Jewish youth are prepared
As the youth director at Congregation Beth Shalom in Squirrel Hill, I found Lee Feldman’s letter to the editor on Sept. 29, “Give teens responsibility,” particularly disturbing. Feldman claims, “Nothing is being done to cultivate the leaders we will need in the future. … We are not doing anything to create leaders.” This is simply not true.
At Beth Shalom, and dozens of other synagogues in Pittsburgh and around the country, teens do practice leadership skills and cultivate strong Jewish identities with great creativity and enthusiasm. By participating in our four synagogue youth groups, taking on a variety of Jewish responsibilities (such as davening Shacharit in our adult services, reading Torah and Haftarah and running their own teen services, and planning their own fundraising events), our youth are already demonstrating their commitment and honing the skills they’ll need to guide our Jewish community in the future.
All congregational committees at Congregation Beth Shalom, including Religious Services, Membership, the Youth Commission, and more, have at least one teen member on the committee, if not several. These teens participate alongside our adult congregants by promoting events, providing input and feedback for synagogue life, and bringing their own creative, new ideas to fruition.
Nearly 100 youth participate in our youth programs here, taking on great responsibilities, developing their leadership skills, and actively contributing to synagogue life.
Feldman writes, “Give [teens] real responsibilities within the Jewish community. … Expect that they will succeed. Help them succeed.”
At Beth Shalom, we do this every single day.