Girls at Torah, Fun, Friends decorated donuts at last month’s event.

Aish Detroit launches new group for girls.

Shaina Weiss, Special to the Jewish News

Sometime all it takes is one conversation to start a movement.

It was a cozy fall Sunday afternoon. I had invited two of our Aish Sunday School assistants, Hannah Berger and Sophia Bernzweig, to my house to settle a debate over whether homemade sprinkle cookies could be made better than bakery sprinkle cookies. (Spoiler — yes, they can, and I’m happy to share the recipe.)

As we were baking and schmoozing, the conversation led to how our Sunday School assistants (many of them our own b’nai mitzvah graduates) could get the most out of their time at Aish on Sundays.

As the ideas kept coming, I quickly grabbed a pen and paper and told Sophia to start writing. Within a few minutes, we had a whole list of meaningful activities and things to learn. I realized right away this was too big to integrate into Sunday School, and it was just big enough to become its own movement.

There has been an ongoing struggle within our community to keep post-b’nai mitzvah teens Jewishly engaged. According to the recent Federation population study, we are losing a drastic 50 percent of children from pre-b’nai mitzvah programs to post. More startling is that this has been consistent with earlier studies (2005, 2010) and, as of yet, no one has been able to reverse the trend.

The following Sunday, we called a meeting for our students in fifth grade and up as well as our assistants. We asked them about an idea of a new group for girls their age. They loved it. Things moved quickly after that; a name was picked, TFF: Torah, Fun, Friends, a time and date were set, and flyers were printed for our first event. We were excited; we knew it was a good idea. But only once the flyers were posted did we realize how important the idea was. We received many calls and emails from parents who were so excited to see a program willing to fill this gap in programming.

On Sunday, Dec. 16, more than 15 girls attended our first TFF kickoff event. We played a fun ice breaker game to get to know each other. We had girls there from eight different schools. We enjoyed a pizza dinner while Rachel Rosenthal spoke to the girls about the important mitzvah of V’ohavta L’reiacha Kamocha, loving your neighbor as yourself. Her message to them: Before we can love another, we have to first learn to love ourselves. We wrapped up with fun donut decorating activity and a raffle. The girls left with a mini nail polish for a parting gift and lots of smiles.

Getting Teens To Think Jewishly
Today’s teens are faced with pressures and anxieties that adults even a decade older can’t fathom. The Jewish learning aspect of TFF provides a way for our teens to process their life through a Jewish lens. To create a tether to their Jewish identity that can, God willing, carry them through the mayhem of middle school and beyond.

Our next event is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 27, from 5:30-7 p.m. at Aish Detroit, 25725 Coolidge Hwy. in Oak Park. We will focus on the mitzvah of chesed, lovingkindness, as we pack lunches for the Lunches of Love program of Detroit Chesed Project. A delicious dinner will be served. We will also be running a sock drive at the event. Anyone who brings a pair of socks to donate will be entered into a raffle. There is no cost to come.

Shaina Weiss is the educational coordinator for young families at Aish Detroit For more information about TFF, contact her at shainaweiss@aish.com.

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