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JumpSpark

Atlanta Meets Israel in a JumpSpark Blog

By CARING, GLOBAL JEWRY, JumpSpark

JumpSpark’s Amplifying Israel program is all about connecting Atlanta teens with their counterparts in our Partnership RegionYokneam, IsraelLulu Rosenberg, an 11th grader at North Springs High School, is one of five Atlanta fellows in the program. Shaked Nitka is high school student in YokneamIsrael. Both girls are blogging to explore their feelings about what it means to be Jewish, and in the process are illuminating places where they align, and where they diverge a bit, tooHere’s what they have to say: 

Lulu Rosenberg: Whether I am lighting the Shabbat candles, eating chicken soup with matzah balls, participating in a global Jewish youth group like BBYO, or attending a Strong Jewish Women’s Fellowship meeting, there is no doubt that I am connected to my Judaism. Being Jewish is a huge part of my identity and it plays a major role in my daily life. When I wake up in the morning, it’s not like the first thing I think of is being Jewish. But when I come downstairs and see a plate of hamentaschen from my neighbor on the counter, I don’t question it. When I get a bowl for my cereal before I go to school, I make sure to get a dairy one and not a meat one. Leaving my house for school, I pass the mezuzah on the door and walk to my car. I don’t even notice the sticker on my windshield for the Jewish Community Center anymore; it is the same one that practically every other Jew in Atlanta also has. 

I used to go to a Jewish day school where all my friends and most of my teachers were Jewish. Now, I attend public school. My closest friends are still Jewish, but I am no longer in a bubble where Judaism defines my every day. Everyone at school knows I am Jewish, but it doesn’t seem to faze anyone like I expected it to. I’m not even sure how I expected people to act, but for some reason I believed that my Judaism would really matter to others. Lulu’s story continues here.

Shaked NitkaJudaism is a big part of my life, and it is in my daily life almost everywhere, sometimes even without me noticing it. It could be reflected in the Magen David (shield necklace) that I got for my Bat Mitzvah and which I wear all the time, or in the special feeling of a holiday whenever Friday comes. I think the fact that I’m Israeli has a strong connection to my Judaism because in Israel there are many holy places for Judaism that are close to me and that allow me to connect with Judaism and the history of the Jewish people. Also, Israel is based on Judaism and its laws, and the people surrounding me are following those just like me. For example, on Yom Kippur, everything is closed and when I go out on the streets there are lots of people outside riding a bike or meeting each other to spend this time together, which allows me to experience the holiday in a more powerful and special way. 

I’m not in a religious Jewish school, but Judaism is still present. I learn the Bible, and on school trips we go to places that are important to the history of the Jewish people. After school, I usually learn more and do my homework, go out with my friends, or ride on roller skates to a field close to my house where I will read a book or knit. On Friday, which is my favorite day of the week, I help my parents cook Shabbat dinner, and on that day, my brother also comes back from the Israeli army. We all sit down and have Shabbat dinner together. Being Jewish and Israeli is a big and important part of my identity that matters and interests me greatly. I love opportunities like this one (Amplifying Israel teen fellow) that connect me to Judaism. 

Three Questions for Kelly Cohen

By COMMUNITY, JumpSpark

Q:  How did your background as a Judaic Studies teacher prepare you to lead JumpSpark?

Kelly: One of the most amazing parts of being the Director of JumpSpark is being able to grow with the teens and families of teens in our community. I spent my first six years in Atlanta working at The Davis Academy, and now so many of the kids I taught in elementary school are the teens JumpSpark serves. My work as a Jewish educator has taught me that there are a million ways to connect to Judaism and Jewish tradition, and that my role is to be a guide on that journey of connection. To be a part of a teen’s or a family’s Jewish journey for almost a decade is one of the true pleasures of my work and I am so happy I get to do it now with JumpSpark.

Q: What do you mean when you say, “JumpSpark creates more defining moments for Jewish teens?”

Kelly: The teenage years are crucial in terms of identity exploration and growth. I was a very active NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth) member when I was a teen and even spent the first semester of my senior year of high school studying abroad in Israel. Those were defining Jewish moments for me that set me on the path to be a Jewish educator and a committed member of the Jewish community. JumpSpark wants to help teens to have their own defining Jewish moments that hopefully connect them to the Jewish community. We know that a one-size-fits-all model isn’t going to work for all teens, so JumpSpark is working to build and fund new ways to create those moments for teens today.

Q: What can we expect from JumpSpark in the 2019-20 school year?

Kelly: We have so much planned for next school year.  For teens we will be launching a new cohort of our Strong Women Fellowship and a new Teen Israel Taskforce. JumpSpark also just made a $260,000 investment in expanding and enriching the teen landscape, so keep your eyes open for new teen opportunities all around the city. Speaking of being all around the city, we are expanding our Navigating Parenthood series to three locations: Intown, Sandy Springs and Alpharetta, so more parents can gain the network, resources, and skills to parent teens today. Finally, we are expanding JumpSpark Professional and offering more high-level training and networking for the Jewish professionals in our community who work with teens. JumpSpark gained a lot of momentum this year and we are ready to take it to the next level in the coming school year.

Empowering Girls Through STEM

By COMMUNITY, JEWISH JOURNEYS, JumpSpark

Despite the strides made in gender equality, it’s dispiriting to see how many young girls still avoid math and science classes. By the time these girls get to high school, their lack of exposure to STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) can foreclose exciting educational and career opportunities. Today, women make up nearly half of the working population, but only 26% work in STEM fields. That’s why Atlanta Jewish Academy (AJA), in partnership with JumpSpark, and with grant support from Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta (JWFA), created the Young Women in STEM Career Fair, held March 17 at AJA. The goal was to open doors for 8th-12th grade girls through mini-classes and face-to-face networking opportunities in STEM subjects.

