This past summer, dozens of youth professionals from across North America attended the highly successful OU National Youth Professionals Conference for a day of learning, sharing information and networking. Held in Connecticut, the conference, organized by the OU’s Pepa and Rabbi Joseph Karasick Department of Synagogue Services, aimed to assist youth professionals in providing meaningful educational and spiritual experiences for youth.
“Very few synagogue youth directors serve the position fulltime,” says Rabbi Steven Burg, OU managing director and international director of NCSY. “They therefore tend to feel limited in their resources to network and develop programming. The OU Department of Synagogue Services acts as the network for these professionals to share their best practices with each other.”
Led by seasoned educators and skilled youth directors, sessions included topics such as “How to Grow Your Youth Program,” “Out-of-the Box Youth Programming,” and “Teens: Mission Possible.” Speakers included Rabbi Steven Weil, OU executive vice president; Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn, of the West Side Institutional Synagogue; Rabbi Eli Ciner, assistant principal of The Frisch School; and Rabbi Chaim Hagler, principal of Yeshivat Noam, among others.
“Often an individual’s connection to religion stems from experiences he had in his youth,” says Laya Pelzner, associate director of the OU Department of Synagogue Services. “Our department is the resource for synagogue youth professionals to improve their youth departments. Our goal is to help promote positive religious experiences for Jewish youth so that they will stay connected and inspired throughout their lives.”
Building on the success of the conference, the OU Department of Synagogue Services hosted a webcast on “How to Maximize Support of the Rabbi and Synagogue Leadership” this past October.
Another recent initiative spearheaded by the department is the creation of a synagogue consulting group aiming to help shuls optimize their potential in all areas and “make synagogues the best they can be.” Headed by Rabbi Einhorn, the initiative, known as WINGS (We Inspire New Growth Synagogues), offers synagogues access to experts in fundraising, membership growth, executive director training and other fields.
Become an OU shul today! Call 212.613.8225.