Posted on May 5th, 2013

Our Next Generation

While in Jerusalem a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet with most of the HUC-JIR first year students and to have dinner with the education students. It was fascinating to hear about their journeys toward Jewish professional life.

Nearly 80% of the first year students first came to Israel on a Birthright trip. While we often hear that the NFTY Summer in Israel trips or the EIE program is a breeding ground for future generations of leaders, the number of teens impacted by these programs has decreased dramatically. There were of course students from those programs as well, just not in the percentages that once were. However, it would not be a surprise that many have been connected to our URJ camps which has a lasting impact on their Jewish identity. As we continue to think about the future leaders of our organization and our movement, we need to consider the implications of this data.

The education students, three of whom were ARJE interns, are from diverse backgrounds and have varied interests in their professional careers. What they all have in common is a passion for our work. I always find it both refreshing and invigorating to spend time with people new to our field, as they remind me of the potential of what can be for Jewish education. It will be exciting to see what their learning, enthusiasm, and passion sparks that will lead to the next educational innovations.

How do we nurture them and others who join the endeavor of Reform Jewish education? What is our responsibility as individual ARJE members and as an organization? I encourage you to find those who share our excitement for this enterprise and to support them as they begin their careers. Let us challenge ourselves to seek new professionals in our field and to be a mentor as they go on their journey.

Lisa BarzilaiLisa Lieberman Barzilai is NATE’s president… for a little while longer. She is Co-Director of Expanding our Reach at the URJ.