Today was the traditional "catch-up on all the sleep I missed" day upon returning home from an amazing and reJEWvinating five days in Dallas for NFTY Convention and Youth Workers Conference. Here are just a few of the thoughts that have been on my mind:
The NFTY and URJ Staff who helped make everything happen this week deserve to be commended for successfully incorporating some incredible technology into the mainstream programming for participants and staff alike. From text-based surveys to Visual T'filah, cell phones were used as tools to enhance programming and screens and videos were used to engage visual learners and participants in new ways. And...then there was the tweeting that was going on. Yes, you read that correctly. I said tweeting. NFTY did something that very few communities have been able to do to date: successfully engage a large group of teens in communicating via Twitter. Not only was this done successfully, but it was also presented tastefully as an additional option to plug into the action and excitement that was going on at Convention. Teens were using hashtags like professionals by the second day, and it was evident fairly immediately that something special was taking place. While NFTY had a stream of tagged posts on the Convention live blog page so anyone could plug in to the conversation, participants also had friends and family members following along from back home. Furthermore, there was an active practice of retweeting and commenting - clearly exciting to see your tweets broadcasted to other participants and followers!
Why do I think this is such a big deal? Because we now have hundreds of teens (and youth professionals, too!) who saw the value in how we can use Twitter to enhance our communities and extend the reach of our programs, relationships and conversations. So...I must ask...if not now, when?! (Pirke Avot 1:2) Now is the time for our communities and organizations to capitalize on this. Here are just a few easy next steps to consider:
For a variety of cool tools, articles and examples of these thoughts in action, refer to one of my resources pages for a workshop I have led for a few different organizations during the past year.
Again, kol ha'kavod to everyone who made this happen. This was a true "lead by example" moment. I think the potential this little experiment showed is incredibly exciting, and I'm looking forward to seeing how NFTY embraces and utilizes this as they transition their communication strategies and platforms in the months and years ahead!
This post was written in Starbucks during NFTY Youth Workers Conference 2011, and is cross-posted on the NFTY Convention/Youth Workers Conference Blog.
Brett Lubarsky, MJEd Student | Hebrew College, Newton, MA
Joshua Laurence, Dir. of Youth Programs | Temple Beth Am, Pinecrest, FL
Seth Kroll, Youth Educator | Temple Shalom, Newton, MA
We spend a great deal of time talking about innovation, where we want to take our youth programs and what the next big ideas will be in the coming years. Having the opportunity to gather as a community of youth professionals to study, learn, dream, play (and eat!) creates a space for fresh ideas and creativity. The ruach that has been present throughout this year’s NFTY Youth Workers Conference has been palpable, and many great things are coming from it.
od lo giliti eych: I have not yet discovered how.
yovil oti haderech ule'an ani holech: show me the way and where I am going.
Where are we? While synagogue youth programs across the country come in different shapes, colors and sizes, there are a few constants. We strive to engage our teens in meaningful learning (both formal and experiential) opportunities, build community and offer multiple entry points for our teens as they discover and develop their Jewish identities and navigate their Jewish journeys. We must keep in mind while it’s important to plan for tomorrow, what’s happening today is just as (if not more) important.
Where are we going? With the advancement s in technology and communication tools, we look to incorporate new strategies in reaching our congregations, while developing programming and curriculum that integrates these new tools and speaks to a wide range of participants and students. The evolution and professionalization of the “youth worker” is exciting. Our programs are expanding and being held in multiple settings.
How do we get there? In the spirit of being in Texas, we’d like to suggest some BBQ…
Beyond our comfort zones: We each bring our individual talents, skill sets and passion to our jobs. The challenges of gaining new skills, pushing ourselves to think “outside the box” and integrating new approaches in our work are not easy ones. In order for our programs to grow and strengthen, we must embrace change while challenging ourselves to learn and adapt. Being innovative and creating systemic and cultural change is not always easy.
Bridging the Gap: The skills and strategies that we take away from professional development experiences such as YWC are invaluable. The various intensive workshops and elective sessions we participated in will enable us to bridge the gap from where we are (and have been for some time) and where we envision our teens and congregations being in the future.
Q & A: After we all return to our home states and congregations, and get back to the grind, what new step will we take once our bags are unpacked? Do we know where to look for resources and support so we don’t always have to recreate the wheel? What will be our next actions that will take our programs from good to great? Lastly, what’s our preferred type of BBQ sauce?
Thanks for a great week. It starts now!
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