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January Clergy / President's Column by President Andy Cheng

An Update on Our 5781 Strategic Priorities
Part II: Youth Education

This past summer, the Board of Directors and the Program Team announced three strategic priorities for our congregation during the year 5781: Racial Justice and Equity; Youth Education; and Learning From Our Present to Design Our Future, as well as attainable, one-year goals in each of these areas. We chose to determine strategic priorities in order to:

●    Create robust and clear partnerships between Beth Am’s Professional Team and its Board
●    Focus our joint leadership efforts in three key strategic areas that will strengthen our congregation in the areas of membership and engagement
●    Align our efforts for 5781 with the congregational findings that informed its search and selection of a new senior rabbi
●    Move towards a financially stable future with a sustainable income stream and an affordable operating model.

Although our three priorities provide us focal points for our efforts to accomplish our congregation’s mission, they do not encompass the entirety of the wide panoply of Beth Am’s programs and activities through which we strive to live as a holy community whose study and practice of Judaism inspires and challenges us to "do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God" (Micah 6:8). As a large and dynamic congregation, we are fortunate to support, simultaneously, a multiplicity of opportunities to engage in worship, study and the pursuit of justice.

In the previous issue of The Builder, we focused on our priority, Learning From Our Present to Design Our Future. In this jointly written Builder column, we will focus on the strategic priority that we have titled, Our Future Is Here: Youth Education, which is led by our co-chairs, Debbie Mukamal, Jenni Harris, and Ben Baum, and by Sarah Lauing, our Director of Learning and Educational Innovation.

Why are we focused on this particular priority right now? The congregational study that informed our search for a new senior rabbi identified the pressing need to reinvigorate our youth education programs and to create new models of education and engagement for children, teens and their parents. Rabbi Morrison brings to his leadership at Beth Am significant experience in educational change processes, and he and Sarah Lauing have already developed a strong sense of partnership as they create a vision for education in our congregation.

What have we accomplished thus far? We are pleased to be able to share with you several significant steps that we have already taken as a result of focusing on this priority.

As our first goal for this initiative, we sought to institute governance structures and strengthen congregant-professional partnerships that will support the evolution of youth and family education at Congregation Beth Am. The Board has formed two standing committees, one that is leading our Elementary Education program and a second that is focusing on Teen Education (6th-12th grades).  

A second goal of this initiative is to create more meaningful pathways of Jewish practice that will result in a stronger sense of engagement among 6th and 7th grade families, so that they choose to remain congregants after B’nei Mitzvah. As one of the first changes to our program that we implemented in order to reach this goal, all of our rabbis are now team teaching for our 6th and 7th grade students and their families, a year-long course on how to read the Torah, which focuses on the book of Genesis. Through this endeavor, our clergy will be able to create stronger relationships with our future B’nei Mitzvah, and will teach students to become critical readers of Torah.

This is a first and important step towards fulfilling the third goal of this initiative: to develop a meaningful and stimulating online environment in which teens will explore their Jewish identities, practice Judaism with their peers and create a caring teen community. To that end, we launched a weekday evening teen program in which the entire Education Team and Clergy are its principal teachers.
 
We will have more to share with you about our progress within this strategic priority in the months ahead.

L'shalom,


Rabbi Jeremy S. Morrison      Andy Cheng, Beth Am President

Mon, January 18 2021 5 Sh'vat 5781