Tuesday, January 11, 2011

JSU South Florida is taking off

Everyone in South Florida is talking about the important work of the Jewish teen organization called JSU - Jewish Student Union. This past summer two new dynamic individuals were hired to connect more Jewish teens with other local Jewish organizations and youth programs. The new JSU South Florida Director is Rabbi Josh Broide, a veteran Florida Youth Director and the former Executive Director of Boca Raton Synagogue, America’s flagship Modern Orthodox synagogue. Josh is incredibly ambitious and goal oriented and wants to take JSU’s success to the next level. There are currently almost thirty clubs being run in cooperation with the Jewish Teen Initiative of the Palm Beach Federation as well as Southern NCSY. Important partnerships have been developed with the Federation of South Palm Beach, Young Judea, BBYO, USY and NFTY and discussions have already begun with the Federation of Greater Miami. Josh has already identified and targeted a number of additional schools with a high concentration of Jewish teenagers. Daniel Mesa was hired as the JSU South Florida Program Director. Daniel is one of South Florida’s best youth directors and has been hard at work developing original and creative programming for the clubs. In addition JSU will be running a trip to Israel this summer called TJJ – The Jerusalem Journey and Josh will be supervising a bus from our area. This trip is highly subsidized in order to make it appealing to Jewish teenagers that have never been to Israel.

The Jewish Student Union (JSU) is a national organization dedicated to establishing Jewish clubs in public high schools. Founded with 4 clubs in Los Angeles in 2002, JSU has enjoyed rapid growth and now serves more than 220 clubs across North America, reaching more than 9,000 teens annually. By fostering a social atmosphere, presenting engaging and entertaining educational programs, and lowering the barriers to participation, JSU reaches all types of teenagers from the under-engaged to the already involved.

Much like Hillel, the mission of JSU is to involve students in an active Jewish lifestyle. As a stand-alone informal Jewish education tool, the clubs are invaluable for creating a sense of Jewish community in a public school environment. We also provide Jewish teens in public school with an in-school educational experience focusing on issues of Jewish pride, identity, and connection to Israel. However, a larger goal of JSU is to act as a portal for connecting participants to the greater Jewish community.

By facilitating the formation of student run and school sanctioned clubs in Public High Schools, JSU seeks to provide teens with a deeper appreciation for their rich Jewish heritage and inspire them to live a fully committed Jewish life. JSU’s trained professionals present Judaism and Jewish life as appealing and accessible to a previously under-serviced population subset – Jewish teens attending public high school.

JSU helps Jewish teens establish official Jewish clubs in their public high schools which offer specially crafted programs designed to:

• Enhance each teen’s Jewish identity

• Nurture a connection to the State of Israel

• Inspire an enduring relationship with the Jewish people

• Provide a portal for deeper involvement with the Jewish community

JSU (The Jewish Student Union) seeks to enhance teens’ Jewish identity, nurture a connection to the State of Israel, inspire an enduring relationship with the Jewish people and provide for a deeper involvement with the Jewish community, including serving as a portal to facilitate life-long involvement in Jewish inspired expression and organizations. JSU is a non-denominational program, open to all Jewish teens irrespective of background or affiliation.

JSU is a non-denominational program, open to all Jewish teens irrespective of background or affiliation. JSU staff is trained to be inclusive, to work with other youth professionals from all denominations, and to provide opportunities for diverse Jewish experiences. JSU professionals employ the classic social work model of client self-determination, “meeting the client where the client is.” JSU provides educational, fun, and innovative means by which teens take responsibility for their Judaism and relationship with Israel.

Commitment to Separation of Church and State:

In creating and executing Jewish programs in a public school environment, JSU administration and personnel are very cognizant of the sensitivity towards the separation of church and state. Therefore, JSU programs and activities are submitted for review to the public school faculty and administration prior to taking place. If a program is unacceptable to a public school or borders on unacceptability, JSU errs on the side of caution. Without sacrificing educational quality and Jewish content, all programming must conform to ideals of inclusiveness between different types of Jews as well as the many non-Jewish students that attend our clubs. Furthermore, JSU clubs and the advisors that facilitate them have no intention or mission of proselytizing students.

Commitment to the Jewish community:

Fundamentally, JSU is committed to being a portal for Jewish life – a connector between Jewish teens and the myriad of programs, organizations and affiliations that exist in the Jewish community. It is therefore critical that JSU develop, maintain and grow strategic partnerships with organizations and youth groups that can benefit from access and engagement with JSU’s network of teenagers across the country. This commitment is unwavering and shows no bias towards any agency or agenda.

Commitment to Israel:

A new generation of Jewish teenagers has emerged, and their views and opinions about Israel are very different than their predecessors. With sensitivity towards these views, JSU is committed to providing educational content and experiences in JSU clubs that allow the students to take responsibility for their connection to Israel. Connecting to Israel can be done in many ways, and JSU utilizes cultural, religious and political means to develop this connection. It is our responsibility to help create tomorrow’s generation of Israel supporters.
Educational Content

JSU accomplishes its mission by hosting regular Jewish culture clubs in public schools that meet during non-instructional time. This includes the lunch hour, and before or after school. Programs include speakers and presentations from a variety of Jewish organizations, discussions on timely topics of interest to the participants and interactive activities (such as the ever popular “Jewpardy Quiz Game”). Kosher pizza, falafel, holiday foods or other snacks are always on hand in plenty. Club content is driven by several major programming areas:

• Jewish identity, heritage, culture and pride

• Current events, popular culture, and their relation to Judaism

• Social Action/Social Justice

• Religion and Philosophy

• Support and Advocacy for Israel

• Connecting to community during and post high school

JSU South Florida is continuing to grow in all three counties. If you would like to get involved or would like more information, please contact Josh Broide at (561) 702-3864 or email joshb@jsu.org.

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