This article was originally published in Fed5. Read the original article here.
If you have a high school senior thinking about a gap year in Israel, JumpSpark has wonderful news! The Zalik Foundation has renewed support for a second year of the Atlanta Israel Gap Year Scholarship pilot. For a second year in a row, select high school students will be generously awarded $10,000 towards a gap year program in Israel for fall 2022. JumpSpark will continue to manage this program which provides generous scholarships for a limited number of pre-approved, eligible Gap Year programs. (Learn more about eligible Gap Year options here).
Right now, 25 lucky students from Atlanta are having Gap Year experiences in Israel. They are exploring the desert, volunteering on kibbutzim, visiting high-tech startups, engaging in meaningful social action, and connecting with Israeli history. One of them is Ariel Goldt, a graduate of Walton HS, who chose the Nativ program for her gap year in Israel. She posts weekly on her adventures. Read some of her excerpts below.
Week 10: Last Shabbat on the Moshav (cooperative community) was such an amazing experience. I played Settlers of Catan entirely in Hebrew with 10-year-olds who didn’t know English while I didn’t know any Hebrew. Somehow, they won but I think something must have gotten lost in translation … or maybe the 10-year-old actually did beat me, but I guess we’ll never know! The family we stayed with did not speak English except for the grandma. The grandma’s daughter, her husband, and seven kids were also staying at her house this weekend. Oh, and a few other of her daughters were there so it was a busy house, but I loved it. Something exciting is always happening and I got to play with the baby all weekend! On Saturday we walked around and got a tour of the Moshav. It was beautiful.
Week 8: On Wednesday we went to a MASA event in Tel Aviv. It was SO much fun! The venue was so cute and Hativah 6 performed for us! We have been listening to their music a lot here, so it was so much fun to see them live! All of the gap year programs that are funded through MASA were there and it was nice to see all of our friends that are in Israel. That night we had a girls’ night in! We set up the laptop and watched Pitch Perfect, the first one obviously, because it’s the best. On Thursday we did some exploring around Jerusalem and found this pretty park! We walked around the park then grabbed lunch at the cutest cafe! That night our camp friend Jonathan was getting sworn into the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), so we went to his ceremony at the Kotel! I loved getting to see him and it was so special we got to be there for him!
Week: 7: This week we started our first official classes at Hebrew University! Now we have classes with other people in the international school. I have never been in one classroom with so many different denominations. Everyone I talked to was from a different country and it’s amazing hearing everyone’s unique perspective on the things we are learning in class! I am excited for the rest of the semester! The other night we last minute decided to go to a Hapoel basketball game! We lost at the buzzer, but it was still a really fun game!
Shalom! My name is Zoe, I’m 18 years old, and I’m from Atlanta, Georgia. I currently live in Yokneam Illit in a communal apartment with six other people and am a Shinshinit, which means I’m participating in a “year of service”. In the mornings, I work in a high school and help students with English and in the afternoons, I help out in a community center. As a shinshinit, I get the amazing opportunity to live and connect with Israelis and create a positive impact in my community.
I’ve had several “wow moments,” but I think one of my favorites was on our first “komuna Shabbat,” which is when once a month, we all stay in the apartment and spend a Shabbat together. On Friday morning, we made a group trip to the mall, and while we were there, we found a puzzle shop. Now I’m sure you can only imagine how difficult it is for seven people to choose a puzzle. Everyone wanted a different puzzle, and we all disagreed on how much was reasonable to spend on a puzzle. But after a little time, we were able to discuss and compromise, and find two puzzles that we all were happy with. Then we went home, cooked and ate a beautiful Shabbat dinner, and had a very intense, very exciting puzzle competition (not to brag or anything, but my team won). Just the thought that we could all compromise and work together to find a solution really blew my mind. The situation could have turned ugly, but instead I think it strengthened our connection as a team. I’m really happy to be here in Yokneam, and I can’t wait to continue to grow and learn and experience more “wow moments.”
This article was originally published in Fed 5, a publication of The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. Read the original article here.
Sheryl Korelitz, Director of Gap Year Recruitment for Masa North America, works with JumpSpark and Federation to recruit students for gap year programs in Israel and match students with programs that suit their interests and needs. We asked Sheryl, the proud mother of two Masa gap year daughters, about the value of this experience:
Q: Why send your teen on a gap year program in Israel?
A: So many parents think of a gap year as a year off and worry that their kids will fall behind their peers when they get to college. Overwhelmingly, research shows that a gap year is incredibly beneficial for college success. Gap year alumni have higher GPAs in college and tend to graduate in four years. They are more focused in terms of their careers, and they develop a higher level of independence and maturity.
