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GEN Y Conference Reflection

by Rachel Rothstein, Coalition Educator
I was so lucky to spend three days at the end of May/beginning of June with a phenomenal group of educators at Eden Village Camp.  The conference was put together by the New Center for Collaborative Leadership, a department of my own organization at the Jewish Education Project.   While I knew peripherally what David Bryfman and his team did, I really didn’t realize the extent to how relevant my work as a Coalition Educator it was.

GEN Y-Get Experiential Now, Why?  I have to admit the title perplexed me.  What relevance did working with teens and teen engagement have to do with Gen Y?  I'm Gen Y!  Do I really need to work on myself in order to be a better educator?  The answer is a resounding YES!

The keynote was a Creative Thinker named Adam Shames.  I have to truly say that he opened my mind to new creative ways of working.  The entire three day conference was a mixture of experiential ways of learning and more traditional ways of getting the message across.

One amazing piece of the conference was splitting into groups and creating something. Each group had a different mission, whether it was creating a new app, a travel program or reality tv show.  Each one was so different and something that we haven't seen yet but will change the face of Judaism.  Some of the exciting ones: The Jewish Amazing Race-traveling to four different countries in ten days in competitive teen teams then ending up in Israel with a  challenge at Massada that involves running up at dawn before ending with a group Shabbat in Jerusalem.  Or J-Pods – a way for Jewish teens to create Jewish lives.  You can earn points by performing G'milut Chasadim or Jewish communal activities.  You can also earn more points by working with your other Jewish friends thereby creating communal Jewish space.  How fun would that be to bring into a youth group?

On the last day we had the opportunity to learn more about the camp in which we had been spending our time the previous three days.  We did a Farm to Table experience.  Half the group took a tour of Eden Village and saw the animals that live on the land, learned about the fields.  A favorite part to me was the calendar field.  A portion of the land was segmented into the months of the Jewish year and each month grew important elements for that month.  For example, Kislev had potatoes and onions for Hanukkah.  Nissan had parsley, horseradish and white eggplant (to represent eggs).  There was also a medicinal herb garden.

During the summer, the campers can choose to create challah for Shabbat.  This starts on Sunday when they pick the wheat, grind it, then create dough and bake it all by Friday.  That's Jewish living in action!

We then switched groups and picked herbs such as nana (Israeli mint), peppermint and basil as well as lettuce leaves, such as the beautifully named flashy back trout lettuce.  We took this inside and made delicious dishes that we then ate with lunch. 

The conference was a great experience and I hope that this will become an annual event.  A huge shootout and thank you goes to David Bryfman, Tova Garr and the rest of the NCCL leadership team!

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