We know that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to engaging teens in Jewish life. We also know that the existing models can be overwhelming, too expensive, hard to access, or lack personal meaning and relevance and may create barriers to involvement. This initiative starts with our greatest strengths, our most committed and connected teens. They are the engaged 5% who go to camp, Temple and NFTY events. We know how to engage them! We have not be able to engage the teens that do not come through our doors, until now.  The Collective gives our most committed teens the tools to be the vehicle to inspire the unengaged 95% through local and accessible experiences.
–Louis Bordman, Senior Director, URJ Eisner Camp

The Northeast Teen Collective is an ambitious initiative to increase the number of teens participating in Jewish life throughout New York, New Jersey, and New England. We empower highly-engaged teens to use their individual passions as inspiration to create meaningful Jewish experiences that will capture the interest of their less involved friends. Through Machon Summer Leadership Institute at URJ Eisner and Crane Lake Camps, the Dana Gershon and Rabbi Jonah Pesner Northeast Leadership Summit, and ongoing Pop-up Events—all powered by the Union for Reform Judaism in partnership with Combined Jewish Philanthropies and the Jim Joseph Foundation—we inspire teens to be change agents and embrace Judaism as a path to meaning, purpose, and joy.

Today's Opportunity

For generations, camps have created environments that foster Jewish pride, nurture deep relationships, cultivate a sense of meaning, and support leadership development. Now we see an opportunity to build on and experiment with what camp does best, by bringing innovative experiences to local communities across the Northeast. With especially engaged teens from camp as recruiters and engagement specialists, we will reach an audience that traditional institutions are not accessing. When we encourage these teens to engage with Jewish living on their own terms, they forge stronger, longer-lasting connections to their Jewish community.

How the Northeast Teen Collective benefits teens and your community

  • ENGAGING YOUTH AND NURTURING LEADERS We give highly engaged Jewish teen leaders valuable leadership opportunities, training, and support so they can involve their peers who aren’t active in Jewish life. All participants develop skills for the real world, build their resumes and fulfill community service hours, are encouraged to take risks, and become a part of something great.
  • HARNESSING POWER OF OLD AND NEW We create new pathways for teens to engage in Jewish life while also strengthening existing systems and institutions. Because we prioritize collaboration, our programs challenge synagogue and camp staff to work together in new ways that leverage the best of our traditions.
  • STRENGTHENING JEWISH VALUES AND COMMUNITY Jewish values frame all core learning, programs, and experiences. Teen leaders add meaning to their lives, strengthen their Jewish identity and the Jewish people, and learn to passionately convey their ideas to others in a way that engages and inspires them.
  • PROMOTING EASY ACCESS AND SUSTAINED PARTICIPATION Our local events do not require affiliation, dues, or a long-term commitment, ensuring that there are low or no barriers to entry for interested teens. And because local follow-up is central to ongoing success, newly connected Pop-Up participants will be motivated to find other opportunities for Jewish participation in their community.
  • ENCOURAGING A CONNECTION TO ISRAEL The Machon Summer Leadership Institute and the Leadership Summit offer teens returning from a summer in Israel the chance to connect with others who share their energy and enthusiasm and build upon their newfound passion for Israel and Judaism.
  • BUILDING CAMP LEADERS The leadership experience campers get during their final year as campers will be strengthened by what they learn and experience during their Machon summer, setting them up to grow continuously as leaders and gain valuable personal and professional skills. Ultimately, their commitment will make the camp community fuller and richer for all.

How teens get involved

We know that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to engaging teens in Jewish life. Our programs meet teens where they are today, from supporting emerging teen leaders to opening our arms to those still searching for their place in Jewish life.

  • MACHON SUMMER LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE This leadership development and skill-building internship experience at URJ Eisner and Crane Lake Camps invites rising high school seniors to explore what it means to be productive and successful staff members of the camp community, discover their Jewish identity, and gain valuable skills as Jewish leaders.
  • THE DANA GERSHON AND RABBI JONAH PESNER NORTHEAST LEADERSHIP SUMMIT Jewish teens come together for a collaborative leadership experience with a unique focus on Jewish Justice and Social Advocacy. Teens will define and share their personal mission statement, translate their passions into new ideas and real experiences, and develop a plan to bring their ideas to life.
  • POP-UP EVENTS Planned and led by teen leaders from the Machon program and Leadership Summit, Pop-Up Events are local, interest-based experiences that focus on engaging the unengaged and building community. 

To learn more about the Northeast Teen Collective, contact Emily Messinger at emessinger@urj.org.