Category Archives: College

Dealing with Anti-Semitism on the College Campus: What Jewish Teens Think

An event taking place on many college campuses

An event taking place on many college campuses

The post title refers to Anti-Semitism, while the poster above references anti-Israel propaganda.

There are plenty of debates back and forth about which is which, including examples of Anti-Zionism in the mix.

This purpose of this post is to enlighten us about how Jewish teens react to a scenario they might encounter on the college campus. We know that the college campus, usually a place that is open to the marketplace of ideas, does not always live up to that reputation. An annual review of Anti-Israel activity on college campuses around the United States, produced by the ADL will educate you.

The situation below was given to Jewish high school students by the Anti-Defamation League recently, and they discussed options in small groups and recorded their responses on large poster paper pasted around the room.   

“Josh is a friend of yours from high school and a Jewish student activist on his college campus. He encounters a professor in one of his Middle East courses, who has a very strong opinion regarding what he describes as the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank. Josh has his own opinion of the situation and finds that he is the only person outwardly disagreeing with the professor. Josh’s term paper, worth 30% of his grade, is due next week.  Josh is afraid to represent his opposing ideologies in his paper and possibly risk his grade. He asks for your opinion and advice. What do you tell him? 

How do you think the teens you know will answer?

Assertively? Passively? Defiantly?

Here’s one response that I’d definitely place on the unassertive continuum, as it really skirts the issue entirely:

“If the professor grades Josh harshly because of his opinions, then the professor is being unprofessional.”

How would you evaluate the comment above?      What would your recommendation be to this student?

If you’re curious as to how others responded, read on: 

“Agree with the professor, but keep your own beliefs to yourself because you need to pass the class.”

“Do not be afraid of your own beliefs. Speak to your department head if it’s that big of an issue.”

“Notify the dean of students. See what they (would) grade you and what the professor (would) grades (sic) you. If it is worse due to the opposing side/idea, tell the head of the department.”

“Write your own beliefs and see what the professor does and take it up with someone higher.”

“Don’t do the paper if you don’t believe in it.”

The good news, is that some students were very comfortable asserting their rights–outside of class.

Inside class, is another story entirely…and according to what I’ve read about college campus behavior, these student responses mimics what actually does happen when students encounter professors with differences of opinion. The stakes are high for these students beginning in high school and continuing on to college. Openly disagreeing with a professor’s opinions is really tough to do.

I clearly remember one student who felt such a sense of accomplishment after being able to argue successfully with his history teacher, that he called it a ‘life-changing’ experience. Yet another student told us how she wished she paid better attention in her Israel class so that she could debate more effectively with students at her campus who were members of Students for Justice in Palestine.

We can use our time with our students to prepare them a bit more to talk through these situations and help them decide the right course for them, depending upon their priorities. 

Denying that they will encounter either Anti-Semitism or Anti-Zionism does not serve them well.


Who are you on the web? If you’re applying to college, you should know

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr...

Should colleges check you out on Facebook?

For Teens, Their Parents, and Jewish Educators:

An article in Education Week noted what most of us already know: college admissions officers are not clueless when it comes to checking up on potential applicants.

There is an increase in the number of admissions officers who are digging deeper into social media as a way to gain a more rounded profile of student applicants.  Kaplan Test Prep noted that this activity has more than quadrupled.

“Most kids have no idea how important it is that their profile[s] online — Twitter, Facebook, other social media spaces — need to be appropriate for the admissions process,” said Dean Skarlis, president of The College Advisor of New York. “Most kids don’t even realize what’s appropriate and what’s not because they’re 16, 17 and their idea of what might be appropriate is very different than that of a college admissions person.”

Unfortunately, social media users are experiencing less control of what content gets posted.

Appear in a picture, and your ability to remove it may be very limited.

How can you go about cleaning up your act?

Here are three really quick things to do now:

1. Conduct a search on yourself.  Enter your name  into various search engines and social media platforms to see what comes up.

