What is The Northeast Teen Collective?
The Northeast Teen Collective (the Collective), powered by the Union for Reform Judaism’s (URJ) Eisner and Crane Lake Camps in partnership with Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), is an ambitious initiative to substantially increase the number of teens engaged in Jewish life throughout New York, New Jersey, and New England. The Collective offers teens opportunities to create local, interest-based youth offerings and more meaningful leadership development experiences. Starting with rising high school seniors in the Machon summer leadership program at URJ Eisner and Crane Lake Camps, the Collective’s learner-centered approach empowers highly engaged Jewish teens to bring their ideas to life while simultaneously engaging their less engaged friends in meaningful and relevant Jewish experiences.

What are the goals of The Northeast Teen Collective?
The Collective (1) offers teens a soulful way to build their resumes, complete community service hours, and learn invaluable life skills by encouraging them to become co-creators of their Jewish experiences and share those experiences with their peers; (2) develops deeper leadership skills among Jewish teens; and (3) seeks to inspire more young Jews to embrace Jewish life and community as a path to meaning, purpose, and joy. This platform creates a 21st century framework for youth empowerment, teen and peer engagement, leadership development, authentic and relevant skill-building, outreach and in-reach, and professional and communal collaboration. We have two distinct teen audiences: (a) deeply engaged teen leaders and (b) their less engaged Jewish friends. The Collective’s objectives are to: (i) invest in giving highly engaged Jewish teen leaders greater leadership opportunities, training, guidance and support in community organizing (ii) where through grassroots efforts they can engage their peers who are not-active in Jewish life. Further, through the creation of more accessible local, interest-based youth offerings, less engaged teens will have more consistent opportunities to maintain their newfound interest in Jewish experiences.

The Collective is reversing the traditional approach to youth engagement. Instead of making the bold claim, “if you build it, they will come” (aka “Come to the best youth group event ever at the best place ever!”), the Collective is starting with highly engaged teen leaders (the Machon participants), their passions, and their peers. Through new and existing programs, these teens are being challenged to unearth their personal passions for the sake of strengthening Jewish community and personal growth. They are the inspiration, event planners, connectors, and marketers of their own ideas. Even more, we believe that these teen leaders are the best available vehicle for engaging the unengaged and inspiring the uninspired.

At its best, the Collective utilizes the strength of camp to equip highly engaged teen leaders with the skills to engage their friends who are no longer engaged in Jewish life while also providing them with high-level leadership development opportunities. Even more, Pop-Up and Co-op Events provide new and ongoing opportunities for local, interest-based youth offerings, which will offer less engaged teens consistent and more accessible opportunities engage in Jewish life. All participants will experience real-life skill development, opportunities to build their resumes and fulfill community service hours, take risks, and be a part of something great.

Why are URJ Eisner and Crane Lake Camps creating The Northeast Teen Collective?
The Collective’s partnership with Eisner and Crane Lake Camps provides a unique year-round approach to teen engagement. Recognizing that Jewish summer camp and organized youth programs may not resonate with all teens, the Collective takes what camp does best and brings it into local communities throughout the Northeast. Camp excels at creating an environment that fosters a genuine love for and pride in being Jewish; nurturing deep and meaningful relationships and community; crafting powerful experiences that offer meaning and purpose; and providing intense leadership development opportunities. Building upon these strengths and the desire to empower all teens to find their pathway into Jewish life, the Collective shares the best of camp by connecting with teens, in their home communities, through local, interest-based experiences and intensive leadership development opportunities.

Who can participate in The Northeast Teen Collective?
Any Jewish teen from New Jersey, New York, and New England is welcome to participate in any part of the Collective experience. Initially, our efforts will focus on teen leaders from URJ Eisner and Crane Lake Camps’ Machon program and the Leadership Summit by training them to create local opportunities for teens to engage in Jewish learning, community, and leadership. This core of teen leaders will be empowered to strengthen Jewish community by engaging their peers in meaningful and welcoming local, interest-based experiences. These efforts will create real-life authentic leadership development experiences for the teen leaders and participants.

