Bryan Kellert, who grew up at Temple Emanu-El, became the Sandy Springs Reform synagogue’s first full-time youth engagement adviser at the beginning of July.
Kellert, 23, graduated from the University of Alabama in December with a double major in marketing and management. He lives in Dunwoody, and before being hired at Emanu-El, he was the part-time youth adviser for Congregation Dor Tamid in Johns Creek.
Kellert was involved with Emanu-El’s NFTY branch, TEFTY, in high school, and now he leads the next generation of Jewish leaders.
“This is where I grew up. It’s my home youth group. I have deep roots here,” Kellert said. “My connection is here, and I want to help them thrive.”
In his senior year at Dunwoody High School, Kellert was TEFTY’s membership vice president. He said that experience led him to get involved in the leadership of Hillel at Alabama and now to be an adult leader for Emanu-El’s youth.
Because Kellert is the congregation’s first full-time youth adviser, Temple Emanu-El is still working on creating a formal job description for his position. The Reform synagogue has experienced other major changes recently, including getting a new rabbi and a new executive director.
Kellert oversees four areas of youth engagement: Junior TEFTY, TEFTY, the college outreach program, and a group for adults in their 20s and 30s. Junior TEFTY is for sixth- through eighth-graders and held its first event at Main Event Entertainment in Alpharetta on Sunday, Aug. 23.
“We’re going to have fun, get to know each other and interact on a social level rather than strictly a Sunday school classroom setting,” Kellert said in advance of the event.
The high-schoolers in TEFTY create their own programming and set their own goals on how to run the organization.
For the college outreach program, Emanu-El offers college students a place to go for the High Holidays or simply sends a message or a gift to help them continue their Jewish connection after high school.
The 20s and 30s group focuses on engaging young adults who are starting careers and families so they know they have a home at Emanu-El.
Although new to the position, Kellert is passionate about his job working with youths, teens and young adults.
“The thing I like best about my job is the people that I get to work with,” he said. “This isn’t a job where I’m sitting at a desk 24 hours a day. I’m interacting, networking and connecting.”
Kellert has formed relationships with the youth advisers at other Atlanta-area Reform synagogues.
“In the other synagogues, the other youth advisers are in my friend group,” he said. “The new NFTY advisers for the Atlanta area go out to dinner, and we talk and chat and share our ideas. We’re looking to create a community that’s bigger than just the youth groups themselves.”
What does Kellert hope to accomplish as Emanu-El’s youth engagement adviser?
“I hope to provide opportunities to the younger generation — the ones that were given to me,” Kellert said. “There’s so much out there that people are not taking advantage of.”