Back to School Means Back to Collaboration

Back to School Means Back to Collaboration

By April Basler |

The school year is about to begin, and that means Atlanta’s youth movements are ready to get back into full swing. Leaving behind summer programs, trips to Israel and camps, teens and adult BBYOyouth leaders are eager to start the school year by working together in the spirit of February’s Coalition of Jewish Teens.

Adam Griff, co-adviser for the North American Federation of Temple Youth’s HOTTY chapter at Temple Beth Tikvah, said he and David Hoffman, the BBYO director at the Marcus Jewish Community Center, are planning to include a NFTY team in BBYO’s AZA winter basketball league for boys. The league will play nine regular-season games plus playoffs from Dec. 6 to March 27.

Griff is excited for the basketball league partnership but said HOTTY has no other collaboration planned yet for this school year.

“We don’t do much in terms of planning during the summer. Most of it takes place during our board retreat, which would be in August,” Griff said. “I think there’s definitely an appetite for that and an interest of doing more, but there’s nothing planned yet.”

Many of the other local NFTY chapters have not had the chance to meet yet about programming this school year because several Reform synagogues, including Temple Kol Emeth, Temple Sinai and Temple Emanu-El, have new youth directors.

Griff is hopeful for more collaboration between the youth movements this school year and would like to see more joint leadership opportunities.

“I look forward to there hopefully being more conversations and more partnerships in the future,” he said. “I still think that there’s relatively little of that happening in Atlanta.”

Atlanta Council BBYO has plans to collaborate with NFTY and USY this school year with communitywide events.

Stacie Graff, the BBYO operations director at the Marcus JCC, said the youth movements have kept in contact this summer.

“We have a listserv that we communicate with them. We talk with our colleagues in NFTY and USY on a regular basis, and currently our plans are not solidified yet,” Graff said.

She said BBYO is in the midst of planning a fall Shabbat for all the youth movements but has not decided on a date.

BBYO is also planning Atlanta’s J-Serve day, which will be a large communitywide event. The International Day of Jewish Youth Service will take place March 6.

“We feel that it’s really important for the teens to work together even though they might be part of different youth movements,” Graff said. “We’re all working towards developing the teens and helping them become the next generation of strong Jewish leaders.”

That attitude motivated the gathering of the Coalition of Jewish Teens before BBYO’s International Convention and the NFTY Convention in mid-February. The coalition brought together leaders from BBYO, NFTY, USY, NCSY and Young Judaea to plan cooperation.

“On a national level, USY, BBYO and NFTY are looking at ways to partner together in the immediate future,” said Lisa Alter Krule, USY’s director of regional engagement and director of the International Convention. “USY’s International Convention is being held in Baltimore this December, and BBYO’s IC will be held in Baltimore in February. We have been discussing ways to keep the momentum going and to complement each other’s work, specifically in the area of community service. The professional staff communicates often, and we are working with our teen leadership to further our efforts/collaboration.”

NFTY’s convention is biennial; this is an off-year for the Reform youth movement.

Regardless of which movement teens or adult youth leaders identify with, they have a common goal in Atlanta to work together.

“Every youth movement has so much they can offer each other,” Graff said, “so we’re really excited about partnerships that we can build this year for us as staff and then also for our teens to build community partnerships.”

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