Thursday, June 30, 2011

Orthodox Jews Wrestle with Teens Texting on Shabbat ... What Might Some Call This?

While perusing the online version of The Jewish Week today, I came across an article which discusses a tremendous difficulty the orthodox movement is facing ... teens who text on Shabbat.

My gut reaction was interesting ... "this is what we call Reform Judaism."  These are Jewishly-educated teenagers making decisions regarding how they celebrate/observe Shabbat.    : )

But then it made me think a little deeper ... perhaps this is simply teenage rebellion.  In other words, is sending a text on Shabbat a conscious decision regarding how these teenagers want to live?  Is it a conscious statement regarding how they believe they can be Jewish and modern in today's world? 

I've decided that I'm not so sure ... I don't want teenage rebellion to be mistaken for intentionality ... I don't want teenage rebellion to be mistaken for educated choice.  I don't want people to think that this kind of teenage rebellion equals Reform Judaism.   : )

Here is the article in case you want to read what some of the orthodox kids themselves say about this issue:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

How Do We Live Our Values? What Does Our Calendar Say About Us?

Tonight, I was surfing the web and ended up on the website for the Union for Reform Judaism (, doing some "homework" for an upcoming professional development trip I am taking (more on that in future posts).

As I do sometimes, I checked out the Reform Judaism blog ( and stumbled across a lovely posting by a young man ... the title was "I'm Glad My Mother Made Me Attend Hebrew School" (see  The young man explains that, while his mother would ask him whether he wanted to attend, he knew that his answer didn't really matter. 

These days, with our kids having so many competing interests, we have to be especially careful to have their calendars (as well as ours) reflect our values ... yes, playing soccer is a fabulous team sport, but how does it reflect our values?  (I don't mean to pick on soccer, but it seems to be one of the most-cited reasons why kids can't come to B'nai Mitzvah preparation appointments ... but, it could be any sport or extra-curricular activity.)

At my current congregation, we host a "Shabbaton" for kids (and parents) entering the B'nai Mitzvah process about twice a year, during which I get a few minutes to go over some of the goals and expectations of the program.  Recently, I have begun to tell families that they should consider lightening their child's extracurricular activities in the year preceding their child's ceremony date.  I also tell them that their child will have many extra appointments the last 4-6 weeks before their child's ceremony and they should consider having their child not participate in ANY extracurricular activities during this time.  Can you imagine how well this goes over?  ;-)

If you get a moment, take a look at the link above ... and you'll see why I am glad this young man appreciates his parents decisions on his behalf. 

If you read it, you will see that he isn't talking about B/M prep, but rather his parents' decision that he would attend Hebrew school through HS graduation.  Think about it, I can't imagine any parent talking to their kid about going to high school saying, "Don't worry, if you don't want to go to 8th grade (or 9th or 10th or 11th), you don't have to go." 

I believe most Jewish parents would say that receiving a Jewish education is important, but I think too many give their kids the choice about when their child's Jewish education ends (or let soccer practice or band rehearsals or some other activity make the choice for them).  To me, religious education is a necessary supplement to "regular school" for children to grow up with a well-rounded education ... I just wish more parents agreed ... and that their calendars reflected that decision.   : )

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Challenges of Giving . . .

One of the biggest challenges I have when working with B'nai Mitzvah students is helping them with the Community Service Project requirement.  At Congregation Beth Israel, we ask students to complete 18 hours of community service during the year before the date of their ceremony ... to some kids, this is easy, while it feels impossible to others.

I encourage families to start working on this requirement early, since this is only 1.5 hours a month if you start a year ahead of time ... but this doesn't always work.  Other challenges include kids who have huge ideas about what they want to do, but no idea how to accomplish it (they always have great intentions) ... but the problems I find hardest to explain to 12-year olds is the impact of collection projects.

Many kids want to set up a collection bin and then donate items to their favorite charity ... because this can seem more like facilitating someone else's mitzvah (which is also an important thing to do), we really try to encourage our kids to do something hands-on, with the direct beneficiaries whenever possible.

Another challenge when working with kids is the difficulty of getting them to understand the possible negative effects of collection/giving projects.  I loved this article about responsible giving programs ... hope you enjoy it, too.   : )