All types of kids grow during their gap year. Highly driven kids really benefit from time to breathe and flex different muscles. This gives them a year without expectations and less pressure. And kids who are not super students, who spent their high school years not feeling great about themselves because school wasn’t their best skill, they come back brand new! They walk taller, speak with confidence, and have had a year of tremendous growth and self-discovery.
Q: What are the benefits of deferring college to go on a gap year?
A: Kids have FOMO (fear of missing out), and I get it. They think their brain will wither, or that they’ll forget grammar if they take a year away. Some Israel programs have an academic base where you can earn college credit. But the truth is, your college peers won’t care where you spent the previous year. A gap year gives you a whole year to learn how to make all new friends — you’ll come to campus with that skill. You’ve learned to live with a roommate, you’ve done your own laundry, you’ll hit campus running. You’re not behind, you’re ahead.
Future employers will appreciate your experience, and the fact that you have friends from all over the world is a gift that you’ll have forever. And you’ll have BIG fun!
Q: What does a gap year mean for Jewish identity and future leadership?
A: Parents are understandably anxious about the influence of the BDS (Boycott/Divestment/Sanction) movement on campus and students’ general lack of knowledge about Israel. A gap year is not meant to teach your kids how to be Jewish on campus or dictate a particular point of view on Israel, rather it lets them take ownership of their Judaism — discover how they feel about Israel, and what it all means. Their Israel experience empowers them to come from a place of knowing. They’ve lived it. They’ve met Palestinians. They’ve seen Israeli life and culture. The year empowers young adults to be strong in their Judaism. Being away from family, away from synagogue, helps students make their own decisions. Nothing is more powerful.
There is a strong correlation between Jewish campus leadership and an Israel experience. The Zalik Foundation, a funder of Atlanta scholarships for Israel gap year options, is specifically focused on this and I think it’s wonderful. These nine months spent in Israel are life-changing and I truly believe that they contribute to the Jewish future. I applaud the Zalik Foundation for seeing how impactful this can be.
Celebrating the best and brightest local teen mensches.
On August 1, the 29th Annual Hadassah Greater Atlanta Chesed (Loving Kindness) Student Awards honoring excellence and menschlichkeit in Atlanta’s Jewish teens took place virtually. HGA partnered with JumpSpark to honor 22 of the best and brightest young leaders and mensches representing synagogues, Jewish day schools, and organizations in the Greater Atlanta community. Hadassah’s Nancy Gorod chaired the event, and Annie Fortnow, engagement manager, represented JumpSpark.
Examples of student volunteer activities include Ronald McDonald House, Young Women in STEM Mentorship Program, Atlanta Hospitality House, United Methodist Church Feed n Seed Program, DeKalb Youth Symphony concerts, Pinch Hitters, Chastain Horse Park Therapeutic Riding Program, a Judaica teacher, the Maccabee Games, and school supply drives, among many other worthy causes.
All Chesed recipients were invited to submit essays exploring what inspired their acts of kindness, their activities and the resulting impact on themselves and others. Hadassah’s Chesed Student Awards program was excited to present two individual monetary awards to the winners.
The Phyllis M. Cohen Chesed Leadership Award Essay Contest winner was Carly Spandorfer, nominated by The Weber School. She described dealing with a life-altering Crohn’s diagnosis and the active programs she initiated to combat it. She created a blog specifically for teens with Crohn’s and colitis and cleverly calls it her “Crohn-i-cles,” viewed by thousands.
The Linda and Michael Weinroth Chesed Community Service Award Essay Contest winner was Ariel Goldt, nominated by Creating Connected Communities. Through her community service involvement, Ariel discovered that she could make a positive difference in the lives of others by truly focusing on one individual at a time.
Carol Goodman Kaufman, guest speaker and national co-chair of Hadassah Youth Aliyah, explained that Hadassah’s Youth Aliyah Villages offer at-risk students in Israel the same opportunities as students here in the United States and said, “Kids make up 30% of the population, but 100% of the future.” (www.hadassah.org/youthaliyah)
Linda Weinroth commented, “For 29 years I have been so inspired by the Chesed Award recipients, their passions and commitments to their community and to the world. I have always been encouraged that our future is in good hands. These students did not choose to do something in order to be recognized. They were recognized because they wanted to make a difference and made choices that impacted others in positive ways.”
When I got to the start of my senior year and the overwhelming question of “what are you doing next year?” became the subject of every conversation between peers, parents, and teachers, something inside of me clicked. I knew that I needed a year before college to better prepare myself, grow, and breathe after a long four years of high school. I began telling everyone that I was taking a gap year, with little idea of where to even begin planning. My friends looked at me like I was crazy, and my parents trusted that I would figure it out on my own. I had minimal support, knowing no one who had taken or was planning on taking a gap year. Little by little, however, I began taking steps towards preparing myself for my gap year, and I haven’t regretted it since. These were some of the steps I took over the course of my senior year, that would be helpful to anyone else thinking of a gap year:
Get a Job & Save Money
My first week of senior year, I got a job working at a sushi restaurant. I began putting aside money every week from my job, and slowly saving my way to a financial goal that I set for myself. I was really careful about spending money, and would remind myself: “I can either buy this top/makeup/whatever else I really didn’t need or spend an extra day in Tel Aviv.” Slowly, those decisions began adding up and I was able to put away more and more money. I also recommend working in the restaurant industry. It’s hard work, but it’s fast money, eye opening, and you’ll learn skills you can use on your gap year.
