How do Jewish teens connect in the Valley?

In the past few weeks, I’ve written articles about the Jewish Student Union and Jewish Girl Scouts. As a Jewish kid growing up in Southern California, I was a Girl Scout, but the troop had no connection to Judaism; and I went MIA from Hebrew school when my mother gave me the choice to have a bat mitzvah in our Conservative synagogue, or take a pass, like most of my 13-year-old female contemporaries did back in the mid-to-late ’60s.

While writing these articles, I started thinking about how Jewish youth in the Valley connect socially with their Jewish peers. Many synagogues offer youth programming for all ages, the Bureau of Jewish Education holds Hebrew High once a week during the school year, and most streams of Judaism offer youth group experiences. I’ve highlighted a few of the larger organizations below:

The National Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY), the youth arm of the Reform movement, comprises more than 750 synagogue youth groups, engaging high school students in leadership activities grounded in Torah, justice and repairing the world. Through NFTY, teens build friendships and gain leadership skills through community building, worship, social action and educational programming, which includes yearly social action and study themes.

For more information, visit nfty.org.

The Conservative Movement’s United Synagogue Youth (USY) inspires Jewish youth to “explore, celebrate and practice ethical values, Jewish living, Zionism and community responsibility.” USY offers programs through Conservative synagogues for pre-teens and teens that include leadership training, social programming, community service and Israel advocacy. The organization also has summer programs, including USY on Wheels — a multi-week trek that takes teens on the road for a memorable summer of learning, social action and camaraderie.

For more information, visit usy.org.

The National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), founded by the Orthodox Union in 1954, helps “connect, inspire and empower Jewish teens and encourage passionate Judaism through Torah and Tradition.” NCSY, as I reported a few weeks ago, takes an active role in engaging Jewish students in public as well as private schools, offers social action opportunities, Shabbaton weekends and summer programs.

Visit ncsy.org for more information.

BBYO (formerly B’nai B’rith Youth Organization) offers Jewish experiences for teens post-bar and bat mitzvah. The pluralistic organization’s mission is to offer meaningful learning and growth opportunities to Jewish teens, including Israel and world travel.

To learn more about local chapters, visit bbyo.org.

The Bureau of Jewish Education holds Hebrew High at the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus on Tuesday nights (and at satellite locations in Chandler and Glendale) during the school year, giving students in grades 9-12 an opportunity to mingle with other Jewish teens while learning. Hebrew High also has a summer Care-A-Van trip giving teens an opportunity to travel, do community service and hang out with their peers.

For more information, visit bjephoenix.org.

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