Empowering Our Emanu-El Teens

Inspiring Passionate and Creative Leaders

Emma Kate Lindsay | Social Media/Communications Associate

Our Teen Programs at Temple Emanu-El are focused on empowering our students to become passionate and creative leaders. While our Teen Programs have a long history of focusing on tikkun olam or social justice, this past year the Temple Emanu-El teens have worked to meet the current needs of our time. The COVID-19 pandemic not only highlighted existing issues of inequity and inequality but also brought to light such new issues as connection and isolation. Our teens found new and inspiring ways to try to repair the world around them with empathy and compassion.

The student-led Teen Philanthropic Committee works together to award a grant to an organization serving the New York community. For the 2021-2022 school year, the Teen Philanthropic Committee has chosen to focus on access to quality education for kids who face home insecurity. The COVID-19 pandemic brought into sharp relief the extra hurdles to education access for these children and their families. Led by co-chairs Julia Decker, Brady Propper, and Miranda Selin, the 30 students on the committee find consensus throughout the grant-making process, from deciding on a topic to creating a Request For Proposals, and deciding which factors should be considered while reading through the grant applications. After reviewing all the proposals and interviewing the finalists, the Teen Philanthropic Committee will present its first choice to the Philanthropic Committee. The winning organization will receive a $10,000 grant.

Calling Generations is an intergenerational program that focuses on building community and finding connection even in the toughest of times. As the full weight of the early 2020 COVID-19 lockdown began to sink in, Calling Generations was created to connect older congregants with Temple Emanu-El teens for a weekly phone conversation. As Calling Generations enters its second full school year, it continues to grow. Over 70 congregants have participated. Most recently, the group celebrated Chanukah together over Zoom with candle lighting and trivia. While some adults seemed to be surprised that teens want to talk to them, there are currently more teens wanting to participate than adults! (If you are interested in getting involved, contact Rachel Brumberg at .) It has been a meaningful experience for many. Student co-chairs Ryan Jarvis and Olivia Mandel both wrote about Calling Generations in their college essays. Barbara Stoller, a new adult participant during the fall of 2021, said, “I have truly enjoyed getting to know my teen calling partner and hope she agrees that our conversations have been fun, and a value-added exchange of thoughts and ideas. I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing her point of view on various topics…and sharing our opinions and feelings on different issues.”

Founded initially as a forum for the Teen Community to talk and explore issues of racial justice in response to the murder of George Floyd, the Social Justice Discussion Group this year has shifted its focus from allyship to being an upstander. Co-chairs Mena Solomon and Blythe Breitman lead the group of eight students virtually in discussions on such topics as abortion, gun rights, and LGBTQIA-issues. In addition to exploring the current events surrounding each topic, the group also delves into related Jewish thoughts and opinions. They talk not only about Judaism’s traditional understanding of a topic, but also about the Reform Jewish movement’s particular stance. This has been an integral part of each discussion: many people assume how religion will respond to a subject and wind up surprised.

This article was originally published in Volume 93, Issue 1 of the Temple Bulletin, January 2022.

Please follow us on Instagram: /emanuelnycteens.

Click here to learn more about Teen Programs at Emanu-El!