I, like many other seniors, applied to college during the fall of my senior year. I was confused about the deferral process, and worried that it would impact my college admissions. Thankfully, I had nothing to be worried about. All of the colleges I applied to had a very similar deferral process (and I applied to 17 schools). I think it would be much harder to find a school that would not let you take a gap year, than one that would. After I paid my deposit for Georgia Tech (go yellow jackets!), I submitted a deferral request and wrote a paragraph about my gap year plans. Two weeks later, I was approved. It was by far the easiest and least stressful thing I’ve done regarding college admissions.
In terms of financial aid, most merit scholarships from your university will defer with your admissions. However, in the case of many outside scholarships, it is not always possible to defer. I would suggest looking into any scholarship that you are interested in, and double checking that it is deferrable. You’ll also have to reapply for need based aid through FAFSA, but that is something you have to do every year in college, regardless of whether or not you’re taking a gap year.
Every college and scholarship is different, so double check that taking a gap year works with the plan that you choose for future education. However, while it is not the most traditional path, you are not the first student at your university to take a gap year, so your college has a process set up for this.
I’m the kind of person who loves to prepare ahead of time, but I knew I wanted my gap year to be different. I didn’t want to have everything planned out, so I could “go with the flow” as often as possible. However, I also wanted to prepare myself and go into the year with as much knowledge as I could find. I knew that I wanted to backpack in Europe, but I had no idea where in Europe I wanted to go. I began researching and educating myself as much as I could about different countries in Europe, which made me feel confident and less worried about solo backpacking. And the more research I did, the more opportunities I found. My plans changed and changed as I found more resources, and I feel lucky that I had my whole senior year to explore what I wanted to do.
Reach out to Friends & Family
Because taking a gap year isn’t the most traditional path, it’s a good idea to begin warming up your family and friends to the idea as early as possible. I was lucky enough to have supportive parents from the get-go, but I know this isn’t the case with everyone. Even so, my parents needed time to adjust to the idea of me traveling on my own. Instead of springing it on them last minute, I began introducing the idea of a gap year back in August. My community was very supportive, and gave me the motivation and validation that I needed in order to pursue a gap year.
For me, the idea of a gap year meant a year with no commitments, no concrete plans, and (not to be cliche) endless opportunities. The best thing I did over the course of my senior year was daydream about what my gap year could be. Envisioning my gap year got me through the college application process, senioritis, and every other challenge I had this past year. While I heard my peers complain about how exhausted they were from school and how they couldn’t believe that college was going to be four more years of work, I saw myself walking through historic cities and working on a farm in Israel. I understood that my gap year would allow me to experience so much of life that I have dreamed about, and this both fueled my excitement for my gap year and pushed me through my senior year. If there is only one thing you take away from this guide, I would hope that it would be to dream about all of the adventures that are out there during a gap year.
“I hope to gain a better understanding of what obstacles woman must deal with every day and how to become a better leader to impact my community.”
“I hope to further my leadership experience and learn new ways to take part in society and speak up about important issues.”
These were just a few of the sentiments shared from Strong Women Fellowship applicants for the 2019-20 cohort, a group of teens I would get to know well and have the privilege of working with to grow the Fellowship into the robust, action-oriented leadership program it is today. I remember sitting in the JumpSpark office when I first started my role as the Engagement Manager of JumpSpark, feeling so much hope for the future of our country. I found myself feeling inspired by the drive and passion I saw in these teen leaders to change the world for the better.
Two years later, as I wrap up my final days on the JumpSpark team before leaving for graduate school at Brandeis University’s Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program, I find myself reflecting on what I have learned. I continue to look forward to the future with hope and possibility having now seen what our teen leaders and those that support them are capable of achieving. I am excited to share some of the learnings from the role that I will continue to use well into the future.
Teens Feel Seen and Heard Through Meaningful Action
One of JumpSpark’s goals is to amplify teen voice in our community, and last year, I had the opportunity to dig into what this meant through participating in UpStart’s Change Accelerator program. Through focus groups and interviews with our Strong Women Fellows, I discovered that these teens would feel seen and heard through taking action to create positive change in the world using their unique skills and passions. I found that it is easy for one to feel disillusioned by the weight of the world’s problems and unsure of how to use their voice for change. During the Strong Women Fellowship, teens hear from speakers and gain new passions that they strongly desire to amplify in the world. Building in new opportunities for action will allow the teens to have a positive impact in the communities we serve and help the teens feel seen and heard as stewards of our changing world.