2. Make sure your account is ‘clean’: free of postings that are inappropriate (get advice as to what inappropriate).

3. Do a search of your friend’s accounts, there may be content there that you would want removed.

4. Go into settings, and redo your privacy preferences so only your friends can see your posts..

Why is this post written for Parents, teens, and Jewish educators? As Jewish educators, we can use our setting to our advantage. Most of us meet with students in a trusting and casual environment. In those settings we have a unique opportunity to open discussions with our students that may rarely take place elsewhere. Moreover, helping students be more aware of the consequences of their actions is exactly within our mission.

Photo credit: Wikipedia


Jewish Teens: Do you want to be the same or different?

Figuring out where you stand is the challenge

I believe every Jewish teen has to make a fundamental decision, especially when getting ready to think about college.

Behind that decision are responses to feelings about Jewish identity.

The question begins with: How do I feel about being Jewish?

Is there anything in the way I feel about my heritage that makes me different?

Is there anything I do that makes me feel different?

How do those differences contribute to who I am? Are these differences that I should celebrate or run away from?

Would I rather be the same or different from other students who aren’t Jewish?

Are our Jewish teens getting any guidance about this?

These prompts are either-or in nature, though we know that life is not generally like that.

But in order to really prioritize values, the black-white choices are what helps clear the dust from the corners.

Underlying any choice is the light shining on the things that matter for our teens’ future Jewish involvements in college and beyond.

There are no easy answers to this one.  It depends on what the family has decided to value.

Research and studies have shown that the more multiple connections to Jewish life, the more Jewish identity is secured.

But that only matters if Jewish parents want their teens to maintain their differences.

Right now, the pull seems to be toward sameness.

Are you facing these challenges? Please share your thoughts.

Related articles

Photo source: wikimedia.org


Jewish Parents: Choose your teen’s activities wisely

English: A teen singing.

Make sure the activity gives back!

Soccer teams. Dance classes. School activities. SAT prep classes. After-school jobs. Volunteer work. AP classes.

The list can go on and on.

The school year starts with an overwhelming rush of activities.

How do you help your teen choose what to do? What takes priority? Should your teenager do volunteer work? Take a leadership role in a school club? Begin working so he/she learns responsibility and the value of a dollar? Continue with a sport that he/she excels in?

The challenge is great to select those activities that will continue to have meaning later in life. When high school is a faded memory and your teen is already immersed in college–what activities will have made an impact?

The goal needs to be more than just ‘getting into’ a good college.

Unfortunately, college counselors and admissions officers will tell you that, after reading thousands and thousands of applications, they can see through the haze of shallow but well-intentioned lists of extracurricular activities.

So, you need to maximize your teen’s time, short as it is.

The ideal goal and purpose of these activities is to give your teen something that will add to his/her character, something that will have longterm meaning.

I’m not advocating that you abdicate activities.

I do believe that you have to think carefully about what that involvement gives back.

Yes, I’m biased, I’ve written many posts about how important I think Jewish education is to your teen’s development.

I believe that in the right setting, continued Jewish education past the typical drop-off age can build character, leadership skills, critical thinking, and provide teens with a way to determine their own belief systems.

Plus, college counselors and admissions officers see it as a continued area of interest that your teen has pursued for years.

Think about it.

Putting continued Jewish education on a college application?

Totally an asset.

Photo credit: wikipedia

Please share your comments and thoughts, I’d like to hear from you.


One minute, three reasons why Jewish education helps teens focus on what’s important

One minute. Three reasons.

Why just three reasons?

Simple.

Your time is valuable.

Plus everyone’s way too busy getting ready for the school year to spend so much time reading blogs.

And, most importantly, if I keep the reasons limited to three, it will take you less than 1 minute to read.
We’ve all got at least 1 minute.

