By Marisa Kaiser and Missy Bell

This summer, we announced that RYPA (Reform Youth Professionals Association) will now become part of the ARJE (Association of Reform Jewish Educators). This announcement marks the beginning of our organization to provide Reform Jewish youth professionals with a greater level of access to professional development opportunities, a network of colleagues, advocacy for its members, and job placement and career services.

Reform Jewish education is a lifelong and year round endeavor, encompassing many settings including religious schools and youth engagement programs such as synagogue youth groups, NFTY, and Jewish summer camps. Unifying all of these professionals into our association encourages collaboration and partnership, and is in clear alignment with our mission: to serve as the voice for Reform Jewish education, to advance the profession of the Jewish educator, and to inspire excellence in Jewish education.

Including youth professionals in the ARJE will benefit youth professionals themselves, congregational educators, and clergy, as well as all youth across the Reform movement. This unification recognizes the professionalism of those working in youth engagement and the value they bring to the field of Jewish education and to Jewish life.

“As a youth professional who has been dedicated to this field for over a decade, I am thrilled by the merger of RYPA and ARJE,” said Alison Stamm, Director of Youth Engagement at Temple Sinai of Roslyn. “Our unified professional organization will finally reflect the close relationship between youth professionals and religious school educators. This new model will provide opportunities for networking and collegiality among hundreds of people who are working with kids and teens in Reform Jewish settings across North America. I am excited about the professional development opportunities that can be provided by an established, respected organization which will benefit both novice and veteran youth pros. Exciting things to come!”

We are excited to welcome new members and new ideas into our community and conversations.  We are eager to build partnerships with our fellow educators. We believe that members of RYPA will bring diversity of practice and approach to our work, and that current ARJE members will both benefit from and contribute to youth professionals’ growth. Together we can craft a rich and diverse vision of excellence that will strengthen our mutual work as well as the Reform Movement’s Jewish educational endeavors.

Marisa Kaiser, RJE, serves as the Director of Education at Temple Sinai in Sandy Springs, GA.  Prior to moving to Temple Sinai in 2014, she was the Director of Education at Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot in Irvine, CA for 9 years and served as the Religious School Principal for five years at Temple Judea in Tarzana. After graduating with a BA in Jewish Studies from Ohio State University, and serving one year as the Jewish Campus Service Corps (JSCS) Fellow for Hillel at Kent State University in Ohio, Marisa then returned to her roots in Southern California to pursue her Masters in Jewish Education from the American Jewish University (formerly University of Judaism). Currently, Marisa serves as a Vice President of the Association of Reform Jewish Educators (ARJE).

Missy Bell, RJE is the Director of Youth Learning and Engagement at Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York. She holds Masters Degrees in Jewish Education and Jewish Communal Service from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and an undergraduate degree in Jewish, Islamic and Near Eastern Studies from Washington University in St. Louis. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Association of Reform Jewish Educators. Missy is a member of of the inaugural fellows of UJA-Federation’s Ruskay Institute for Jewish Professional Leadership.