This year, the Strong Women Fellowship will incorporate action into every speaker event, from advocating for LGBTQ+ justice to volunteering at a women’s shelter. Taking these actions will allow for these teens to amplify their efforts as budding Jewish changemakers.
Collaboration Makes Us Stronger
Throughout my time at JumpSpark, I have had the opportunity to watch our Community Partner Network of teen-serving professionals grow and gain strength. I witnessed a shift in our community towards more collaboration, towards people calling on others in similar roles for support on programs and combining forces to create high-quality Jewish opportunities for teens. I myself leaned on collaboration to support so many of our initiatives, thinking strategically about who we could partner with to reach more teens and build stronger programs. Throughout the rest of my career, I will embrace collaboration in creating new initiatives, knowing that it leads to more robust opportunities.
JumpSpark is excited to continue strengthening the network of Jewish youth professionals in Atlanta. The Community Partner Network is beginning its third year with spots for 40 partners, and JumpSpark will be hosting convenings with professional development and networking opportunities twice a month to encourage collaboration and relationship building in the field.
Parent and Teen Engagement are Interconnected
One of the first findings that struck me from JumpSpark’s data and evaluation efforts was the interconnectedness of parent and teen Jewish engagement – if we engage parents Jewishly, their teen is more likely to get involved in Jewish opportunities and vice versa. Throughout my time at JumpSpark, I have seen this finding play out. Just the other day, my coworker shared about a parent she engaged with through one of our parent programs who then enrolled her teens in Jewish programming as well. Because of anecdotes like these, I see the value in parent engagement as a tool to further teen engagement, too.
This year, we are excited to continue supporting parents through a variety of initiatives, like Project Launch for parents of teens just entering their next phase after high school and PhD in Parenting sessions for parents of younger teens. These powerful tools for engagement raise the bar for the family unit as a whole, and I will be excited to see what other new and innovative initiatives crop up for parent engagement at JumpSpark.
Teens are Today’s Changemakers
I have heard time and time again that teens are our future leaders. After my two years working with teens at JumpSpark, however, I can definitively say that teens are the leaders of NOW. Teen initiatives across the world are making waves and creating positive change. I have watched right here in Atlanta as teens themselves contributed to creating innovative Jewish programming and strengthening our Jewish community. I witnessed countless teen initiatives crop up to support those most vulnerable during the pandemic. I continue to be inspired every day by the teens in our community and throughout the world, and I am so grateful to have been able to play apart along some of these teens’ journeys. Look around – teens are making change today, leading us into a future that is more inclusive and just.
All of these learnings and more will continue to guide my Jewish professional journey for the rest of my career – I am excited to take all of the lessons garnered from the teens, parents and professionals I have had the privilege to work with at JumpSpark to my graduate studies in Jewish Professional Leadership and beyond. I am so grateful to JumpSpark and the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta for guiding me on my Jewish journey and shaping me into the Jewish leader I am today. L’hitraot Atlanta, see you soon.
JumpSpark is pleased to announce Nathan Brodsky will lead JumpSpark as our new Director.
As a kid growing up in Sarasota, Florida, I often looked at the copy of The Jewish Book of Why that was prominently displayed in the living room, and I learned at the young age about the importance of asking questions. Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso says, “At the heart of what it means to be a Jew is to ask questions.” I love connecting with new people by asking open ended questions to learn about their lives.
I am honored to start my new role as Director of JumpSpark, and I plan to often reference the Jewish value of asking questions. Through this, I plan to deepen my understanding of the Atlanta Jewish teen ecosystem, learn about how teens and their parents connect to Israel, and encourage creative problem solving. While we further and sustain JumpSpark’s impact, I look forward to the many questions time will bring and discovering the answers along the way.
Nathan Brodsky Director of JumpSpark
Nathan Brodsky is thrilled to bring his passions for teen engagement and Israel experiences to JumpSpark as the new Director of JumpSpark. Nathan has worked as the Family Impact Manager at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta for the past six years where he grew the PJ Library initiative by instituting new initiatives like PJ microgrants and programming for the Russian-speaking Jewish community, doubling subscription numbers, and deepening opportunities for community partnership. Originally from Sarasota, Florida, he previously worked at the boarding high school American Hebrew Academy (AHA) in Greensboro, North Carolina and was on staff at Ramah Darom for six years. Nathan is currently pursuing his MBA from Kennesaw State University and has a BA in Anthropology and BS in Psychology and Jewish Studies from Tulane University. He looks forward to connecting with you about how JumpSpark can support your teen engagement initiatives.