Here goes—

Jewish Education:

    1. Helps your teen get away from the mundane interactions with peers to focus on meatier things: ethical choices, responsible decision-making, moral values. All of which help your child succeed in a challenging college environment.
    2. Provides your teenager with an instant core group of teachers and mentors, happy to partner with you in getting your child to travel in the right direction.
    3. Offers your child the opportunity, on a regular basis, to focus on the big, big questions like the universe, the meaning of life, relationships with friends, spirituality, and God (that will come in up in conversation elsewhere….when?).

OR…….you can just hope that things will turn out all right.

Have you been on a college campus lately?


How Would You Market to Jewish Teens?

Needed: Marketing pizzazz for Jewish Teens

This post is more about marketing than it is about Jewish education.

It’s a subject I have learned to get close to, being a member of a very small niche group (Jews in America) with a specialized skill set (Jewish Educator) for an even smaller, underserved and often forgotten very specific age group: Jewish Teens.

(The lyrics from “New York, New York” come to mind: “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere”)

So, it’s understandable that I’d be focusing on ways to get the word out about teens and how we can best meet their needs before they go off to college and saunter into the sunset.

A quote, from the Harvard Business Review Blog  prompted me to write this post:

“For your prospects, this means they need to see a clear distinction between what they’re already doing and what you’re proposing.”

Makes perfect sense.

The hard part is translating this concept to a service, that for many reasons, is a ‘hard sell’.

The article recommended using pictures to convey these ideas. Wow, that’s a tough one in our business.

Pictures of happy teens only goes so far.

In a previous  post I asked if were are communicating with the tools we do have (words) to our potential students about what we offer.

Now I’m asking how we might headline the news of our great programs that would encourage students to sign up? What message could grab a parent’s attention?

Here are some possibilities based on meeting an underlying need. We might actually use a few.

Fear:

Going to college? Then You Must Be Ready to Respond to Israel bias. If not, sign up now to be prepared!

Ethics:

Going to college without a strong ethical foundation is like going sky diving without a parachute. Don’t risk it. Sign up now.

Academics:

Everyone in your class is already taking AP classes, advanced calc, and is on some type of team. How many are taking an extra academic course load and college credit classes? Sign up now and get a college advantage!

Social Stuff:

Build a great social network of Jewish Teen Leaders like yourself. Sign up now!

Change:

Tired of being frustrated in Hebrew school? Change things up and sign up now!

Which one would get the attention of Jewish Teens? Their parents?

Please share yours here, and maybe we can all benefit from our collective creativity.

Photo credit: flickr


A Short List of What the Jewish Community Should Do for Teens

Check out the really short list

Check out the really short list

In what seems a long time ago, I wrote a post about the Jewish community’s ‘in-the-box-thinking.’  As a novice to the blogging world, I feared the worst because it was the first time I shared my dissatisfaction about how my local Jewish community was functioning.

Well, sometimes the blogosphere can be eerily silent.  I didn’t receive a single comment or e-mail about it (though who did I think was possibly reading my blog anyway???)

Helping teens figure out their connection to the Jewish community and general direction in life is a worthy goal for those of us in the Jewish communal world.  After all, if we don’t clarify our mission, we’re like a broken compass.  No directional pull, no navigational tools–just spinning like crazy.

So, I’d like to create a short wish list for what I’d love to see happen in the Jewish community.

These things would help teens navigate better:

1. Define the Alphabet Soup. Ready? Do you know the differences between the JCC, JFCS, JCRC, JFGP. Great. Do you think our teens do? How about AIPAC, ZOA, or AJC? Wait, it gets more complicated, how about these fundraising organizations: AFMDA, FIDF, AFHU? Or these viable options for semester abroad programs in Israel: EIE, TRY, MUSS? Well, you can see the challenge. We either could use an app, or a catch-all portal to make all this accessible and understandable.  Whether we agree with an organization’s politics or not, Jewish life should be approachable. Doing this one thing could prompt all kinds of things, from learning the scope of needs the Jewish community deals with, to seeing how responsive the Jewish community is, to thinking of Jewish jobs beyond the synagogue.