What is the Machon Summer Leadership Institute?
The Machon Summer Leadership Institute (MACHON) at URJ Eisner and Crane Lake Camps is a 7 1/2 week intensive values-based leadership development internship for rising high school seniors. It is designed for hardworking individuals looking to challenge themselves and actively engage in their own growth within a Jewish context throughout the summer and school-year. Utilizing Jewish values, participants (Machonikim) explore what it means to become productive and successful staff members of the camp community, discover their Jewish identity, and gain valuable skills as Jewish leaders, such as developing greater personal awareness, self-advocacy, community organizing, program creation and facilitation, peer engagement, and event planning. Learning takes place through a variety of modalities including, but not limited to, group activities, formal learning seminars, observations, reflection, feedback, and hands-on opportunities. The program is open to all rising seniors and offers participants a meaningful opportunity for authentic growth while adding depth to their resumes and completing community service hours. Learn more about about the MACHON program from the experience of past participants. Apply Now!

What is The Dana Gershon and Rabbi Jonah Pesner Northeast Leadership Summit?
Jewish teens in grades 10-12 from New York, New Jersey, and New England come together for this annual leadership experience with a unique focus on Jewish Justice, Social Advocacy, and Entrepreneurship. In an innovative and collaborative setting, teens are challenged to discover their personal inspiration, engage in deep learning and skill building, and develop a concrete plan to translate their passions into ideas and ideas into actions. The Summit provides real-life skill building with a focus on critical thinking, collaboration, Jewish identity, creativity, and risk taking. At the end of the Summit, all participants pitch their ideas in a “Shark-Tank” style program (#SharkTankMuseum). Judges invest real dollars in the most compelling ideas/concepts/programs. Participants go home inspired and excited about the potential of their own ideas. Our keynote speaker, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center, sets the stage for the entire summit/weekend. This is a great event for those looking to add substance to their resumes while simultaneously nourishing their souls. Read more about the 2016 Northeast Leadership Summit on our Blog.

      Important Application Information:

  • To participate, teens must be nominated by a Jewish professional (clergy, educator, youth worker) in their local Jewish community.
  • All URJ congregations and Jewish communities in New York, New Jersey, and New England are welcome to nominate up to two teens in grades 10-12. We encourage congregations to consider nominating current and potential teen leaders.
  • Teens who hold regional leadership positions in NFTY Northeast, New York Area, and Garden Empire Regions may be nominated by their respective Regional Directors.
  • URJ Eisner and Crane Lake Camp Olim Graduates (2014-2016) may be nominated by their respective Camp Directors.
  • This event will take place at URJ Eisner Camp, September 15-17, 2017, and will be hosted by Northeast Teen Collective, URJ Eisner Camp, URJ Crane Lake Camp, URJ Kutz Camp, NFTY New York Area, NFTY Northeast, and NFTY Garden Empire.

What are Pop-Up and Co-Op Events?
Pop-Up and Co-op Events
provide teens with new and ongoing opportunities to bring their ideas to life, engage their peers, and build invaluable 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.

  • Pop-Up Events are local, interest-based events and experiences planned and led by teen leaders from the Machon program and Leadership Summit. They are low commitment, stand alone or on-going events with a specific focus on community and relationship building. All Pop-Up Events have an underlying Jewish theme and focus on engaging the unengaged. Ideally, Pop-Up Events are planned in collaboration with the teen leader’s local Jewish community. Example Pop-Up Events: Discourse on the presidential debates, Israel advocacy session, Shabbat Dinner, Hanukkah Party, Clean up a local park (and get community service hours!).
  • Co-op Events are existing teen programs, created by congregations or day schools, which the Collective promotes to its existing youth networks.

How does The Northeast Teen Collective support youth engagement in my community and throughout the Northeast?