We’re ready to expand the JumpSpark team! JumpSpark is the Jewish teen initiative out of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, and we’re hiring for two full-time positions. Do you think you have what it takes to join a fun, hardworking organization dedicated to Jewish engagement and education in Atlanta? Scroll down to see both positions we’re hiring for.
REPORTS TO: Director of JumpSpark and Director of Global Jewish Peoplehood
CLASSIFICATION: Full-time, Exempt
The Director of Israel Engagement will oversee two main programs that aim to increase Israel connection and education focused on youth. The key initiatives include:
Create meaningful connections between teens in Atlanta and the people, land, and state of Israel
Lengthen the arc of engagement for teen participants with Israel and the Jewish community
Increase participation of Atlanta teens in summer Israel travel experiences
Bring Israel and Jewish Atlanta together through human connections with a focus on the Shinshinim as a key driver of engagement
Provide Israel education and engagement to local Atlanta organizations reaching a variety of demographics and age groups
DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAMS:
JumpSpark: JumpSpark serves as Atlanta’s initiative for Jewish teen engagement connecting and collaborating with the community to create more meaningful and defining moments for Jewish teens in Atlanta while enhancing the infrastructure of Jewish education and engagement in Atlanta. JumpSpark invests in existing programs, supports new and innovative ideas, and fosters creative thinking to meet the needs of teens, their parents, and Jewish educators and professionals that work with teens. Our portfolio includes Teen Programs, Navigating Parenthood workshops, Jewish Professional Development, and Grants.
Schoenbaum Shinshinim: The Shinshinim Service Year Abroad Program is a partnership between Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and the Jewish Agency for Israel. This program selects trained young Israelis to spend a year of service in our community. The Shinshinim live with host families and work across the Atlanta Jewish community where they engage a variety of community members in Israel education and engagement. The Shinshinim develop personal relationships with the community at large with the intention to serve as role models and informal educators and to instill a profound love and appreciation for Israel.
ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:
Oversee JumpSpark’s expanding portfolio of teen Israel engagement and education work in the Atlanta Jewish community
Increase Atlanta’s teen Israel travel participation numbers by 90% by 2022 through a multi-pronged strategy focusing on teens, parents, and professionals
Develop an engagement pipeline for teen Israel education, engagement, and travel from Bnai Mitzvah to college
Supervise the Shinshinim program including creating work plans, serving as a liaison to partner programs, and providing training and guidance in best practices of Israel education, curriculum, and pedagogy
Oversee JumpSpark’s new Amplifying Israel Teen Fellowship to expand and grow the relationship with teens in our partner region of Yokneam/Meggido
Work with pre-selected teen Israel travel providers to develop and fund multi-part, pre- and/or post-engagement opportunities, including directing grants and overseeing outcomes
Work with Jewish Teen Funders Network to develop and implement JumpSpark funded teen Israel Giving Circle program
Create professional learning opportunities and assist in curricular resource and program development for the Shinshinim and worksite coordinators
Establish high-level professional development opportunities for Atlanta Jewish educators around the topic of Israel
Expand JumpSpark’s work with 3Owl Media to build-out website, social media and marketing materials and strategies to engage community members and promote teen Israel travel and engagement
Serve as a concierge for local parents and teens to learn about opportunities and as a forum to connect with Israel before and after Israel trip participation
Work with JumpSpark’s professional data and evaluation team at Informing Change as well as other consultants identified by Federation to develop and implement data gathering and evaluation metrics to track the impact of RootOne dollars and programming in the Atlanta Jewish teen community and the impact of Shinshinim in the community
Ensure cross-collaboration with other Federation professionals to better leverage resources and talent
Initiate and respond to Federation and JumpSpark staff, board members, volunteers, and the lay community
Other duties as assigned
The above job duties and responsibilities describe the general nature and level of work for employees in this position, but this is not intended as an exclusive or all-inclusive inventory of all duties required of employees in this job.
Bachelor’s degree required
Knowledge of, passion for, and/or an authentic personal connection to the relevant issues of Jewish communal life, Israel, and familiarity with the Jewish calendar
Experience in professional setting with standard business tools
Willingness to learn new systems, programs, and skills as needed
Excellent interpersonal, organizational, written, and oral communication skills
Self-motivated with a willingness to take initiative in a fast-paced, team environment
Demonstrated organizational skills, with attention to detail and proven ability to fill and manage a complex schedule
Superior customer service skills
Positive attitude, even when faced with a high-stress environment and uncertainty
PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS: Intermittent standing and walking with prolonged periods of sitting at a desk or in meetings. Work hours include nights and weekends, as needed. You must have stamina needed to attend morning, evening and weekend meetings and events in addition to a regular schedule. Must be available for local, national, and international travel to attend meetings, functions and other activities. Must provide your own transportation and have a valid State of Georgia driver’s license and proof of automobile insurance.
