Posted on December 7th, 2015

Niche Programming: The Newest Frontier

Everyone wants an inroad to Judaism. But not everyone knows how to find it. Teenagers are the same way. Most Jewish teens, unless they have had irreparably bad experiences, are still looking for their inroad to Judaism and for their place in it. If you ask any of them about their hobbies or interests, most teens will be able to tell you, right away, what they like to do for fun. But few of them, except the most engaged, are likely to list Judaism or Jewish activities. How do we change that? We combine their Judaism with what they love to do: Niche programming. Niche programming is about designing focused opportunities to pair activities that may not explicitly seem Jewish with Jewish education and learning.

The URJ already does this kind of programming with things like URJ Six Points camps that focus on sports or science and technology along with Jewish values and Jewish living. In New York, NFTY had a pilot program around broadcast Journalism and Jewish values, when a cohort of teens worked with staff at CBS. Next summer, there will also be a program called “Just Act NYC” for Jewish teens interested in spending all summer doing theater with professionals in New York City.

Whatever it is that teens love to do, let’s figure out how to pair that with Jewish values and Jewish education so that they come to realize that Judaism isn’t just something they want to pick up or put down – it’s infused with everything that they can and will do, in life, no matter what their interests.

oVPVv70kRabbi Elizabeth S. Wood is the NFTY Director of Learning & Innovation.