Feedback from our Youth
First, notice that these messages will now be coming to you on Wednesdays instead of Mondays. Rabbi Ohriner and I will alternate weeks. Now, on to my subject.
For many years I have taught our high school seniors at Hebrew High School. Fro the last few year, I have done an exit interview with three questions to assess how their Beth David experience has been for them and what we could improve. I’d like to share some representative excerpts from this year’s responses.
Think back on your Bar/Bat Mitzvah. What was the best about it? What was the worst? What will you take with you?
BEST: I very much enjoyed singing, and I remember my favorite part was leading the responsive part of the Torah service. WORST: The worst part was probably shaharit but only because I wasn’t leading it! TAKE WITH ME: I will always remember & cherish my pride in being Jewish.
BEST: The best part was being able to lead a service in front of basically everyone I know. It’s something I’ll never forget. WORST: The worst part was all the time preparing for the big day, even though in the end, it paid off. TAKE WITH ME: I will take the knowledge of a Conservative service with me.
Thinking back on your entire experience at CBD, what is your “takeaway?” What are the most important things you learned? What were the most important experiences?
TAKEAWAY: Some important things I will take away from CBD are first, a code of ethics & morals based in Judaism. Morality, I believe, is an intrinsically important part of life. LEARNED: I obtained a firm understanding of religion, a fundamental necessity while living in America. EXPERIENCES: The most important experiences at CBD include the Holocaust Remembrance Day exhibits and all the times I learned to be a better person.
TAKEAWAY: My takeaway was all of the great friends I have made over the years. Between Hebrew School & USY, I have made many friends who have become some of my closest friends. LEARNED: The most important things I’ve learned are the prayers that are included in any service and a rough knowledge of many biblical stories. EXPERIENCES: The most important experiences have definitely been my Bar Mitzvah and the March of the Living.
TAKEAWAY: Ability to read Torah well & participate fully in my Jewish community as an adult. LEARNED: Jewish ethics. #1 impact that Hebrew High/Religious School have given me was being able to apply “being a Mensch” to my everyday life. Really has impacted my outlook on the world. Also learning how to defend/talk intelligently about Israel when faced with opposition. EXPERIENCES: Bar Mitzvah; Being a Torah Tutor; Cub Scouts
What would have us do differently?
I think CBD should emphasize the social aspects of Judaism more, during R.S. in particular. Most R.S. students at CBD interact sparingly with Judaism outside of their R.S. experience, so social events hosted by CBD would, I think, induce more interest in Judaism within the younger CBD crowd. It’s important for Jewish kids to realize that Judaism has a lot to offer, and that it’s there for the taking.
Among the other responses to this question, two of them said nothing needed to be done differently, and two expressed a desire to learn more Hebrew. Several also wished that more kids would continue with Hebrew High!
I do too! Clearly, our post-bar mitzvah learning is getting a positive response. Yet, not all of our kids make it all the way through. There are many studies that show that the teen years are very important in forming Jewish commitments, which is why formal learning, informal Jewish youth group experiences, Jewish summer camps and trips to Israel are so important. I hope reading these responses have given you, as it did me, reason to smile. And I also hope it will motivate families to make sure that their children benefit from this experience.
Rabbi Daniel Pressman
If you would like to learn more about Hebrew High, visit our web site: http://beth-david.org/education/hebrew-high/