Education and Engagement Manager
DEPARTMENT: Community Planning and Impact
REPORTS TO: JumpSpark Director
PRINCIPAL FUNCTION: As Jewish Atlanta continues to boom, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta intends to play a bold and creative role in reimagining and deepening community engagement. We are looking for a driven self-starter to join our team as we expand the ways we impact the community through Jewish education and engagement.
JumpSpark, Atlanta’s initiative for Jewish teen engagement, connects and collaborates with the community to create more meaningful and defining moments for Jewish teens in Atlanta while enhancing the infrastructure of Jewish education and engagement in Atlanta. JumpSpark invests in existing programs, supports new and innovative ideas, and thinks creatively to meet the needs of teens, their parents, and Jewish educators and professionals that work with teens. Our portfolio includes Teen Programs, Navigating Parenthood workshops, Jewish Professional Development, and Grants. JumpSpark exists to bring together Jews across Atlanta to preserve and progress our community for the future and help teens grow and discover their best selves.
JumpSpark is a major initiative of Federation’s Community Planning and Impact (CPI) department. CPI includes all of Federation’s grants and allocations, our innovation portfolio, as well as programs focused on Jewish engagement and education. As we seek to align programming and services to best meet the needs of our community, the Education and Engagement Manager will have programmatic responsibilities in other areas of CPI in addition to JumpSpark.
We seek an enthusiastic creative thinker, bridge-builder, and innovator who is excited by JumpSpark’s and CPI’s mission to offer pathways into Jewish living by creating opportunities for genuine connection and growth for Jews from every part of our city. The Education and Engagement Manager will be team oriented, able to manage multiple projects simultaneously, willing to take risks, and be committed to Federation’s core values of excellence, fearlessness, and empathy. The candidate should be familiar with the Jewish education and engagement landscape, players, and trends and must be comfortable working in a fast-paced, innovative, and experimental work environment with general supervision.
The Education and Engagement Manager will have the following areas of responsibility:
Build strong relationships in the Atlanta Jewish community
Strengthen Atlanta’s Jewish teen ecosystem by working with teens, families of teens and educators and professionals who work with teens
Create and manage innovative programming for JumpSpark’s target populations including curricular development and implementation
Work with JumpSpark grantee partners on program implementation and grant oversight
Engage in the national conversation of Jewish innovation and education
Participate in the national network of the Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative
Complete a broad variety of tasks as needed to further the mission of JumpSpark and Community Planning and Impact department
Manage brand and identity for JumpSpark and its application to all print and electronic communications
Manage the development of the JumpSpark website and its content; maintain the site and links daily
Manage JumpSpark’s social media presence through all relevant platforms – including Facebook, Instagram, and public relation opportunities, creating content and maintaining a consistent and constant presence, including at periodic community-wide events and celebrations
Provide concierge services for members of the community seeking entry points into Jewish life
Serve as a member of the CPI education and engagement team to provide programmatic support and leadership for family retreats and help develop a pipeline of engagement for pre-teens and their families
3-5 years of experience working in Jewish education or engagement
Thorough knowledge of common web content management systems and a proven record of using excellent judgment with social media for brand awareness and marketing
Knowledge of, passion for, and/or an authentic personal connection to the relevant issues of Jewish communal life and familiarity with the Jewish calendar
An appreciation for the diversity of Jewish identity, expression, and practice
Experience in professional setting with standard business tools
Willingness to learn new systems, programs, and skills as needed
Excellent interpersonal, organizational, written and oral communication skills
A dynamic and outgoing personality with the ability to build relationships with a variety of different audiences and ages
Self-motivated with a willingness to take initiative in a fast-paced, team environment
Demonstrated organizational skills, with attention to detail and proven ability to fill and manage a complex schedule requiring extensive local travel
PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS: Intermittent standing and walking with prolonged periods of sitting at desk or in meetings. Must have stamina needed to attend morning, evening and weekend meetings and events in addition to regular schedule.
Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta provides equal employment opportunities to all applicants and prohibits discrimination regarding race, religion, age, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
Jewish Atlanta is responding to the mental health fallout of the pandemic on today’s youth, from specialized services and counselors to programs to help parents and camps.
Annie Fortnow, said helping parents “ultimately supports the family unit.”
Like the grieving period following a death, when the mourner is expected to eventually return to full engagement in life again, today’s youth are struggling to cope after a pandemic that left them socially isolated, seriously dependent on technology, and with tremendous emotional scars from the traumatic change and loss.
For many young people, the pandemic hit at a time in their lives when so much rides on identity and social connection, leading to significant psychological and emotional challenges, as seen in new community programs in Jewish Atlanta focused on mental health.