2. Invite a teen to sit on a committee where communal activities are discussed. How can we get our teens invested in the future of a community in which they are not real stakeholders? I’m not talking about teen versions of funding and allocations committees, who do a great job of getting teens involved in what it takes to raise money and make decisions about where it goes. I mean positions at the table.  It’s called influence.  Teens know and appreciate when they ‘re offered it and when they have it.

3. Match Jewish teens with Jewish professionals in the field who can give them a sense of what it means to work in the community.  Their knowledge of professional positions in the Jewish community is limited to perhaps these careers: Rabbi, Cantor, Education Director, Youth Advisor, and Teacher. BUT they won’t have an idea that an interest in business, management, marketing, or any number of other careers may find a place in the Jewish community. There are teen mentorship programs that are for a select few, but we need to think broad and wide. There are many teens who are unaware of the many job opportunities in the Jewish communal world. Here, I’m not focused on the dentist or lawyer who happens to be Jewish. I’m specifically talking about connecting teens with Jewish professionals. Again, does our mission match our actions? We want Jewish leaders….how are we growing them?

4. Most Jewish students don’t have a clue about what the local Jewish community near their college campus has to offer, and don’t have a way of connecting with it for jobs, internships, mentorships, etc.  College internships. Somehow, we leave the college population to Birthright, Hillels and Chabad, and less visible, Meor and Aish. Yet, students are looking for real life experiences. Jewish communal organizations should do recruiting on campus. In a time where extra staffing is needed, we can provide teens with the job experiences they need.

Let’s stop the spinning and begin to help teens navigate.

image courtesy of pds photostream


Hiring Jewish teen aides? Five things to know

I guess the title of this post already lets you know there’s some advice coming.

But I’d rather start with asking you to give advice, to a pretend student named Rachel.

Rachel absolutely loves working with kids, and has done so for the past several summers at a Jewish camp. The kids love her, she has a lot of patience, and everyone has said that ‘she’s a natural’.

And naturally, she’s thinking of majoring in elementary education.

If she went to college, in four years, she would earn a teaching degree, and may even decide to go for an advanced degree.

Fortunately for her, college finances are not a problem.  She is undecided about college however, because just last week she was offered  a job as a classroom aide at an after-school program.

For her, it would mean a real job and money. Now.

Besides, she wouldn’t get to work in a real classroom until her junior or senior year in college and she could save money for college to show her parents that she is willing to help.

The after-school program really thinks that Rachel will be an excellent role model for the younger students, and taking the job would mean that she could make an impact on those children now.

What should Rachel do—work as an aide now or continue her education?

(You probably see where I’m going with this. Please continue reading because you know I have to ask you: what is your advice for Rachel?).

So, right about now, you might be thinking that this is a no-brainer. I even find it challenging to think that anyone would recommend that she forego her own education in favor of the immediate: earning some money even though she’d be using her talents and skills.

Well, this is a bit of a stretch when it comes to Jewish education, but I’m all about stretching and pulling on those boundaries.

Why are our expectations for the education of our teens so low?

In many synagogues around the country, on a weekly basis, students get paid to work in Hebrew schools at the very age when they should be furthering their own education. Sure, their choice is not necessarily to go off to college to earn a Jewish studies degree, but why is their own education sacrificed in order to hire them as classroom aides? I’m specifically talking about the many students I hear about each year who say that they can’t go further in their Jewish education because they’re working as an aide at a Hebrew school and would be too busy.

Here’s FIVE reasons why it is not a good idea to hire our teens as aides:

#1. Why shortchange a Jewish teens’ education at this important time in their lives when they’re ready to intellectually grapple with Jewish ideas?

#2. Hiring teens creates ‘instant role models’ at your synagogue, but you’re also making a statement that really, continuing Jewish education isn’t nearly as good as getting a paycheck.

#3. Hiring teens makes the statement that there isn’t much to a professional Jewish educator, after all, someone who has just completed a bar/bat mitzvah is perfectly suited to help out in the classroom.

