02 July 2008

CAJE 33: Jewish education, family history

This year's annual Conference on Alternatives in Jewish Education takes place August 10-14 in Burlington, Vermont. The event attracts Jewish educators from around the world to learn from each other as they share creativity and innovation, learn from experts and bring it all home to inspire their students.

It begins with a Shabbat program on August 8. Sunday, August 10, is Tisha B'av, which the conference will commemorate accordingly.

The conference has a blog here, which provides information on the various sessions.

One session in particular caught my eye. It features Ilene Cohen,  national director of the Florence Melton Communiteen High School. She has more than 20 years' experience working in Jewish and community-based non-profit agencies in planning, fundraising, and grant writing.

Her tenure at the United Jewish Federation in Pittsburgh included extensive work in Jewish education planning and administration. Much of her volunteer work centers on synagogue-based Jewish education activities.

Cohen's session is titled "Florence Melton Communiteen High School: An Innovative Approach to Teen Engagement and Jewish Learning."

Can you imagine a group of teens excited to wake up on a Sunday morning to engage in serious Jewish learning? It’s not a dream. Communiteen is a new, two-year program based upon the internationally successful Florence Melton Adult Mini School.

Communiteen engages teens in exploring Jewish identity, using Jewish sources to discuss life issues, family history, and their personal relationship to the Jewish people.

More than 200 teens in Columbus, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Sarasota from different synagogues and schoolsare learning from one another, thinking about their place in the Jewish world. This session will introduce the Communiteen vision, mission and model, and explore how Communiteen can positively impact teen learning in your community.
Community and synagogue education programs are the perfect place for genealogy and family history. As I have wrtten about previously in Tracing the Tribe, I taught occasional Jewish genealogy sessions at my former synagogue's Hebrew school in Southern Nevada and - as co-director of the Las Vegas Hebrew High Program - in a trimester class for eighth-graders.

If you are interested in getting involved with helping to encourage the next generation of genealogists, check with your synagogue and community to see what possibilities exist in current programming. In addition to formal programs, consider conducting informal sessions for local youth group members or at a regional event.

Those who are knowledgable and passionate about genealogy, family history and Jewish history and how it all helps participants to relate to Jewish identity, will find this a rewarding experience.

Have you already participated in such a program? I'd like to hear from readers who are involved in these activities.

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