With May being national Mental Health Awareness Month, the AJT spoke with Jewish Atlanta’s community leaders and those who work with youth about how the psychological and emotional needs of children post-COVID are being met and how to address the ripple effects expected to continue for some time.
The community’s response to the pandemic has evolved with its growing mental health needs, according to Rich Walter, vice president of program and grant making for the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. At the start of the pandemic, the community response focused on funding to meet immediate needs, including food, health and safety, and making sure Jewish organizations were financially stable, with broad strokes in terms of mental health needs, Walter said. More recently, the community’s attention has shifted to mental health as more community members sought help, he said. “A large percentage allocated from the [COVID-19] emergency fund is dedicated to mental health. … As the pandemic lags on more and more, the mental health challenge comes to the forefront.”
Percent change from January-November 2019 to January-November 2020 in mental health claim lines and all medical claim lines. Ages 13 to 18 Source: FAIR Health: “The Impact of COVID-19 on Pediatric Mental Health.”
Percent change from January-November 2019 to January-November 2020 in mental health claim lines and all medical claim lines. Ages 19 to 22
Source: FAIR Health: “The Impact of COVID-19 on Pediatric Mental Health
The COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, announced in April 2020, raised $4.3 million for relief efforts with $3.4 million in grants allocated so far, according to the Federation website.
Earlier this year, the Federation conducted a mental health community survey with Jewish Family & Career Services to assess the needs and what the next action steps should be to address those needs. A total of 515 respondents were polled about stress, coping strategies and what programs they wished existed. The Federation will analyze the results over the next few months “to craft a response and identify the right partners and how to move forward,” Walter said.
Among the findings, the youngest age groups, including those under 25, experienced the most stress across all stress factors. The top stressor of the under-25 set was self-care, 64 percent, followed by isolation, 61 percent, and a high-risk family member, 54 percent.
Top resources requested: activities they can do as a family, virtual exercise classes, and support for virtual learning.
The takeaway from the survey, “Supporting Self Care to Promote Mental Health Resilience” was that even though it looks like the community is reentering life as before the pandemic, many are dealing with trauma and loss, Walter said. “People may have been trying to cope through self-help mechanisms, but as long as this goes on, the challenges become more astute in the community. We try to predict what will happen and direct resources to experts who are able to deal with it.” He said the community has definitely seen an uptick in clinical requests in the last few months.
Meanwhile, some of the newest community initiatives involving mental health include:
Working with camps: JF&CS will connect with Jewish camps to meet mental health needs as they arise over the summer, Walter said.
Synagogue outreach: A $25,000 emergency fund grant JF&CS received last year was renewed to continue to fund synagogue outreach, as some of the needs of the community come through the synagogues, not directly to social service agencies, he said.
Hiring more clinicians: Another $75,000 emergency fund grant will help JF&CS hire more clinicians to meet the backlog of those seeking clinical services, Walter said.
Helping teen parents: JumpSpark teen engagement program offered six sessions with a facilitator called the PhD in Parenting April 14 to May 21, providing parent education for raising tweens and teens in today’s world. It offered parents tools and strategies for identifying mental health challenges and teaching coping skills.
“The relationship between parents and teens is so essential,” said Annie Fortnow, JumpSpark engagement manager. “We feel if we support parents’ mental health, it ultimately supports the family unit.”
Paul Root Wolpe said some kids haven’t been around their peers because of the pandemic.
Another program JumpSpark offers for parents of teens is Project Launch, which began May 2 and will run through June 6. It helps parents of high schoolers “launch their seniors to the next step, whether that be college or a gap year,” Fortnow said. The program will help parents build resilience and form small supportive community groups in the fall in partnership with the Federation and area synagogues, she said.
Peer support: JumpSpark also is trying to increase its “community within a community,” Fortnow said. “We need to double down on teen mental health and resiliency and prioritize relationships teens have with each other.”
For instance, JumpSpark is piloting a new Jewish teen boys’ program in which they mentor each other, she said.
For Paul Root Wolpe, director of the Center for Ethics at Emory University, the community priorities should be:
1 – Sensitivity and understanding that youth are still grieving
They may ask: “Why does it have to be my senior year? Why do I have to miss out on parties? These are personal losses they never really get back. People are sad about it. It leads to a greater increase in depression in youth, a spike in suicides.
“We lost a half-million people.,” he said. Some of the students may have lost peers, grandparents, siblings or others. “It’s a time of deep loss. They are grieving not just lost opportunities, but lost people.” And grief counselors may discover the immediacy of those losses may not be fully realized until the students return to their typical routines, he said.
2 – Recognizing that social interactions may be different post-pandemic
“One of the real challenges of the very young, people under 5, is that they had very little social contact” during the pandemic, Wolpe said. “There are 2- to 3-year- olds who never, ever played with other children,” Wolpe explained. “Or even if they are just at the beginning of school, being in the presence of others … sharing, and controlling your anger, you don’t learn on Zoom.”
