by Melissa Moldowsky, URJ Eisner Camp Machon 2018
As a graduate of URJ Eisner Camp’s Machon Summer Leadership Institute, I was responsible for hosting my own Pop-Up Event.
Pop-Up Events are local, interest-based events and experiences planned and led by teen leaders. All Eisner and Crane Lake Machon participants must host their own Pop-Up Event during the school-year, after their summer in Machon. The purpose of Pop-Up Events is threefold: (1) to provide teens leaders with new and ongoing opportunities to bring their ideas to life, (2) to create meaningful experiences for less-engage Jewish teens to experience Jewish community and/or learning with their peers, and (3) to create authentic opportunities for Jewish teens to practice and enhance their leadership skills. In planning these events, Jewish teen leaders gain practical skills such as marketing and outreach, event planning, self-advocacy, community organizing, and more.
This past summer, a few staff members, from the previous summer’s machon group, were invited to speak to us about their Pop-Up Events. As they shared their experiences, there was one consistent theme: how simple it was to plan and host a Pop-Up Event! Each of them hosted a completely unique event, such as a Shabbat dinner, Shabbat brunch, challah making, and cookie baking. (The cookies were donated to the pre-school at their local temple.)
My friends and I glanced at each other and gave each other the “of course they’re saying it was easy, they have to” look. For me, the idea of planning and hosting a Jewish gathering for my friends – who are not engaged in Jewish life – felt scary and foreign. It was not until I started to plan my event that I realized I should have listened to those staff members. The process was so simple.
I hosted a Chanukah Dinner. This was the first time I celebrated Chanukah with anyone other than my family members. I incorporated all the traditional Chanukah foods into the meal, including latkes (potato pancakes), gelt (chocolate coins), and sufganiyot (donuts). Plus, we feasted on chicken dino nuggets, because what teenager doesn’t like chicken dinos?
There was not one dull moment the entire night, which was something I was initially afraid of. My friends and I put our phones away so we could enjoy the meal and each other’s presence. We were able to have quality conversations, and actually listen to each other for the first time in a while. A few of my guests were unaware of the miracle of Chanukah. It was really fun retelling the story with and for my friends. And of course, teaching my friends how to play dreidel was a highlight of the night.
While hosting a Pop-Up Event was a requirement as a Machon graduate, I enjoyed the experience so much that I am going to host many more events like this one. My Pop-Up Event was so much fun, and it was so nice to share a part of Jewish tradition with my friends. I plan to host other events focused on celebrating community, disconnecting from electronics, and being joyful.