(Courtesy of Bnai Yeshurun Youth Department) The David Frohlich z”l Youth Department at Congregation Bnai Yeshurun of Teaneck has started off the year with quite a bang! CBY’s new youth directors, Yehoshua and Rivka Szafranski, have begun to roll out a new vision and a series of innovative programs, while following and building upon the great work of the previous youth director, Judah Rosenbaum. Last week, the CBY Youth Department hosted its first-ever Youth Educator Orientation Shabbat, jam packed with food, Torah, singing, guest lecturers, interactive games and even some meditation!
Formerly referred to as “group leaders,” the CBY “youth educators” gathered on Friday evening for a spirited davening, followed by a dinner hosted by the youth directors. They began with a department-wide ice breaker where everyone was presented with a personalized name tag to wear every Shabbat to groups; educators introduced themselves to the group and presented some interesting facts about themselves. In order to ensure the physical, emotional and spiritual safety of all of our children and staff members, the educators went through a social rules and etiquette overview and workshop where they discussed the basic and sometimes nuanced rules of working with young children. Additionally, all veteran staff members have attended, and all new staff members will attend, a Project S.A.R.A.H. abuse-prevention training seminar. A dvar Torah was then given by senior youth educator DJ Wartelsky. Afterward, Rabbi Ari Zahtz, associate rabbi at CBY, addressed the group and spoke about “Why being a youth educator is so important and what kind of impact a youth educator can make in this community.”
Shabbat morning began quite early. After hashkama, our youth educators have a weekly breakfast kiddush, a unique time to bond together as a “groups family,” to go over important points for that week, and to offer their ideas and plans for activities to their peers. Youth groups followed after breakfast, where the sound of our children davening could be heard loud and clear throughout the synagogue, adding even more vibrancy to the rhythm and hum of the prayers upstairs.
On Shabbat afternoon, youth educators returned to shul for exciting programming for the duration of Shabbat. They began by being introduced to two new initiatives at CBY groups: Middah of the Month, and Tefillah of the Week. In the former, all educators and children will do their best to work on one specific middah each month of the year. The middah of September is zrizut and will be introduced this Shabbat in shul. In addition, every week we will focus on another tefillah, beginning with Modeh Ani and continuing along in the siddur, so that by the end of the year, children will have a greater understanding of every single prayer and how it can be applied to their lives. Both the middot and tefillot programming are developed by the youth educators with guidance from the directors, allowing educators to develop their own passions for teaching and hone their delivery skills. In addition, middot and tefillot are typically taught in an experiential manner, enabling it to be a lot more fun and interactive.
Moving along in the afternoon, Yehoshua led a tefillah meditation session on methods of making prayer in groups more meaningful, which led to a breakout session where educators discussed when they were most happy and how that energy and emotion can be harnessed to make groups a genuinely joyous environment. Our guest lecturer, Mrs. Shani Norman, early childhood director and assistant general studies principal at Yavneh Academy (with over two decades of experience in formal education, as well as special education), spoke to our educators and gave over practical tips and guidelines regarding successful, empathetic communication and teaching strategies. Following that, Rabbi Ezra Stone, director of the Junior Congregation at Bnai Yeshurun, gave over some poignant words of Torah and led a group-building activity as well.
The remainder of the day included Mincha, followed by a festive seudah shlishit and a meaningful ceremony as we ebbed Shabbat away with singing, Maariv, and a spirited Havdalah and pump-up. The orientation concluded on Motzei Shabbat with CPR, AED, and first-aid training for the entire Youth Department.
In addition to the orientation Shabbat, the Youth Department has rolled out a very impressive calendar for the fall (pictured below) with events for children spanning various age ranges. They have introduced a new form of currency, “Davening Dough,” which will be given out every Shabbat in groups, should be collected at home, and a couple times a year will be able to be cashed in for various prizes, including new games and exciting trips. In addition, the youth department now has greeters outside of both shul entrances to welcome children and congregants into shul, and to show them the way when they arrive at shul.
The Youth Department functions under the guidance of the Bnai Yeshurun Youth Committee, where committee chairs Doron Katz and Sari Sheinfeld, as well as members Henry Orlinsky, Naomi Davidson, Steven Becker and Chaya Schwartz, advise and mentor the youth directors to ensure their success in the community.
The CBY David Frohlich z”l Youth Department has rolled out a new social media plan and can be followed on Instagram @YouthCBY to keep track of all the fun, excitement and activities galore!