After Bar Mitzvahs, too many teenage boys go away from Judaism, many in the New York Jewish community say. The Brotherhood program, supported by a grant from UJA-Federation of New York, is working to bring them back.
The Brotherhood program, run by Moving Traditions, engages teen boys by exploring Jewish values. The eight sessions connects Jewish themes to everyday life, exploring topics such as violence, finance, and college. The program is also a time for the boys to relax and talk with friends.
“It’s providing them a chance to discuss their faith. They let down their guard a little and share the struggles of being a high school boy,” says Andrew Paull, youth coordinator at Larchmont Temple, one of seven metropolitan New York sites with a total of 170 participants.
“These teens need the support from someone who has been in their shoes,” says Jesse Silver, a lay leader on UJA-Federation’s Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal’s Experiments in Teen Engagement Task Force. Moving Traditions works extensively to select and train group leaders, Silver notes.
Exploring Jewish Male Identity
The program creates a comfortable environment often associated with Jewish summer experiences, says Paull, a former Jewish camper. “I knew what it meant to have that male Jewish connection,” he says. “The Brotherhood is a way to create that during the year.”
For the final group session at Larchmont Temple, fathers joined their sons for a barbecue to experience the program firsthand. “I was really impressed with how the boys were participating, really talking about qualities of what it means to be a Jewish man,” says Scott Riemer, of his son Robert’s group.
Though the long-term impact of the recently created program is not yet known, Paull sees a renewed commitment from his group. “Once they’re done with the program,” he says, “they really remember how much Judaism means to them.”
For more information on UJA-Federation’s Experiments in Teen Engagement Task Force, contact Daniel Fast.