Inclusive Teen Experiences

Creating Inclusive Teen Experiences; Removing the Stumbling Block

One of the highlights of my work is leading experiences with teens. I am passionate about adolescents and have relished each of my opportunities to teach, guide, mentor, counsel and support this age group for nearly twenty years.

Building an inclusive teen program can be challenging, especially if you don't personally embrace a philosophy of inclusion. Unless you truly believe that every experience can and should be inclusive, you are bound to get stuck in notions such as, "Having her there takes something away from the other teens," and, "They shouldn't always have to look out for him." Until teen educators embrace the value of inclusion and recognize that an inclusive community is a stronger community for everyone, such fallacies will persist. I am exceptionally proud of the unique model we have built in our congregation. We have created a structure that affords all students, regardless of ability or need, the opportunity to participate fully. Including overnight experiences. And it works.

Synagogues across North America lament a significant decrease in engagement with Jewish life post-bar and bat mitzvah, but by offering a fully inclusive post b’nei mitzvah program, we maximize our students’ opportunities to continue learning, growing and engaging with Jewish life experiences. Further, we are socially engineering relationships between teens every step of the way, maximizing their potential for developing strong Jewish friendships. 

Professor Steven M. Cohen of HUC-JIR states that, “Jewish educators should have an explicit mission to bestow Jewish friendship networks on children and adults who are increasingly unlikely to find them on their own.”

Our teens are entitled to every Jewish opportunity possible. An inclusive program benefits everyone.

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