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A Look Into the Summit on Jewish Teens

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This post was written by the BBYO IC 2015 Teen Press Corps. As part of the annual gathering of thousands of teen leaders from across the country and around the world, the Teen Press Corps documented momentous moments from the Convention as well as other communal events that took place over the course of the weekend. In this case, the Press Corps captured some thinking behind the simultaneous Summit on Jewish Teens in which philanthropists, Jewish professionals and teens got to share their thinking and coordinate strategies to engage more and more teens in Jewish life.

Their interviewee, Jen Kraus-Rosen, is the COO of Moishe House,an organization that trains, supports and sponsors young Jewish leaders as they create vibrant home-based communities for themselves and their peers. 

The Summit on Jewish Teens took place Thursday, February 12, and consisted of Jewish teens and intellectuals who discussed topics ranging from philanthropy and leadership to Jewish identity. Jen Rosen, a BBYO alumni, attended the summit.

Press Corps: Where are you from?
Jen Rosen: I am from Brooke, Virginia, but now I live in Charlotte, North Carolina.

PC: Were you international N'siah in Virginia?
JR: I was in NoVa Council. I was part of Northern Region East in 2001. I was Council N'siah and International MIT MOM.

PC: What got you interested in BBYO?
JR: I grew up in Virginia, and there weren't many Jews in my community. My parents made me really proud to have a Jewish home, and I was proud to be part of a community that was very involved. I also had some friends who were involved in BBYO. I was very excited to connect with the other Jews in the area, so I joined and I got more and more involved in my chapter and my council. I went to CLTC which changed my life. It was the first time that I went in with confidence and considered myself a leader instead of just a participant.

PC: Why did you attend IC this year?
JR: I have the privilege of working in the Jewish community for an organization called Moishe House. There, we do Jewish community building for young adults in their twenties, after they are out of college but before they have families of their own. We help them to connect with each other in the Jewish community, so it's similar to BBYO in a lot of ways. We are a partner of BBYO, and we've learned a lot. We're a new organization. All of our original staff members were in BBYO, so we are sort of using our skills that we learned in BBYO to be a part of this, which is awesome. Also, we know that one day these teens will be a part of Moishe House, and we're excited to learn more about them. The experiences that have been instrumental in their lives will only make our jobs better, so we help ensure that they are excited to be a part of Moishe House.

PC: Why did you attend the Summit on Jewish Teens specifically?
JR: Moishe House was invited to participate as a partner so that we could experience IC by being part of opening ceremonies, but also have some space where we we could work on Jewish continuity and Jewish community building. We want to learn more from the teens about who they are, what they are looking for, and what resonates with them. It felt like a really great experience.

PC: Was hearing from the teens your favorite part?
JR: Yeah, so far. I'm excited about that; it's nice to hear from the teens and from some of the experts who work in teen engagement. It's enlightening to hear their conversations with teens.

PC: If the teens who attend IC can only retain one message, what should it be?
JR: I hope that they feel really proud to be part of this global Jewish movement and Jewish community. I hope they know that this is a start to what can be an awesome adventure. I also want to emphasize that throughout their entire lives they're going to come across other folks who were a part of this movement too and that this is an exciting starting point.

PC: To you, what is the most important reason why teens should explore their Jewish identity?
JR: Judiasm is our heritage—it's our people, it's our religion, and it's a gift. It brings many wonderful assets with it: culture, family, food, and tradition. To experience that and decide what resonates with each teen and bring that into his/her own future home or family one day is very important. It's a way to identify and connect.

PC: Did you learn anything about yourself in the summit?
JR: I'm learning that even though I consider myself young, I'm not as young as I think I am. I have a lot to learn about today's teens. Just because I'm a proud former BBYO member, doesn't mean that I'm in touch with what teens are like today. It's a good reminder.

PC: How are teens today different than teens when you were in BBYO?
JR: They are certainly more connected to technology and the world around us. I didn't even have a cell phone when I was in BBYO, so it's pretty crazy. I think they are also more aware of the world around them and what opportunities lay ahead of them.

Read more about BBYO's 2015 International Convention!

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.