J Line, the educational and social programming arm of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, is extending its reach. The initiative, which provides learning opportunities for eighth through 12th grade teens, regardless of affiliation or background, will be offering programs in the South Hills.
The move represents a partnership between J Line, Temple Emanuel of South Hills, Beth El Congregation of the South Hills and South Hills Jewish Pittsburgh, explained Rabbi Ron Symons, senior director of Jewish life at the JCC.
“It’s a continuation,” added Chris Herman, the JCC’s division director of the Jewish Life Department. “We’re continuing to build on what was existing.”
Previously, Temple Emanuel and Beth El Congregation offered educational opportunities for area teenagers through the collaborative venture known as the South Hills Jewish Community High School.
“Our partnership brought teens from both congregations together to build friendships and community through social activities and learning opportunities,” said Rabbi Jessica Locketz, associate rabbi and director of education at Temple Emanuel, in a message to congregants.
For several years, the enterprise functioned with Locketz at the helm. However, last spring, parents and teens began planning and “participating in conversations that guided us in our work this summer,” she explained.
The result, which will begin this fall under the name J Line South Hills, will be “some combination of what is working for all of us and bringing that together, and creating the best experience for teens,” said Herman.
The new initiative will utilize spaces within Temple Emanuel, Beth El and the JCC of the South Hills. On Monday nights at Temple Emanuel, during a term that spans from Sept. 10 until Nov. 5, students can choose from an array of classes including about “Saturday Night Live” and Jewish jokes, discovering God through “a cheesy song about teenage romance” or feminism and its place within Judaism. The latter will be taught by Hannah Kalson, one of two new staff members at The Second Floor, a teen-dedicated space within the Robinson Building at the JCC of Greater Pittsburgh.
Joining Kalson, a Pittsburgh native who will serve as director of teen engagement and experiences, is Stephanie Aaronson, director of teen learning and leadership and the Pittsburgh Diller Teen Fellows coordinator.
Between 50 and 60 students are expected to sign up, “based on previous registration at Temple Emanuel and Beth El,” said Symons.
The various South Hills representatives, including Locketz and fellow religious leader Rabbi Alex Greenbaum of Beth El, have made this a true “partnership,” noted Herman.
“The goal is about teen engagement and meeting their needs,” echoed Symons. J Line South Hills will deliver “quality Jewish engagement to teens in their neighborhood. And we are bringing it to them at a time that works for them on Monday nights.”
Recognizing the numerous partners, acronyms and places involved, Herman clarified that the courses, programs and activities for teens at the JCC of Greater Pittsburgh will continue to be referred to as J Line, while those in the South Hills will be called J Line South Hills.
What is important for people to know is that by adding J Line to the mix, we are “taking our partnership that we’ve had in the South Hills for the past three years and taking it to the next level,” said Leslie Hoffman, executive director of Temple Emanuel.
Added Herman, South Hills teens will “still be engaged in active learning experiences; that really hasn’t changed. We’ve just really added different elements and created different experiences based on that pre-existing program.” pjc
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.