A cohort of professionals from around the Ohio River Valley will begin a yearlong initiative, the NEXTwork Hub, to help them better engage Birthright Israel alumni and their peers throughout the region in Jewish life. Designed by NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation, with funding from the Covenant Foundation, the NEXTwork Hub kicks off March 10th and will build a network of professionals in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Columbus, Dayton and Lexington to learn new skills, build their professional capacity, and enhance their Jewish knowledge.
“This will be a truly empowering and inspiring experience for this inaugural cohort of engagers – the professionals who interact directly with young Jewish adults in their communities,” says Rabbi Ari Weiss, Senior Director of Jewish Education at NEXT, who developed the curriculum for the monthly in-person seminars. “Within the Hub, they will have the opportunity to grow together and think creatively about the best ways to help shape the Jewish journeys of young adults. It will be exciting to see their evolution and the outcomes they achieve throughout the year.”
NEXT sees the Hub as a way to provide sustained support and develop even stronger relationships with and among Ohio River Valley engagers. The first Hub seminar will examine “Relational Judaism” in the context of young adult engagement. Other seminars will address knowledge of Birthright Israel alumni and their peers; experiential education; program design, marketing and branding; and how to connect Jewish young adults to Jewish community, among other areas. Experts and practitioners will lead each in-person session, working directly with the engagers to teach best practices. Beyond the monthly seminars, the Hub includes mentorship and chevruta study among the participants. The Hub’s curriculum was designed to adapt the inclusive values articulated in the Taglit-Birthright Israel educational platform for local engagement.
The Hub builds off of NEXT’s efforts over the last two years to develop its national network of engagers, known as the NEXTwork. Throughout the year, the NEXTwork brings together engagers from different organizations to further advance the skills, strategies, tools and careers of the people who actually make Jewish journeys happen. Weiss explains that the Hub offers a structure to go even deeper in a targeted region.
The Hub is indicative of NEXT’s strategy to consult with communities and leaders to create more and relevant opportunities for young Jewish adults. This includes sharing information about national young adult engagement trends; best practices for creating programs and do-it-yourself opportunities for Birthrighters; and census-like data about young Jewish adults in communities. Additionally, if a pilot initiative such as the Hub achieves positive outcomes, NEXT will look to adapt the model to other regions as well.