Find the Beef: Making Judaism Relevant for 18 to 26 year olds with Career Up
By Rabbi Adam Grossman
and Dr. Bradley Cook
The 1980s brought us the all-important question, “where’s the beef?” A promotional campaign created by Wendy’s, the three-word slogan became an idiom to challenge an idea’s depth, purpose and meaning.
In today’s Jewish engagement conversation, “where’s the beef” epitomizes the challenge in connecting 18 to 26 year old Jews with minimal backgrounds, limited engagement in Jewish life, and ennui towards institutional religion.
Unless there is a drastic shift in how we grab the attention of those ages of 18 and 26, keep them engaged with Judaism, and inspire them to become the next generation of Jewish lay leadership, the current Jewish communal infrastructure is at risk.
To reverse this trend, campus and community organizations must redesign their models to better engage and inspire this age group. To do this, it is essential to focus on their needs. We know that college students and recent graduates are motivated to establish a career, and are passionate about doing “good” and travel.
Using these three elements and the power of relevancy as the hook, Rabbi Adam Grossman and Bradley Cook have designed Career Up, a comprehensive model that inspires emerging professionals to integrate career development with Jewish living.
Incubated by the University of Florida Hillel, the core of Career Up consists of 4-day/3-night and 2-day/1-night immersive travel experiences designed to give participants the skills necessary to network effectively, to forge relationships with top-notch industry leaders, and to anchor Jewish ideals. Career Up uses one-on-one and group meetings with experts and business leaders, educational workshops before, during and after the experience, community service, and of course fun, all framed in an inviting Jewish context. The experience highlights a city, its Jewish community and one’s ability to coalesce Jewish living and professional pursuits.
In the spring of 2016, beta experiences in San Francisco and New York City were conducted with 27 UF Hillel students (12 and 15, respectively, for each trip). Opportunities in San Francisco included meeting with Jewglers (Jewish Googlers), having intimate conversations with Israeli startups, top-notch entrepreneurs, and impact investors, experiencing dynamic religious experiences at Mission Minyan and the Kitchen, and participating in a Giving Circle. Some of the feedback from the initial Career Up experiences included:
- “Career Up: San Francisco offered a chance to learn about potential career paths from Jews who are prominent in their field, while immersing myself in a new city and Jewish community. One thing that stood out was going to Shabbat at The Kitchen, which made me realize that even though I have felt detached from the organized praying aspect of Judaism there are definitely ways that I can enjoy and have fun with it.”
- “Traveling to New York City was a tremendous learning experience. I was lucky enough to meet with successful Jewish businessmen and entrepreneurs who shared valuable insights and connections that will continue to benefit me moving forward. For me one of the most unique discoveries was the expansive Jewish business community in the city and the support structure they have built to help each other succeed. As my career takes flight I look forward to becoming part of such a dynamic Jewish community no matter where I go.”
Beyond the travel experience, Career Up makes a commitment to participants in the Career Up community to be part of their professional journey for life. Career Up works with potential employers to help match participants with internships, as well as build a systematic pipeline for Jewish professional communities to secure top-notch leadership talent, a major indicator for growth, sustainability, and viability for Jewish communities.
Over the last two years, we have helped over 100 students secure internships in a variety of fields of interest across the globe. Additionally, prior to each travel experience, students can attend personal and professional development workshops grounded in Jewish wisdom in person and online.
Sessions have included “Tsuris Aside: Solving People’s Pain Point” using Pirke Avot 2:12 to understand a potential employer’s needs, “If Not Now, When?: You Have 30-Seconds” using Hillel’s famous quote “If I am not for myself, who will be for me…” from Pirke Avot 1:14 to craft a 30 second personal pitch, and “L’fum Tzara Agra: According to the Effort Is the Reward” from Pirke Avot, 5:26 teaching participants best practices in building and maintaining professional networks.
Looking ahead to this fall, with generous support from the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles in partnership with Hillel at UCLA and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston with its Israel Campus Initiative (IACT) campuses, Career Up is piloting experiences with 30 participants each in Los Angeles and Boston respectively.
To answer the question, “where’s the beef,” Career Up has created a viable model to anchor Jewish relevancy to the current realities of 18 to 26 year olds: career success, doing “good” and travel. Whether one is looking to establish or expand their professional networks, or connect with Jewish vibrancy and Jewish community Career Up is a powerful vehicle to engage and inspire the next generation to become Jewish leaders within their communities and their professional industries.
Rabbi Adam Grossman, who is a past Slingshot Guide Award recipient and member of Clal’s Rabbis Without Borders network, is the CEO of the University of Florida Hillel and co founder of Career Up. Please feel free to connect with him on Facebook (rabbiadamgrossman) or Twitter (rabbiadam). Email Adam Grossman (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested in partnering or bringing Career Up to your community.
Dr. Bradley Caro Cook, alum of Upstart, founder of Project Beyond, co founder and Director of Career Up, currently, lives in Los Angeles. Connect with Bradley via twitter: @bradleycooks or by email Bradley@CareerUpNow.org.