Project InCiTE: Introduction to Innovation

by David Bryfman

For many years now I have worked in both formal and informal Jewish educational settings determined to win the battle to engage every Jewish teenager in a meaningful Jewish journey post-bar or bat mitzvah. There are many days when this is rewarding, but unfortunately, there are many more days when this is often frustrating and disheartening. My assumption for many years was that if there was very little good stuff out there to engage Jewish teens, then there must be an inadequate number of good people doing this work. Besides the arrogance and naivete? of this statement, I eventually learned that my primary assumption was flawed. As I continually discover, there are often great people out there trying to do very important work, but it is often something else that prevents them from realizing their potential.

And so Project InCiTE was conceived with the single framing question: How could we develop a program that would unleash the full potential of Jewish teen professionals?

We provided coaches, worked with institutions, and infused high-quality Israel resources and experiences  – all of which were significant components of Project InCiTE. Yet before any of this occurred, we had to focus our attention on the very essence of what it was we wanted to achieve. We were dissatisfied with the status quo of inadequate Jewish teen engagement, and somehow we needed to break the cycle of the same old experiences being offered to an ever-changing population of Jewish teens.

While “innovation” had become a buzzword in the Jewish community, we realized it was far more complex and complicated than many others had recognized. Most importantly, we learned we could actually teach creativity and innovation; thus, our partnership with SIT – Systematic Inventive Thinking was born. In what we believe to have been the first attempt of its kind in the Jewish world, we took individuals within institutions and trained them in skills and capacities to become perpetual agents of creativity and innovation wherever they may end up. The success of Project InCiTE will not just be measured by the projects conceived during this fellowship – but through the impact that everyone touched by this experience carries with him or her at every point along his or her journeys.

David Bryfman is currently Director of the New Center for Collaborative Leadership at The Jewish Education Project (formerly the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York-SAJES). David recently completed his PhD in Education and Jewish Studies at NYU focusing on the development of Jewish adolescent identity development and experiential Jewish education. He is also a graduate of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship Program. Prior to moving to New York, David worked in formal and informal Jewish educational institutions in Australia, Israel, and North America. David is also currently an educational consultant for The iCenter. In his spare time David also enjoys (sort of) running marathons.

10 Things We’ve Learned About Innovation will roll out over the next few weeks.

Click here to view in original PDF format Click here for a full History of Project InCiTE
Project InCiTE is a partnership between The Jewish Education Project (formerly The Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York) and The iCenter, in collaboration with Makom.