Teen Event Builds Bridges Between Denominations, Communities

On Sunday, November 20, the auditorium of the Barry Family Campus was bustling with 40 Jewish teens, grades 8 through 12, for the Twin Cities Teen Great Jewish Get Together! Throughout the space, teens were tie-dying socks, decorating cookies, playing ladder ball and board games, connecting with other teens they had not yet met, and reconnecting with friends. This interdenominational event, planned and executed by Twin Cities youth engagement professionals and teen leaders, featured participants from nine different synagogues and other Jewish affiliations across the Twin Cities.

Teen leaders from various Jewish organizations met on Zoom twice prior to the event for planning. These meetings provided opportunities for the teens and youth advisors to get to know each other, establish goals for our event, and work together on logistics and programming to create a meaningful, fun event. On the day of the event, our teen leaders led icebreaker stations and games, facilitating interactions among teens who did not yet know each other.

Mount Zion junior Dina Kaufman is the president of SPORTY, Mount Zion’s high school youth group, and has had leadership positions at the synagogue throughout her teen years. She was one of the teen leaders involved in the planning calls, and she promoted community building by leading an icebreaker and connecting with participants she did not know throughout the event.

“I really enjoyed getting to meet new people at the event! I had a chance to get to know a few people, and I felt like we really had connections, which was awesome, and it was so great to meet a variety of new people!” Kaufman said. “I felt supported surrounded by my Jewish friends and those I met. Everyone was super nice, and we had a lot to talk about.”

In addition to small-group activities and stations, the teens spent time as a large group. They played Frogger and Limbo, and had a special visit from members of HaZamir teen choir to give a preview of what they have been working on and share about the program.

“As we made the rounds introducing ourselves as staff to all the teens, we were noticing just how integrated the groups were,” said Avi Aharoni, the director of youth engagement at Beth El Synagogue. “Teens from different synagogues, different youth groups, different cities, were enjoying each other’s company. As one of the organizers of the event, it was exactly what I had hoped for: A chance to bring together different pockets of the Jewish teen population of the Twin Cities, groups that often feel separated from one another, and give them an opportunity to meet each other and create connections.

“If this first event has shown us anything, it’s that there is a want and need to continue building these bridges between our youth, and I’m very excited to see what the future has in store.”

This event was energizing and represents the potential of joint efforts for youth programming across the Twin Cities. The teen participants connected and had fun with their peers in the Twin Cities Jewish teen community and already look forward to future opportunities for engagement!

Abby Gore is the youth and young adult engagement associate at Mount Zion Temple.