a board member and participant. However, my expectations for the remainder of the year were shattered when the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the cancellation of, well, everything. Though we knew the year wouldn’t end as we had planned it would, the board acted quickly to develop plans for virtual programming and maintain the momentum we had created throughout the year. For the past month, HOTTY has hosted at least one event each week, all through the power of the Internet.

Our events have ranged from virtual lounge nights to game nights, from movie nights to Instagram live classes, from virtual escape rooms to virtual tea parties. Lounge nights give our members the opportunity to simply catch up, as they would at our standard in-person lounge nights. We eat, laugh, and make plans for weekly challenges involving making all food in only a mug. Actually, that last part only happened at one of our virtual lounge nights, but it wouldn’t surprise me if an equally inventive topic arose at the next.

The series of Instagram live classes has included a tutorial on turning a used water bottle into a birdfeeder, led by our Social Action Vice President, an art class, led by our Religious and Cultural Vice President, and a dance class dedicated solely toTikTok dances, led by me. Needless to say, members have certainly been entertained. Our Elections and Game Night allowed members not only to elect next year’s board, but also to play a variety of interactive, virtual games and connect in a different and lightly competitive way. Though the virtual escape room and virtual tea party have yet to occur, I look forward to watching HOTTY grow closer during these atypical events.

Despite the challenge posed by COVID-19, HOTTY has refused to let it impact the strength of our community. We adapted to the circumstances and found new, innovative ways to continue engaging with each other and with our Judaism. COVID-19 has made the development of interpersonal relationships hard, sure, but not impossible. Finding ways to work around the unfortunate situation at hand has allowed us to grow stronger and more resilient as a young, Jewish community, and I find that these traits will pave the way for a generation of strong, resilient Jewish adults.

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