  • Youth Engagement and Leadership Development. Taking the most engaged teens, the Collective aims to give them the leadership tools and support to be the voice that the unaffiliated will gravitate towards. Specifically, the Collective’s objectives are to:
    • invest in giving highly engaged Jewish teen leaders greater leadership opportunities, training, guidance and support in community organizing
    • so they can engage their peers who are not-active in Jewish life. By utilizing super engaged teens from Camp as recruiters and engagement specialists, the Collective intends to reach an audience that institutions are not accessing. These new opportunities will enable the most committed teens to engage their peers in Jewish life and build their resumes for life.
  • Connection to Existing and New Frameworks. The Collective is creating new pathways for teens to engage in Jewish life while simultaneously strengthening existing structures. The collaborative nature of the Collective will challenge synagogue and camp staff to work together in new and exciting ways. Teen leaders will need local support to implement their events; local leaders can offer this support. In return, Jewish professionals have the opportunity to strengthen their local teen leadership and welcome more Jewish teens in their local Jewish community. Jewish teens, engaged and unengaged, will have more accessible and local opportunities to connect with new and existing Jewish experiences. Congregations and youth professionals will also be able to share these opportunities with teens in their communities.
  • Strengthening Jewish Community through Meaning Making. Many teens are hyper-focused on their academic achievements, getting into college, and laying the foundation for their professional lives. Being part of a Jewish community and engaging in Jewish learning can help today’s teens build the necessary virtues to live happier, healthier, and more fulfilling lives. The Collective utilizes Jewish values to frame all core learning, programs, and experiences. Ultimately, as a result of their experience in the Collective, teen leaders will add meaning to their lives, strengthen their Jewish identity and the Jewish people, and be able to passionately convey their ideas to others in a way that engages and inspires them.
  • Accessibility and Local Collaboration. We know that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to engaging teens in Jewish life. However, we have heard from teens that the existing opportunities can be overwhelming, too expensive, hard to access, or lack personal meaning and relevancy. With this in mind, all Pop-Up Events are intentionally created to be low barrier to entry so unaffiliated and less engaged teens can easily access them. Events do not require affiliation, dues, or a long-term commitment. Pop-Up Events do not run under the auspices of membership, but rather friendship. However, local follow up is a key component to the ongoing success of this model. Over time we expect to see that a newly connected set of Pop-Up participants seek additional avenues of Jewish participation.
  • Post-Israel Travel Entry Point. The Collective plans to make the most of the energy and enthusiasm of teens returning from their summer in Israel by offering more substantial engagement and leadership development opportunities. The Machon Summer Leadership Institute and The Leadership Summit specifically target these teens and offer meaningful avenues for them to channel their newfound passion for Israel and Judaism with others.
  • Camp Leadership Trajectory. The Collective offers a new streamlined leadership development trajectory for our older campers as they look toward their post-camper experience. The leadership development experience offered to campers during their final year as campers, prior to their Israel summer, will complement the content and experience provided during their Machon summer. Further, the Machon experience will connect to our existing camp fellowships (Olim and Cornerstone). We will help our campers, and their parents, see the personal and professional benefit of this leadership trajectory as we aim to attract and retain more teens in our camp community. Additionally, this leadership trajectory will benefit our entire camp community as staff gain access to even greater leadership and skill development opportunities provided through the Collective.

What can I do to help support the efforts of this new initiative?

  • Encourage teens to participate in the Machon Summer Leadership Institute. This leadership development program is open to all incoming seniors.
  • Nominate a teen for the Northeast Leadership Summit. Online nomination form coming soon.
  • Support local Pop-Up and Co-Op Events. If you have teens who participated in Machon at Eisner or Crane Lake during the summer of 2016, please meet with them and ask them how you can help bring their ideas to life! These teens were trained to begin their peer engagement and event planning efforts.
  • Contact Emily Messinger, emessinger@urj.org, to find out how else you can support this youth engagement initiative.

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