Engaging Jewish Teenage Boys: a Call to Action

Earlier this week, Moving Traditions, announced a new program geared at teenage Jewish boys – and simultaneously released a report which offers Seven Lessons and Seven Principles to help Jewish educators more effectively and meaningfully inspire them to stay connected to Jewish life.

Distilled from three years of research, 40 focus groups with Jewish boys, multiple pilot tests and program development, the findings suggest that putting boys’ developing masculinity – their journey to manhood – at the center of male-focused Jewish programming will keep more boys engaged in Jewish life beyond bar mitzvah.

Informed by this research, Moving Traditions has crafted a comprehensive initiative to help both formal and informal Jewish educators better serve Jewish teenage boys.

This from the Executive Summary:

The Jewish community is losing boys who drop out of Jewish life after bar mitzvah in unacceptably large numbers. Jewish institutions are struggling to keep teenage boys engaged. Left unaddressed, the trend threatens to undermine the Jewish future and leave a generation of boys ignorant of the wisdom, core values, community, and spiritual nourishment Judaism provides.

As an organization uniquely equipped and positioned to engage Jewish teens, Moving Traditions presents Engaging Jewish Teenage Boys: A Call to Action. We invite policy makers, funders, parents, clergy, and educators to join us in better understanding teenage boys and adopting new ways to work with them. By doing so, we can help Jewish boys connect meaningfully with their Judaism, their masculinity, their peers, and themselves.

Engaging Jewish Teenage Boys: A Call to Action draws on knowledge distilled from three years of research, focus groups with Jewish boys, and program development, and grows out of the success of our work with adolescent girls. Moving Traditions’ innovative program, Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing!, draws on an understanding of gender and core Jewish values. It has helped thousands of teenage girls negotiate adolescence and develop meaningful identities as young women and as Jews.

The report contains seven lessons and seven principles, supported by a marketing toolkit, a program curriculum sample, appendices describing the research, and a list of resources. Together they provide Jewish educators with the research, concepts, and resources needed to understand and meet the unique needs of Jewish boys.

Moving Traditions calls on Jewish communal leaders and educators to join us in partnership to reverse the exodus of teenage boys from Jewish life through a connected set of actions:

  1. Advocate for gendered spaces for Jewish teenage boys. Being male matters to boys: the literature shows it, and our focus groups and action research confirm it.
  2. Train educators and build the field. Our ability to engage Jewish teenage boys is limited by a lack of trained men in Jewish education, and a lack of understanding on the part of men and women in education about who boys are.
  3. Implement Moving Traditions’ program, The Brotherhood. When boys participate in programs that put the lessons and principles in this report into practice, they become more engaged in Jewish life.

By working together, we can help adolescent boys grow into self-aware Jewish men comfortable exploring both their religion and their masculinity, strengthening the broader Jewish world that is so precious to us.

Here’s the complete report, Engaging Jewish Teenage Boys: A Call to Action.