The Center for Small Town Jewish Life receives a multi-year grant from the Robert and Toni Bader Charitable Foundation to support Maine Jewish Youth Connection programming.
It is with great joy and anticipation that we announce the award of a multi-year grant from the Robert and Toni Bader Charitable Foundation to support one of our newest programs: the Maine Jewish Youth Connection.
The Robert and Toni Bader Charitable Foundation was created in 2010 to provide philanthropic support to help achieve the Jewish ideals of improving the world through science, education, and the arts. What better way to achieve the mission of the foundation than to support our next generation of leaders as they grow, create community, and make Jewish connection?
We understand that Maine Jewish teens can often feel like a party of one. As our teens forge their own Jewish identities, it is important that they are able to connect to a cohort of people like them. The Maine Jewish Youth Connection seeks to balance curricular goals and learning with the opportunity to meet peers, let loose, and have fun.
In large urban areas, Jewish teens build community through youth organizations like NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth), BBYO (B’nai Brith Youth Organization), and other Hebrew high school programs. These groups serve as hubs for Jewish engagement beyond Hebrew school and b’nai mitzvah programs. In Maine, we’ve struggled to connect with BBYO because of geographic distance from Boston-centric programming and the prohibitive cost of transportation and participation. Maine teens also fall through the age gap between our strong Hebrew schools, b’nai mitzvah programs, and college Hillels in the state.
To address this need, we’ve worked to design a series of programs to support our teens as they continue their journey into young Jewish adulthood. We held a successful initial planning meeting for the program this past spring, and we were surprised by the enthusiasm of the college students we invited to participate. They too are Jewish teens, and their social buy-in carries a lot of weight with the local Jewish high-schoolers. We were inspired by their enthusiasm to create a new Waterville Jewish Leadership Fellowship (WJLF) position dedicated to working with the teens.
We see our lack of access to traditional youth organizations as a potential positive—where we are able to borrow best practices from different youth organizations and tailor programs to our Jewish teen community’s interests.
We will be launching the Maine Jewish Youth Connection on October 21st, with a first-year plan of four events and a culminating tour of Jewish Boston. Each event will combine Jewish learning and social activities, and attendance at two of the four events will be mandatory for any student wishing to be part of the culminating trip. With our programming starting this weekend, there is still time to register for the first event. You can subscribe to an email list about future teen programming here.
We hope that the Maine Jewish Youth Connection will become a center of community, friendship, and exciting Jewish engagement for our teens—providing meaningful opportunities to travel and learn within the Jewish world. So it is with gratitude and great excitement for the future that we thank the Robert and Toni Bader Charitable Foundation for their generous support of our programming.
– Sarah Rockford