The Atlanta Jewish Teen Initiative kicks off its first engagement by gathering teens across Atlanta for an Atlanta United game. The first JumpSpark intensive session, set for January, will focus on sports.

By Hope Chernak and Kelly Cohen

No matter your organization, mission or audience, there are hurdles to teen engagement, and success in today’s world requires new models of engagement to confront obstacles facing teens, including overextended schedules, academic pressure, the feeling of not fitting into existing programs, and a lack of relevance of the Jewish community and its teachings.

We know that effective Jewish programming needs to engage teens through their interests and speak to their passions. Teen program providers should recognize the obstacles to participation while offering a range of ways for teens to connect and stay connected within the Jewish community.

With this in mind, a new platform has been conceived by the Atlanta Jewish Teen Initiative, the ninth city in the Jewish Teen Education & Engagement Funder Collaborative. This bold experiment targets Jewish teens not fully engaged in Jewish life through a new program, JumpSpark, which offers interest-based intensives for Jewish teens during school breaks.

Teens have diverse interests and talents, so there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. The goal and methodology of JumpSpark addresses the gap between the pursuit of areas of interest and Jewish involvement.

The innovation in our platform is adaptable and can be replicated in any community across the country with four guiding principles:

  • Don’t make teens choose.

We know students’ lives are complex and busy. Successful teen models will find topics that students are already interested in and meet them there. Jewish values are part of our everyday lives, and, as educators, it’s our role to help build those bridges for our teens.

As an example, our pilot intensive, JumpSpark Sports, will run from Jan. 2 to 5, the final week of the holiday break for many Atlanta school districts, and will engage students through a behind-the-scenes look at the sports industry.

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