#4. Students working in these classroom rarely receive the additional support or training to deal with the many issues that come up or the questions they have.

#5. Instead of learning to change paradigms, and thinking creatively about Hebrew school options, students cycle through the very ineffective system that they experienced.

A recent study regarding the placement and retention of close to 3,000 public school teachers found that when they were student teachers, they should have been considered students, and not teachers in order to get the support they needed. How much more so would this hold true for our Jewish teens placed in classrooms? 

So, what is a Hebrew school to do?

Well, for starters, tell the aides that in order to work in your school they must be enrolled in further Jewish education (online, adult study, Hebrew high school—- something).

Yes, it’s difficult to find good teachers, but that’s a bigger issue and this doesn’t solve it. I doubt that you’ll be able to convince me that we’re not failing our youth with this practice.


“Please feel free to contact me…..” Advice for #Jteens and others

Zhuyin on cell phone detail-2

I want to help.

I am currently involved in hiring talent. I say talent because I’m not interested in hiring just anyone. Ideally, the person is a great communicator committed to working with Jewish teens who has program development skills— a person with drive and creativity.

There are more skills needed than those, but this is a blog post not a help wanted ad.

So, how come this is what I usually read at the end of a cover letter?

“Please feel free to contact me by phone or email at your earliest convenience.”

Really? You’re interested in an ‘OUTREACH’ kind of job, and you want me to call you? I should feel free?

For all the recent grads out there, please show your passion and interest for the job by following up.

How?

1. Offer to call to follow up. In many non-profits there isn’t an HR person assigned the task of chasing down candidates. If you want the work, do the work and make the connection yourself.

2. Suggest meeting times

3. Demonstrate that you’ve done some homework on the organization and how you can fit in

4. Keep showing interest. Yes, even if you’re NOT hired! If you’ve made it to the interview, you’ve just spent close to an hour with someone who knows you AND has contacts. What a win-win for you. Seriously, a past client of mine who I encouraged to do this was called within four weeks to let her know that the original hire didn’t work out and could she start immediately?

5. So, you never know.

Feel free to take this advice…or you can always contact me…..See what I mean?


Helicopter Parents Go to College

This news came to my Inbox today:”Today’s Campus is launching a new publication designed as a resource for the parents of the entering freshmen college class. The handbook is expected to reach over 1 million readers this summer as they prepare to take the first steps towards college.”

I experienced one of those odd moments when you find yourself laughing at something and wish you had someone right there to share the comedy.  Right now, you’re my someone.

Check out this excerpt from above carefully: ‘as they prepare to take the first steps towards college.’ Now reread the entire quote above again. Who is the ‘they’ in the sentence? The handbook is clearly for parents, so it is the ‘they’ that made me laugh as I imagined parents packing for their first dorm room experience.  But, maybe the ‘they’ is intentionally vague (doubtful).

Here are four reasons why what I read was either very, very smart, or totally stupid.

Either option by the way does not preclude huge marketing success.

Smart reason #1. The college admissions process has gotten more intense, more competitive, and financially burdensome for so many families. Perhaps there are real ways to grapple with these issues that the handbook will provide.

Smart reason #2. We know that the terms ‘helicopter’ and ‘hovering’ have been used to describe parents of incoming college students. Now there is yet something else to buy that will somehow ensure their child’s college success. Or they will read about some hints that will perhaps make them all crazier, or actually give them an outlet for their worry. Either way, smart marketing.

Totally stupid reason #3. Why give in to the trend of parents not letting their teens go? This handbook may be feeding the frenzy that I listed in smart reason #1. (I know, this gets complicated).

Totally stupid reason #4. For those savvy enough, it will be pretty self-evident that pages of the handbook will be devoted to advertising space for the best dorm room message board, the must-have comforter and sheet set, and so on.

When the Handbook comes out and you decide to buy one (pick your reason above) I’d love to hear how it all turns out.


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