Educators will need to have “a little more understanding and tolerance, even among kids who should know better” in terms of appropriate behavior.
Jaime Stepansky believes social media can be used to promote mental health.
For older students, being in the presence of a potential romantic partner “is different than interactions on Zoom.” Technology may have enhanced their verbal negotiations, but it may impair their understanding of normal body cues, body language and inappropriate touching, Wolpe said.
1 – Validate the struggles of teens to develop their own identities For some, the limited in-person socializing last year may have increased their social anxiety, Stepansky added.
Youth “try to differentiate their identities through social responses. They are constantly navigating the waters” to determine how they are unique and how they fit in, she said. “Having young people at home with their parents so much may have thwarted that a little. … Parents inform them the direction they want them to go but they really need to find their own way. It’s like parents give them a MapQuest and they say, ‘No thanks. I’ll use my iPhone to get there.’”
2 – Understand the impact of technology as an addiction
During the pandemic, Stepansky found that many parents loosened their restrictions on their kids’ technology time. Students “get off Zoom and then they get on their own devices. At school at least they would police and monitor it.”
Stepansky said eight to 16 hours a day of technology use is average for teens she counsels. “It takes them two to four hours of social media or TV on their phone to fall asleep at night.” When she asks about supplements such as melatonin, they say they don’t want to get addicted. “It’s creating a kind of inability to sit with just thoughts and feelings. We were never meant for our attention to be split in so many ways. It’s the antithesis of healthy engagement.”
Youth “need to feel engaged and that they matter” and technology offers that, Stepanksy said. Like alcohol or drugs, it also numbs from boredom, isolation, grief, the change in life, and the lack of control, she said.
Because technology isn’t going away any time soon, Stepansky believes the best method to curb its overuse is through a harm-reduction model and an “if you can’t beat them, join them” response. “What can we do to reach them through technology that would be more beneficial to mental health?”
Her solutions include:
Using social platforms such as TikTok with entertaining videos to teach teens about mental health. Teens can also make TikTok projects around mental health, she said. JF&CS also has an Instagram, @jfcsclinical, and is presenting “Real Talk” June 10, including teen mental health post-pandemic.
Encouraging technology use in the home or in social settings be reduced. Set boundaries. Sit and talk, be present and engaged, not dividing attention between interactions and technology. Parents should model this behavior too.
Rich Walter said Federation polled the community about their mental health wish list.
3 – Provide more camp and camp-like activities that are more accessible and affordable.
Stepansky believes camps can bridge the socialization void of the pandemic before students return to the classroom full-time next fall.
“The first couple of days of camp is a detox from technology.” It allows children to engage with others, explore their interests, “be themselves. It strips away the social pressures of school and regular life.”
She said she expects there may be many calls home this summer, but children will be able to work through their anxiety before returning to the physical classroom and in-person socialization.
Not everyone can afford summer camp, so she also encourages other camp-like activities, such as outdoor movies or team building. “If you show a movie, every kid will be on their phone, but if you remove phones or engage young people in playing a game … they’ll talk to each other.”
4 – Consider modifying the school day to allow for more downtime
“Schools realized [during COVID] they could modify the schedule” of school without setbacks. For instance, some schools didn’t have classes on Wednesdays so students could catch up on schoolwork and enjoy a break from virtual classes. Some Jewish schools reduced hours, Stepansky said. Years before schools thought they had to fit more in the day, but COVID taught them otherwise.
The children on sports leagues found that even an hour a week outside to practice during COVID was exhilarating.
“I have bunch of kids who are seniors at Dunwoody [High School]. During senior week, they had to go to school and be outside. They said it was their best week in months. There was free food. They could grab food and see their friends. Sometimes we overthink things. … Give them food and they will come.”
What the Future Holds
In September, the Federation’s Atlanta Jewish Foundation began a series of scenario-planning sessions with 150 Jewish professionals and lay leaders to determine the long-term needs of the community as a result of the pandemic, including in the area of mental health. A report on the findings and funding options aren’t expected for at least two months, said Jori Mendel, the Foundation’s deputy director.
Walter said the Federation intentionally held money back from “the community funds to meet the needs into the next year as we begin to emerge out of this.” Increased staffing to deal with mental health is among the priorities. Engaging in the “new normal” may have to change, he said. For instance, programming may involve neighborhood groups or smaller initiatives.
While traumatic in the short term, the jury is still out on the long-term mental health implications of the pandemic on youth, said Wolpe, the Emory ethicist. “I don’t think in 10 to 15 years, there’ll be a significant difference between 2- to 3-years-olds who went through COVID and ones who did not.” Time will tell, he said. “We are going to see the influence a few years into the future.”
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