As the High Holidays approach, many of us will engage in introspection and reflection: What do we make of the past year?  What are hopes for the year to come?  Turning inward to find deeper understanding of our place in the world fills some people with joy and a sense of freedom; others may feel great uncertainty, anxiety, and moodiness. This discomfort actually helps us find our own strengths, recognize vulnerabilities, and forge relationships that sustain us. Adolescence echoes this same journey, often exacerbated by modern complications of social media, educational pressures and changes in the brain that can mean ever-long transitions into adulthood.

Responding to both research and on-the-ground learning, the 10 Funder Collaborative communities are utilizing Jewish tradition and community to offer teens and their families a sense of belonging, purpose, and meaning.  This embrace of a new, holistic view of Jewish engagement, with healthy, balanced and resilient teens at the center is now foundational principle of many effective Jewish teen education experiences. Efforts are being made to share these offerings with the broader field:
Jewish Curriculum for Youth Mental Health First Aid 
As part of robust local professional development efforts, several communities currently provide training in Youth Mental Health First Aid for youth educators.  To increase relevance for Jewish professionals, the Funder Collaborative is partnering with The Jewish Education Project to craft complementary Jewish content for this national certificate course. This will be offered for use across the country, part of our commitment to produce and contribute contemporary tools to the field, informed by deep understanding of teens and Jewish frameworks that help them thrive.
A Convening With a Focus on Helping Teens Thrive and Flourish
Reflecting the growing awareness that wellness is central to our ability to positively impact a teen’s growth and learning, we will host a dedicated convening in Spring 2019. During this cross-community forum for Funder Collaborative professionals and key partners, we will explore how best to support teens and their families, and share challenges and successes. Attendees will also receive the new Jewish Curriculum for Youth Mental Health First Aid and other wellness resources.
Ongoing Local Efforts
Communities are leading efforts to raise awareness and educate on this topic.
  • Los Angeles Jewish Teen Initiative (LAJTI) built a deliberate and integrated Focus on Teen Wellness pillar to help people discover how the Jewish community’s resources and relationships can fortify teens’ emotional, spiritual, and physical health. LAJTI offers dialogue, workshops, training, and funding for impactful programs. An inaugural conference, Building Resilience in Teens: A Wellness Conference for Parents and Educators offered insights, guidance and inspiration to 250 parents, educators, and mental health professionals.
  • Cincinnati Jewish Teen Collective offers community-wide classes on adolescent development and family systems, with youth professionals, rabbis, and congregational leadership participating regularly.
  • Baltimore’s 4Front, Atlanta’s JumpSpark, Chicago’s Springboard and several other communities host experts for parents and professionals to learn about supporting teens through their formative years, particularly during stressful times.
  • The New York Teen Initiative designed a Teens Thrive series of workshops to help Jewish educators understand their role in teens growth.
  • To help these and other communities around the country, the Funder Collaborative also shares relevant insightful articles in our newsletter, website, and social media.
These approaches are guided by the Generation Now research and are designed to help achieve our outcomes, including helping teens develop a stronger sense of self and capacity to grapple with and express their spiritual journeys. While each local initiative offers something unique, they are all underscore a strong sense of community and an embrace of teen wellness in their engagement efforts.