The East Valley Jewish Community Center (EVJCC) is starting a new program in August to promote leadership skills among Jewish teens.
The Jewish Teen Leadership Institute was created by EVJCC CEO and executive director, Rabbi Michael Beyo.
“Rabbi Beyo’s hopes are that teens will develop leadership tools such as communication and conflict resolution that will strengthen their Jewish identities and create friendships and connections with various groups of kids who come from different backgrounds,” said Kerri Robbins, who will be structuring the program’s content.
The institute will offer monthly workshops, team-building excursions, community service and a stipend award upon completion of the program, as well as an opportunity to intern at the EVJCC.
The program begins on Aug. 16, and the EVJCC is currently accepting applications for its first cohort of up to 10 students entering ninth through 11th grade. The deadline to apply is July 12.
“Applicants will complete an online application and undergo a panel interview to assess their commitment and desire to participate,” Robbins said. “We are hoping to build a cohort from different synagogues — or who do not attend a synagogue — different schools and different experiences.”
The program will last one school year, with teens meeting about once a month, Robbins said.
“Participants will … engage in team-building activities, discussion-based learning and two day trips,” she said. “They will participate in the EVJCC’s Shoah Memory event in January and a Yom Haatzmaut event in April. Students from Hillel at Arizona State University will also be participating in the program to connect our teens with their Jewish community beyond high school.”
Robbins connected with the Jewish Teen Leadership Institute through her involvement with the Women’s Jewish Learning Center and its Women’s Leadership Institute. The center was established in 2010 and offers high-level and creative Jewish learning for women, women’s organizations and women’s leadership efforts in the Valley. One of the center’s programs is the Women’s Leadership Institute, which is a course on leadership as seen through a Jewish lens. The program is led by Rabbi Elana Kanter.
The Jewish Teen Leadership Institute offers a perfect niche for Robbins’ skills and experience.
“Part of that commitment (of the Women’s Leadership Institute) is developing or contributing to a project within the Jewish community,” she said. “As an East Valley resident, I wanted to be involved in broadening opportunities in my area, and as a high school teacher I knew that I wanted to do something with teenagers. I was put into contact with Rabbi Beyo, who was developing this project, which was a natural fit for me to get involved.”
The Teen Leadership Institute is receiving support from BBYO, Temple Emanuel, Temple Beth Sholom of the East Valley and ASU Hillel. It is partially funded by a grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix.