PB & J Teens at B’nai Moshe continue building their Jewish identities.
Today’s teens are inundated by “shoulds” — all the things they “should” be doing. These include constant academic pressure to excel, programs to build their “resume” for college and navigating the dynamics of our modern world. When do they get the opportunity to press pause and just be a teen? As adults, we know that we need time to decompress to be our best selves — and teens are no different.
For the last 18 months, teens from Congregation B’nai Moshe in West Bloomfield have been meeting for weekly dinner and discussions in various teens’ homes. The evening begins with a casual dinner provided by the host family where teens can catch up on their week, further develop their relationships with one another and just relax. The group then transitions to conversation for the evening — a topic relevant to their lives now that expands their Jewish knowledge and strengthens their Jewish identity, facilitated by Rabbi Shalom Kantor and Barrett Harr, director of youth education and family engagement at B’nai Moshe.
“This model is a hybrid of what traditionally happens in Jewish youth groups and religious schools. With our teens’ lives as busy as they are, a blended model allows them to have the best of both worlds,” Harr says.
Topics have included information about the Israel/Palestinian conflict and how to respond, developing their personal view of God, anti-Semitism with a presentation from the ADL, and the importance of good and evil inclinations in their lives.
Per Kantor, gaining and growing their Jewish identity and learning what it is to be a Jew will best prepare them as they soon step foot on college campuses.
One of the highlights of the program was the opportunity for B’nai Moshe’s 10th grade students to travel with Kantor to the recent AIPAC convention in Washington, D.C.
Not only are these teens engaged in study, they are also involved in congregational and communal life. This year, teens helped to build a float for B’nai Moshe’s Chanukah parade, held the Torahs hostage at the congregational Simchat Torah service to raise money to send the students from our congregation to AIPAC and participated in the community-wide day of teen volunteering — JServe.
PB & J launched in the 2016/17 school year and in one year has doubled in size. The expectation is that enrollment will increase by 25 percent in the upcoming year.
The teens report that they enjoy coming because they like to see their friends, can be relaxed hanging out in the homes of their friends and the topics are relevant to their lives today.
For more information about PB & J at Congregation B’nai Moshe, contact Barrett Harr at BHarr@Bnaimoshe.org or (248) 788-3600.