“Female role models are so important,” said Rivka Monheit, an AJA parent who chaired the Program Committee. She’s just one of the parents who reached deep into her Rolodex to find professional women to would share their passion for science and math with young high school women and become potential mentors. Monheit is a patent attorney who advises chemical firms and puts her science background to work every day. She is passionate about exposing girls to STEM early, so that if they do pursue science careers, they don’t fall into the so-called leaky pipeline. “There’s a 50% drop out rate of women leaving science careers or simply not advancing,” Monheit says. “We want to help girls get the right training and plot their course.”

The STEM Career Fair definitely lit a spark with AJA students. “The Young Women in STEM event was extremely empowering! I’ve always wanted to be a doctor, but I never knew I wanted to be a doctor. This event gave me the courage and empowerment to keep going on and live up to my dreams with the strength of being a woman,” said Tali Feen, an AJA Upper School Student.

The mentors were similarly enthusiastic. Dr. Amanda Cooper Cohn, a Senior Advisor for Vaccines at CDC said, “I loved being at the Young Women in STEM Career fair both as a mother with my two teenage daughters and as a mentor.  Seeing the girls engaged with a variety of STEM professionals made me realize the world of opportunity is so much bigger for these girls than it was for me, which is exciting but also underscores the importance of mentoring girls through the process of entering STEM professions.  All the girls were curious, engaged, and interested in careers where they can make an impact. I also loved sharing my own path as well as hearing about the paths of the other amazing STEM volunteers at the fair.”

The STEM Fair was also the kick-off of a mentoring program for girls that will launch next school year. JumpSpark is the lead partner on this aspect of the initiative and is accepting applications that will match girls with STEM mentors. Find out more and apply here. Girls from any school are invited to apply. Applications are open now through April 17. Mentees will be notified June 2019.

What Teens Say About the Strong Women Fellowship

By COMMUNITY, JEWISH JOURNEYS, JumpSpark

JumpSpark’s Strong Women Fellowship Expanding to Serve More Teens

Applications are now open for the second cohort of the Strong Women Fellowship. With the success of last year’s launch, and the support of Federation, JumpSpark is excited to expand the program to include peer leadership opportunities, community groups for ongoing connection and interaction based on geographic location.  Each month teens in the Strong Women Fellowship meet speakers, visit organizations and engage in relevant learning that speaks to what it means to be a woman in our times. Year two will feature an all-new, incredible slate of speakers including, Lindy Miller a former candidate for GA Public Service Commission, Whitney Fisch of Jewhungry the blog, Dr. Tarece JohnsonSOJOURN, and more. The program targets teens in grades 9-12. 

Here’s what participants say about the program: 

“My expectation of the Strong Women’s Fellowship cohort was totally different from the experience I actually had. Much to my surprise, and delight, there were no parasha readings or lessons on the history of Israel. Instead, I met so many accomplished, empowered, women at every meeting, I was inspired by their unique stories and enjoyed the discussions we had…but most of all I enjoyed having the opportunity to make friends with other Jewish girls. I’ve met so many amazing people from all over the city that I would have never met otherwise.”  – Ariel Raggs 

“The fellowship provided the opportunity to speak with other women across a range of ages, and through these discussions I grew as a woman and become a stronger and prouder Jewish woman, too. Women across the globe have been using their voices to advocate for what they believe in, and through this fellowship, I too, have been given tools to do the same in my Jewish community and hopefully across the world.” – Tamar Guggenhei

“[The Strong Women Fellowship] ended up being a place I could safely share my ideas and opinions with other girls who would listen. I didn’t think this group would affect my life very much, but it’s left me with new ideas and new friends. It gave me a whole new perspective on the world and other girls; it was so much more than I expected, and I’m grateful for all the experiences.” – Maya Laufer 

Learn more here. Applications are open to all Jewish teens in grades 9-12 from the Atlanta metro area. Reach out to Laura Gronek with any questions.

JumpSpark Professional Builds Careers

By COMMUNITY, JumpSpark

JumpSpark, Atlanta’s initiative for teen engagement, isn’t just for teens and parents of teens; it’s also for the professionals who work with them. JumpSpark Professional is a complementary initiative that’s building an infrastructure for Atlanta’s network of teen educators and engagement professionals. “We want them to be equipped to do great work, feel great about their jobs and build solid career paths. Our monthly events give professionals an opportunity to learn from experts. We are offering grants for Atlanta professionals to attend the Pardes Beit Midrash B’Darom, Feb. 15-18, and there’s an April workshop on Jewish Multiculturalism with Dr. Tarece Johnson of Global Purpose Approach,” Director Kelly Cohen said. 

Adam Griff, Director of NFTY-Southern Regional Area and Camp Coleman Machon Director, said, “JumpSpark is doing a phenomenal job of providing youth professionals with access to a really diverse set of opportunities. For me, the social media workshop last year provided some very tangible and useful tools and skills. The trip to Israel last year also gave me both an inspiring experience as well as some great new program ideas.” 

Ezra Flom, who runs the Shinshinim program in Atlanta, and manages the activities of eight post-high school Israeli teens, has already benefitted from JumpSpark Professional. “Thanks to JumpSpark Professional I was able to participate in the Teen Educators’ Innovation Conference in Israel. I brought back an array of tools and connections that helped me in my previous job, directing youth and family programs at Temple Kol Emeth, and now with the Shinshinim. Because of connections I made and strengthened, Shinshinim Altanta nearly doubled in its second year”