Preventing Post-Bar/Bar Mitzvah Drop Out
Posted on 04/08/2022 @ 08:00 AM
One of the most intractable issues that has plagued the modern Jewish community is the drop off in community participation by teens after Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
After the 2014 Demographic Survey, Federation formed a Task Force under the auspices of CAJE to compile strategies for how to address this issue.
One strategy was to create a JTeenMiami Website to compile and showcase our community’s rich menu of programs and resources for teens and their families, making opportunities easier to access.
Check out JTEENMIAMI.ORG to see it!
Thankfully, we have another great program to address this issue: IsraelNow.
Created in Chicago, IsraelNow is an immersive travel experience for eighth graders who are not enrolled in a Jewish day school. It has a proven record of success in getting teens to fall in love with Israel and then become active participants in community programs upon their return.
When some generous Miami donors heard about IsraelNow, they told Federation they wanted to sponsor the program for Miami youth, and so Federation agreed to sponsor it and turned to CAJE, with our expertise in teen education, to run the program.
With generous Federation funders supporting the program, the first-ever pilot IsraelNow trip with 10 Miami-Dade teens returned from their week-long journey in Israel that took place over Spring Break. The Miami contingent was part of a group of almost 200 teens from Chicago, Baltimore and Cleveland.
One major objective of IsraelNow is to nurture and maintain a long-lasting connection and commitment to Jewish life among our community’s youth. Throughout their journey, participants explored, learned, and created memories to last them a lifetime.
The teens visited Tel Aviv, explored Jerusalem’s Old City, hiked Masada, floated in the Dead Sea and heard stories from Holocaust survivors. They also enjoyed some unique experiences – dining at a restaurant where the servers were hearing-impaired and visiting Susan’s House, an Israeli nonprofit organization that empowers youth at risk.
"This trip was such a great experience. I made new friends, and got closer with ones I already had. I tried new foods and different eating experiences. Israel is so different from Miami, and I am so glad I was able to partake in so many parts of my culture.”
~ Brayden Labgold-Carroll
"The best part of the trip was when I floated in the Dead Sea,
hiked Masada and learned about Israel and the Jewish people."
~ Daniel Pasternak
"My three favorite parts of the trip were
the camels, new friends, and the shuk. I was able to meet so many new people and created nice bonds."
~ Sydney Lefcourt
Other teens expressed their desire to learn Modern Hebrew, to move to Israel in the future, and to serve in the IDF.
All noted how they now understood so much better why Israel is our spiritual homeland and expressed a deep connection to the land of Israel and to their own Jewish identities.
We are looking forward to keeping in touch with the teens to help them find the next steps on their Jewish journey, and excited for many more successful IsraelNow trips.